Just try not to get emotional as we tell you about this incredibly rewarding volunteer gig: It’s like being a grandma or auntie, but to some really special babies fighting for their lives in hospitals across the country.
These special babies are addicted to drugs, and snuggles from some very loving volunteers just might be the ticket to their healing.
As drug addiction rates continue to skyrocket across the country, more and more infants are suffering from neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS).
These infants, exposed to drugs in the womb, require a special amount of care to survive the excruciating withdrawal process. And specially-trained volunteer cuddlers can be an important part of that survival effort.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the incidence of NAS has increased 383 percent in the United States since 2000.
Meaning there are a whole lot of babies that need snuggles.
As a result, cuddle care programs have been established across the country to help these babies born addicted to opioids. A big help to nursing staffs, these volunteers bring hope to a seemingly hopeless situation.
One Pennsylvania nurse, Jane Cavanaugh, knew she had to do something as substance-abuse rates continued to climb in her home state.
So, Cavanaugh told Philly.com she started a volunteer program at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital to help.
“These babies going through withdrawal need to be held for extended periods,” she said. “They need human touch.”
Maribeth McLaughlin, chief nursing officer and vice president of Patient Care Services at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC in Pittsburgh, agrees.
She oversees a group of cuddle volunteers at Magee. These volunteers snuggle and soothe the at-risk babies who aren’t capable of soothing themselves.
And, it seems to be working. According to McLaughlin, babies in withdrawal who are held regularly need less medication and go home sooner, on average, than those who are not.
“[Cuddling] is helping them manage through these symptoms,” she told Today.com. “They are very irritable; they are hard to console.
This is about swaddling them and giving them that comfort and safe, secure feeling.”
If snuggling babies sounds like your calling, there are ways you can help. Currently there are cuddle care programs in most states—from Ohio to Texas, and everywhere in between.
A Google search of cuddle care volunteer programs should suggest programs in your area.