Opioids continue to ravage every corner of the country, impacting everyone from senior citizens to newborn infants. That’s right – some babies are even born addicted to drugs, and the numbers are growing daily.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, every 25 minutes a drug-addicted baby is born in the United States.
The NIDA reports that the number of drug-addicted newborns skyrocketed by 500% between 2010 and 2012, while stats from the Centers for Disease Control confirm that the problem has hit epidemic proportions. The CDC says that over a 15 year period between 1999 and 2013, live births of babies who showed signs of opioid addiction had tripled in the 28 states that track the problem.
What Happens When A Baby Is Born Addicted?
Babies that are born addicted to heroin, methadone, oxycontin, or other controlled substances are usually diagnosed with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, or NAS.
NAS is a complex condition that can include a variety of symptoms; the type and severity of the symptoms depends on factors such as what type of drug or drugs the mother used and for how long; whether or not the baby was premature; and whether or not the mother detoxed prior to delivery.
In most cases, the symptoms of NAS emerge within 1-3 days of delivery, however, some babies can even develop NAS up to 7 days after their birth.
Symptoms of NAS can include diarrhea, fever, and rapid breathing. These babies are often exceptionally fussy; they cry almost constantly, and they are slow to thrive.
Cuddle Care Volunteer Programs – Treating NAS With TLC
While NAS babies certainly face a tough start in life, the good news is that treatment is relatively simple – in most cases, NAS babies thrive when given extra TLC – that’s where you can help.
Across the United States programs match up screened volunteers with hospitals that need “baby cuddlers” – specially-trained volunteers who spend their time gentle rocking, cuddling, and comforting these drug-affected infants. These volunteers hold infants for periods ranging from 45 minutes up to 4 hours following an intensive screening and training program that covers issues like infection control, safety, and confidentiality. Volunteers are not responsible for medical care of the infants – they simply hold the newborns, read to them, or gently rock the babies.
Research has shown that this simple, yet time-consuming treatment gives these drug-addicted babies the best shot at not only surviving, but thriving. Doctors believe that simple cuddling helps to calm over-active nervous systems of these babies, providing relief from the uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms that NAS-affected newborns often suffer from.
In most cases, NAS babies show rapid improvement within a few weeks; however, some infants require extra care for up to six months following their birth.
How To Help
If this sounds like the perfect volunteer opportunity for you, start by doing a simple online search using terms such as “baby cuddler hospital volunteer”; “hospital baby hugger”, or “NICU cuddler”. This should help you find local hospitals in your area that operate baby cuddling programs.
For example the St. Mary-Corwin Medical Center in Pueblo, AZ recently put out a call for baby cuddlers, as did Miami Valley Hospital in Ohio and the Tulane-Lakeside Hospital for Women and Children near New Orleans, Louisiana.
You can call your nearby hospitals and ask to speak to the volunteer coordinator – remember, not all hospitals have baby cuddling programs, so don’t feel discouraged if it takes some work to find the right volunteer opportunity for you.
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