No matter how you look at it, the truth is clear: Drug addictions are continuing to rise in the United States. This crisis affects thousands, including the friends, family, and loved ones of those with addiction, and is putting a massive strain on the health care system.
Probably the saddest reality of the drug crisis is that of its youngest victims: The babies born of drug addicted mothers, who are then born addicted to the drugs themselves. Out of this cruel and twisted fate, however, is the beauty of the human spirit and the “cuddle care” programs that have been popping up all over the nation. (1, 2)
Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome
Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) occurs when the baby inherits the mother’s drug addiction in the womb. These babies then begin going through withdrawal as soon as they are born and are no longer receiving the drug from their mother. The CDC estimates that since the year 2000, rates of NAS have increased by 383%, and has become a massive problem that most have never heard of. (1, 2)
Cuddle Care Volunteer Programs
Going through withdrawal is hard on anyone, but especially on these tiny babies who’s first experiences in the world are painful and gut-wrenching. Researchers and health care workers have discovered that a little cuddle time goes a long way, and that the more often the drug addicted babies are held, the less medication they require and the sooner they can go home. (1, 2)
Caring for a Drug Addicted Baby
The problem is that the nurses don’t have the time that each baby needs to properly give them that care. This is why nurses across the country have started up “cuddle care” programs, where specially trained volunteers come in to spend time holding and snuggling the newborns. (1, 2)
“[Cuddling] is helping them manage through these [withdrawal] symptoms. They are very irritable; they are hard to console. This is about swaddling them and giving them that comfort and safe, secure feeling.” says Maribeth McLaughlin, chief nursing officer and vice president of patient care services at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC in Pittsburg. (1)
Most states have some version of cuddle care programs in place, and there are existing programs throughout Canada, as well. The best way is to find one near you is to search “cuddle care programs in…” followed by your city or state. If you are a nurse, you can start one up at your hospital if they don’t have one already. (1, 2)
Nurse Jane Cavanuagh, who started the cuddle care program at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Pennsylvania, is a firm believer in the success of these programs, and is grateful for the volunteers who step in for the already over-loaded nursing staff. (1, 2)
“These babies going through withdrawal need to be held for extended periods,” she explains. “They need human touch.” (1)
If spending time cuddling little babies who need it most sounds like an enjoyable and rewarding experience for you, then look up a cuddle care program near you are consider getting one started if it does not exist. Lastly, share this article with your friends and family to spread awareness on this issue and recruit more volunteers: The more love these babies receive, the higher chance they have at leading a full, healthy life.