Baby Cuddler Volunteers
Hospitals in the US are seeking volunteers to cuddle opioid-addicted newborns.
When a baby is born addicted to the prescription or illicit drugs their mothers took during gestation, the first days of life become a battle to stay alive.
Addicted newborns might spend weeks, if not months, in the hospital. Some are alone in the fight, their mothers are often fighting their own demons and are too unwell to care for an infant.
According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, a baby is born every 25 minutes suffering from opioid withdrawal, or neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS); as the result of being exposed in utero to illegal or prescription drugs by then mothers.
The dramatic increase in these heartbreaking cases over the last few years has left clinics and hospital neonatal intensive care units in dire need of extra assistance.
While doctors and nurses do critical work in the NICU on behalf of addicted infants. Volunteer snugglers at hospitals like The Woman’s Hospital of Texas perform the essential task of tending to the babies emotionally during their hospital stays. Babies who are just days and weeks old get hugged, kissed, soothed, swaddled, sung to and held by volunteers who have been specially trained to give just the right type of tender loving care.
Babies are not old enough to know how to soothe themselves, it can be a firm embrace or a steady voice that does the trick as babies n despair have their methadone doses decreased.
Volunteer cuddlers have been around in the US since the late 1980s.
Victoria General Hospital is the first in Western Canada to have volunteers cuddle babies in the hospital’s intensive care units.
“No Baby Unhugged” initiative will ensure all babies get the hugs they need to help them thrive.
Island Health is the latest organization to implement the innovative program. There are three baby hugging programs up and running at other Canadian hospitals.