There’s a program in hospitals across the country that is both rewarding and heartwarming. The program was created for some really special babies fighting for their lives in NICUs across the country.
These precious babies were born addicted to drugs, and snuggles from loving volunteers just might begin to start their healing.
Because the drug addiction rates continue to skyrocket across the country, more and more infants are suffering from neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS).
While in the womb, these infants were exposed to drugs and require a special amount of care to survive the excruciating withdrawal process. Specially-trained volunteer cuddlers are an important part of that survival effort.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the incidence of NAS has increased 383 percent in the United States since 2000. Which means, there are a whole lot of babies that need snuggles.
Because of this, cuddle care programs have been established across the country to help these babies born addicted to opioids. It’s a huge help to nursing staffs, while the volunteers bring hope to a seemingly hopeless situation.
Jane Cavanaugh, a Pennsylvania nurse, knew she had to do something as substance-abuse rates continued to climb in her home state.
Cavanaugh started a volunteer program at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital to help.
“These babies going through withdrawal need to be held for extended periods,” she said. “They need human touch.”
Maribeth McLaughlin, chief nursing officer and vice president of Patient Care Services at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC in Pittsburgh, agrees.
She oversees a group of cuddle volunteers at Magee. The volunteers snuggle and soothe the at-risk babies who aren’t capable of soothing themselves. According to McLaughlin, babies in withdrawal that are held regularly, need less medication and go home sooner, on average, than those who are not.
“[Cuddling] is helping them manage through these symptoms,” she said. “They are very irritable; they are hard to console. This is about swaddling them and giving them that comfort and safe, secure feeling.”
If snuggling babies sounds like your calling, there are ways you can help. Currently there are cuddle care programs in most states—from Ohio to Texas, and everywhere in between.
A Google search of Cuddle Care volunteer programs should suggest programs in your area.
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