Hospital Launches Volunteer Cuddling Program to Soothe Opioid Addicted Babies

Hospitals are finding dozens of Americans signing up to comfort babies born addicted to opioids.

Initially reported by Philly.com this past winter, the program was founded by nurse, Jane Cavanaugh at Philadelphia's Thomas Jefferson University Hospital who believed infants addicted to opioids "need to be held for extended periods."

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Now the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton, Ohio is making sure their youngest victims are in "good hands" too by implementing a program that helps sooth babies through the act of cuddling.

Each year, hospitals see an average of 90 infant born with opioid addiction and experiencing painful symptoms of withdrawal called Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, or NAS.

News agency, WDTN says babies can experience symptoms such as irritability, fussiness and trouble sleeping; or the withdrawal can be more severe and find them vomiting, having difficulty feeding or suffering from tremors.

A mother of a premature baby herself, Dr. Amanda Graf said it's troubling for her to see so many of these infants suffering.

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"I never want to see a baby suffer unnecessarily," she said. "And if there are things we can be doing and programs we can build to help, then we're going to do it."

In addition to medication babies receive to alleviate NAS, volunteers help to provide emotional and physical support by holding, rocking and quietly interacting with the infants. The cuddlers are instilled to fill in the void for infants when a parent or nurse is not available.

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