Hospitals Recruited Volunteers To Cuddle Babies Addicted To Drugs

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Ever wondered how something as simple as a hug can somehow fix so many things? You might be upset, angry, lonely, or scared, and yet when you receive a hug in that moment, even if it’s from a complete stranger, you feel comforted. We’re creatures who not only love connection, but crave it, whether that be connection with yourself or with others.

Hugging releases oxytocin from the brain, otherwise known as the “love hormone.” Oxytocin plays a huge role in our social interactions and our sexuality. It is released whenever we hug or become intimate with someone, and even when breastfeeding. It can also help those of us living with depression.

Well, as it turns out, the superpower of hugging also translates to newborn babies struggling with drug addiction. After a newborn suffers the effects of their mother’s drug abuse, that baby also needs special care and attention to cope with their withdrawal symptoms post-birth. For a mother who is likely also addicted to drugs, this can be a difficult task to take on.

That’s why many hospitals have implemented volunteer programs to help these newborn babies addicted to drugs, where volunteers can hug and cuddle with them. Hospital workers have found that giving some extra love to these babies actually helps their healing process!

You Can Volunteer to Hug Newborns Addicted to Drugs at Hospitals

Programs designed to help newborn babies who are addicted to drugs have been popping up all over hospitals in the U.S. Many babies born from mothers with drug addictions need to spend weeks or months in hospitals post-delivery, as they gradually wean off the drugs they were born addicted to.

What’s worse is that these babies often don’t have families with them a lot of the time, because their mothers may be in rehabilitation programs trying to recover from drug addiction themselves. But, interestingly enough, hospital staff have found that human connection and love can actually help these babies heal faster.

As a result, some hospitals have implemented programs whereby volunteers can come in and hold these babies as they endure withdrawal. Snuggling has been found to have a very positive effect, and volunteers can even talk or sing to the babies if they’d like to as well.

“These babies need to feel love, human touch and a soft voice to comfort them when they’re in pain,” explained Maryann Malloy, a nurse manager in Philadelphia. “It makes the parents feel better knowing that even when they cannot be here there is someone to rock and hold their baby. . . . Our cuddlers help so the babies do not reach that point. They pick them up before the first whimper.”

The medical term used to describe this condition is Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS), which stems from their mothers using painkillers like opioids or drugs like heroin during pregnancy. NAS can cause symptoms like excessive crying, fever, irritability, rapid breathing, seizures, sleep problems, trembling, vomiting and sweating.

Can you imagine entering into this world, probably already confused about where you are, how you got there, and why you were torn from the warm comfort of the womb, all the while trying to cope with these symptoms? These babies deserve love, and it’s incredible programs like these that help them feel it.

Some of the effects hospital workers have observed from the program include a reduced need for medications and less time spent recovering in the hospital overall. These babies are recovering quicker, and it’s all because of cuddling!

One program offered in a hospital located in Virginia found that cuddling newborn babies suffering from drug withdrawal cuts their time spent in hospital in half. To be specific, cuddling these babies reduced their hospital stay from 40 days to only 21.

“[Cuddling] is helping them manage through these symptoms,” Maribeth McLaughlin, chief nursing officer and vice president of Patient Care Services at Magee said. “They are very irritable; they are hard to console. This is about swaddling them and giving them that comfort and safe, secure feeling.”

Final Thoughts 

More and more information is coming out about the power of human connection, particularly the health benefits of hugging and cuddling (read our CE article on this here). However, this may not come as a surprise to many of you, because if you’ve ever had a really good hug, it feels amazing.

Sometimes if I’m stressed, my friend will literally just hug me until I feel better, and this somehow always works after about a minute. My heart palpitations dissipate, my shakiness subsides, and I feel a sense of peace. Even hugging yourself can have the same effects!

So, next time you’re feeling upset or angry or sad, or maybe you’re just craving a bit of human connection, try giving someone a hug. Likewise, if you don’t know what to say to console someone, try saying nothing and instead giving them a hug. You might be surprised to find that hugs can heal!

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