Volunteers to help drug addicted babies to help them ease their withdrawal symptoms and recover faster with less medication are wanted in the US.
Several neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) in the United States have a crucial part of their treatment plan for babies and they need more arms for it. Hospitals are seeking volunteers that are willing to hug babies in the intensive care units.
According to a study published in the Journal of Perinatology, 21,000 babies are born addicted to drugs. That is one every 25 minutes. Their unfortunate condition is due to the exposure to substances while they were still in the womb because of their mothers’ addiction. After birth, they suffer neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS).
Symptoms emerge 24 to 72 hours after birth. Some of the common symptoms are visible tremors, piercing screams, vomiting, difficulty breathing and sleeping, fever, sweating, and the inability to eat. The young body of the child may not be able to take the symptoms that will result in the child’s untimely death.
The common treatment for NAS is to seek another substance that will replace the substance the baby is addicted to. Using methadone or morphine, doctors gradually decrease the dosage to ease the intensity of the symptoms in a couple of days or weeks.
Similar to addiction in adults, the withdrawal process can be fatal in babies as such medication early in life may take a toll on an infant’s body. Moreover, intervention can be costly and takes some time. Hospitalization for drug addicted babies usually costs $66,000 or more and takes an average of 16 days, whereas average hospital stay costs $3,500 and takes at least 2 days.
What hugging and cuddling can do?
Volunteer work with drug-addicted babies was spearheaded by Huggies diapers under its “No Baby Unhugged” grant program. The program has a volunteer-based hugging program at NICUs across the country.
The program ensures that all newborns receive extensive amounts of soothing human touch. Studies prove that touch is a primary way to communicate to infants. In fact, newborns are immediately placed beside their mothers.
A simple hug or cuddle gives babies security, passing the message that everything will be all right. It helps them manage the symptoms. Drug addicted babies are very irritable and they are hard to console. Swaddling and cuddling with them give them comfort and secure and safe feeling.
Moreover, a hug triggers the release of oxytocin, also known as the love hormone. The increased level of oxytocin can strengthen immune systems. It lowers the plasma levels of thyroid hormones causing wounds to heal faster.
Aside from drug-addicted babies, “baby cuddlers” also hugged premature babies and infants that need special care. Hugs are deemed beneficial to patients as it lessens the dependence on drugs and shortens hospital stay.
While it looks like an easy thing to do, this volunteer-based program requires people with utmost dedication and a sound mind. Volunteers often face overwhelming situations. While some of the infants grew healthy, addiction often results in developmental disabilities and special needs.
Watch the video below on how “baby cuddlers” work.