For babies with neonatal abstinence syndrome, or NAS, cuddling is of utmost importance. While every newborn baby needs the comfort of touch in order to develop properly, those infants who are suffering from NAS can benefit from extra attention. In fact, babies with NAS can benefit from being cuddled, which can help mitigate turmoil caused by withdrawal.
Symptoms of NAS which these infants must endure include diarrhea, shrill crying, sweating, muscle spasms, indigestion, tremors, poor sleeping, fever, and tremors. However, studies dating back several decades have demonstrated that these infirm infants can benefit from additional attention and touch. In fact, during the 1980’s, studies performed with babies suffered from crack cocaine withdrawal demonstrated that additional cuddling could afford the babies shorter stays in the hospital and a faster rate of weight gain.
Many hospitals have programs in place which pair volunteers with babies in need of cuddling — and even when they are not going through withdrawal, infants can benefit from cuddling. At Pennsylvania Hospital, a cuddling program has been in place for over three decades. However, as the opioid epidemic continues to pick up steam, the program has become even more important.
In fact, in Pennsylvania, the rate of hospital stays for newborn babies that involve substance abuse has risen 250 percent between 2000 and 2015. In other words, nearly twenty out of every one thousand babies dealt with withdrawal issues. Estimates made by the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council estimated that that equates with over twenty million dollars in health care costs and nearly twenty-eight thousand days of hospitalization.
Making the problem more complicated is the fact that, even when a pregnant woman makes an attempt to overcome her addiction during pregnancy, it is still possible that the newborn will be addicted to opioids. This is because, in many instances, a pregnant woman who is attempting to stop using opioids will not be taken off substances entirely, but instead switched to an alternate opioid, such as methadone. This is due to the fact that quitting cold turkey can present a health hazard to unborn babies, leading most physicians to recommend pregnant women switch to methadone rather than giving up opioids completely. Unfortunately, this often means that the baby is born going through withdrawal from methadone.
However, the cuddling program allows volunteers to provide comfort to the infants through cuddling. The cuddling program has been in place at the hospital for over forty years. Before being approved for cuddling duty, volunteers must be certified by the state, ensuring they have never abused a child, and also taking part in classes that demonstrate the best way to hold an infant (and how to wash one’s hands properly beforehand).
In addition to helping the babies recovery from addiction, cuddling also provides a benefit to the volunteers, who report lower levels of stress after cradling the infants.
If you or someone you care about is dealing with substance abuse, one of the drug rehab centers in the Intervention Association network can help. Contact us now!