“I want to walk into a room, be it a hospital for the dying or a hospital for the sick children, and feel that I am needed. I want to do, not just to be.” – Princess Diana
It’s unfortunate that delicate newborns have to suffer the effect of their mothers’ narcotic addiction, a condition knows as Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS). They are immediately set up in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), battling with gut-wrenching pain and distress at the most fragile time of their lives.
Opioids, commonly referred to as narcotics, are a class of pain-relieving drugs. A few common opioids include heroin, Vicodin (hydrocodone), fentanyl, codeine, and tramadol. These drugs are controlled medications, meaning they’re supposed to be prescribed only by medical personnel and taken in specified doses. Unfortunately, it’s easy to become addicted to the relieving sensations they create. These drugs work by attaching their molecules to the pain receptors around your brain (nociceptors). This attachment blocks the sensation of pain, though not curing the cause.
Americans consume 80% of the world’s prescribed opioid supply. Opioid abuse, overdose, and misuse have become major issues for concern in the United States, constituting a nearly uncontrollable epidemic. It’s awful that even newborn babies have to suffer from the withdrawal effect of opioids, inherited from their mothers who abused the drugs during pregnancy.
The baby cuddlers program
Symptoms of NAS include mild to severe tremors, irritability, insomnia, high-pitched crying, excessive crying, tightening of the muscles, seizures, hyperactive reflexes, gastrointestinal discomfort (resulting in feeding problems), and difficulty in breathing.
It’s amazing how thousands of citizens are willing to help these innocent babies deal with unbearable pain. Hospitals in a lot of states have been receiving volunteer aid from altruistic citizens. These people willingly take out time in their busy day to sign up as baby cuddlers, rocking the newborns to sleep, providing a comforting human presence, and trying to soothe away their pain. They swaddle the infants, rock them and sing to them, helping them to relax and be distracted from the suffering.
Doug Walters from Bexar County, Texas talks about one of the angel babies he’s currently catering for. In a chat with Texas Public Radio. The army veteran has been a baby cuddler for over three years, and he signed up at the University Hospital in the county, where a third of all babies dealing with NAS in Texas is born.
Doug describes his current baby, Jonathan’s case as problematic. “Jonathan is supposed to be going to sleep, but we’re having some challenges right now. He’s three and a half months, so he’s been a resident for a little while.” He feels highly sympathetic to the pain the babies go through. No innocent child deserves to suffer that way.
“You can tell when kids cry because they’re mad, or they’re hungry, and (babies with NAS) just…it’s a very sad cry. It’s just sad, because they don’t understand what’s happening, and they don’t understand why things hurt. They just don’t understand,” Doug said.
Touching the babies helps them heal, relax, and connect
Blank Children’s Hospital in Des Moines, Iowa, actually has a two-year waiting list of volunteers willing to render their services. A lot of people would give anything to be there for the babies. According to Vicki Agnitsch, a retired nurse who volunteers at the hospital, human contact has been noticed to result in reduced medication for the babies. Touching, cuddling, cooing, and rocking all help the babes to relax and deal with the condition in a better way.
“When they know someone else is touching them, it gives them that warmth and safety and security that they crave. They had that inside the mom, and then they come out into this cold, bright world. They don’t have that, so all of that swaddling, touch, and talk helps their development,” said Vicki. She’s been volunteering since 2011, describing the job as the best part of her week.
A true display of love and selflessness
Cheryl Poelma, director of Women Services at Fauquier Hospital, Warrenton, Virginia, explained to WTOP that the babies were given morphine to help relieve the pain. The babies suffer incredibly, crying uncontrollably and are unable to nurse properly. The morphine relieves the worst of their pain, while the cuddlers help to soothe them and put them to sleep.
“Babies in withdrawal tend to be irritable, they aren’t coordinated with their suck, they can’t eat well, they can sneeze a lot, have loose stools — it’s all part of withdrawing,” Cheryl explained. She said that the cuddlers aren’t allowed to walk around with the babies or feed them. They just provide full, attentive comfort the best way they can.
“They sit, and they rock infants, and hold them tight. The infants tend to like to have their hands close to their chests, they like a tight blanket swaddled around them. They also like to suck on pacifiers, so it’s rocking, sucking, keeping them in a quiet environment, and reducing stimuli.” she said. The infants show remarkable improvement after a few weeks of cuddling.
It’s important that all pregnant women are educated on the dangers of exposing their unborn babies to drugs in the womb. The drugs pass through the mother’s blood and placenta to get into their own bloodstreams, resulting in a withdrawal effect when the babies are born.
Thankfully, the volunteer cuddlers programs coming up all over the country are real blessings to these infants in need. They help the babies sleep better and relax more, giving them a true human connection to ease some of their pain. It’s sad that they have to come into the world with a tough and painful start, but there are thousands of people willing to cuddle their pain away.
Source: Inspire To Change