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Where To Volunteer To Cuddle Drug Addicted Babies

‘someone To Hold Their Baby’

You Can Volunteer To Cuddle Drug-Addicted Babies

“These babies need to feel love, human touch and a soft voice to comfort them when they’re in pain,” says Maryann Malloy, a nurse manager for the neonatal intensive care unit at Einstein Medical Center 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.”

“It is a helpless feeling when these babies become inconsolable.

“Our cuddlers help so the babies do not reach that point. They pick them up before the first whimper.”

The babies are suffering from Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome as a result of their mothers using prescription painkillers and drugs like heroin or methadone.

Their symptoms will vary depending on what drugs the mother was taking but can include excessive crying, fever, irritability, rapid breathing, seizures, sleep problems, trembling, vomiting and sweating.

Having volunteers available to cuddle babies also has reduces both the amount of medication babies need and their length of stay in baby units, doctors have noted.

Lovelace Hospital Welcomes Volunteers To Cuddle Drug

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It’s remarkable what a simple hug can do. It can calm you, comfort you, and make you feel safe.

That’s why this is Maria Castillo’s tenth year as a cuddler at Lovelace Hospital.

“Just looking down at their little faces when they smile or they’re crying and I can calm them down,” said Castillo. “I love holding the babies.”

Cuddlers cradle sick or premature babies when their parents need a break. Lovelace says these volunteers are needed now more than ever as more and more babies are born addicted to drugs like meth, cocaine, and heroin.

Lovelace says two years ago, they’d care for about 3 to 5 drug-addicted babies. That’s now doubled to about 6 to 10 a month.

The Hospital says a baby becomes addicted when its mother uses drugs while pregnant. When born, those babies suffer from horrible symptoms like tremors and seizures.

Amanda Cuneo, the Clinical Neonatal Educator at Lovelace, says cuddling can soothe some of those side effects. It also fills a void for intimacy since many of these babies’ parents might be missing in action.

“Their parents may not be able to see them” said Amanda Cuneo, the Clinical Neonatal Educator at Lovelace. “It depends on what the courts say.”

Cuddlers must be 21 years or older, commit to the program for at least a year, go through a background check, several vaccinations, health tests and mandatory training.

You Can Help Heal Drug


Drug addiction is a prevalent problem in the US and even babies are not exempted from the drug crisis. But you can help drug addicted infants heal plus enjoy amazing health benefits at the same time.

Some hospitals are offering volunteering programs in which participants could cuddle with drug addicted babies to help them overcome the withdrawals.

Drug addicted babies tend to be more irritable than normal babies and will need more care and consolation. Cuddling with infants has its own health benefits to volunteers. Supportive touch promotes better mental and emotional connections.

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Help For Opiate Addiction During Pregnancy

The good news is there are treatment programs exclusively tailored for women who are simultaneously addicted to opiates and pregnant. They do have specialized needs, so not all treatment centers are able to treat them. One reason most traditional rehab programs do not treat pregnant mothers is that as patients they require a much higher level of care. If youre looking for treatment as a pregnant mother, search for gender-specific programs that address womens health concerns and life issues that disproportionately affect women. Our team of admissions counselors can also help you find resources for placement. Some programs provide outpatient care, which allows you to attend prenatal appointments while also getting treated for opiate addiction. Never let a sense of shame about what youre going through keep you from doing whats best for both you and your child.

Since the publication of this article here, and in other sources, many cuddler programs across the country now have waiting lists to become volunteers in their programs. This is great news! If youd still like to contribute you can search for local baby cuddler programs for availability. Also, consider volunteering or contributing to a local non-profit that works with supporting disadvantaged children or recovery families.

Hospital Cuddle Care Programs

You Can Volunteer To Cuddle Drug

One Pennsylvania nurse, Jane Cavanaugh, knew she had to do something as substance abuse rates continued to climb in her home state. That led Cavanaugh to start a volunteer program at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital to help, according to

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.

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She oversees a group of cuddle volunteers at Magee. These volunteers snuggle and soothe the at-risk babies who arent 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.

is helping them manage through these symptoms, she told 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 Wisconsin to Texas and everywhere in between. A quick Google search for cuddle care volunteer programs should suggest programs in your area.

Also Check: How To Fight Marijuana Addiction

What About The Mothers

These volunteer cuddling programs for drug-addicted babies can be especially helpful. They provide help while the mother is unable to visit with the baby due to addiction treatment, legal restrictions on custody rights, or unpredictable living situations and transportation. Nurses cant spend the time with these babies that they need, so volunteers fill the gap.

Unfortunately, many women who give birth to drug-addicted babies dont seek treatment during their pregnancy. This is often due to the stigma attached to drug use, especially for expectant mothers. Shame, rejection and societal judgment often lead to avoidance of treatment. The best way to help these mothers and their children is to provide access to comprehensive treatment before or after birth. Lack of treatment options and social stigma make this a difficult goal to accomplish. However, the rising awareness of the opiate epidemic, and the willingness of the medical community, the government, and private citizens to confront this disease, is cause for hope.

The Power Of Loving Touch And Affection

Theres nothing like the smell, grace and promise of a beautiful new baby. Its like they symbolize a fresh hope for the world. Connecting with, and cuddling, a newborn is a sweet and magical experience, but for thousands of babies around the world, its something that is vital to their wellbeing.

Increasing numbers of babies are being born into a fight for their lives, as their bodies desperately try to rid themselves of the drugs their mothers took during pregnancy. With varying degrees of painkillers or heroin in their little bodies, their first days of life are a traumatic and painful experience.

These tiny babies experience intense withdrawal symptoms of diarrhoea, shaking, vomiting, crying and intense pain. If you imagine what a drug-addicted adult experiences when they go cold turkey thats what these vulnerable babies go through as well.

The number of drug-affected babies born in the US has quadrupled in the last decade.

Nurses report that drug affected babies shake, sweat, cry, get severe acidic diarrhea that burns their skin, as well as suffer the pain of being overstimulated by lights and sound. But, there is hope the same nurses note that when held and cuddled for long periods, these babies are comforted and can cope with their ordeal much better.

The Birth of The Program

These babies going through withdrawal and need to be held for extended periods They need human touch. They need soothing. They need talking.

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Volunteer Cuddlers Are Comforting Babies Born Addicted To Drugs And Their Hugs Help Them Cope With Withdrawal Symptoms Without Medication

The tots’ hospital stays and need for drugs to control discomfort has been halved

VOLUNTEER cuddlers who stepped in to comfort drug addicted babies have dramatically reduced the need for medicine to control their withdrawal symptoms.

The 100 women at Boston Medical Centre are helping newborns who got hooked on drugs while in the womb heal faster, thanks to the power of human touch.

They each spend an hour cuddling the tots, who suffer from neonatal abstinence syndrome, Fox 25 reports.

One volunteer, Pamela Turocotte got involved after watching her own grandchildren overcome their addictions at birth and says its the best hour of her week.

She told Fox 25 News: “After watching them grow, and knowing what we all went through, I just wanted to help.

“They bring you over this tiny little bundle and youre just holding it and looking at it and just going Youre going to be OK.

It fills you with so much purpose. Its amazing what one simple thing can do to change the outcome.

Babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome cane suffer terrible withdrawal symptoms, including tremors and inability to sleep and eat.

Dr Elisha Wachman, who runs the CALM programme, said the results had been remarkable:

She said: By snuggling a baby, it can be a difference between a baby getting medication versus not.

According to Dr. Wachman, the cuddles have helped to cut the babies hospital stay in half, while also helping half of them heal without medication.

The Painful Truth About Nas

Kind Hearted Volunteers Cuddle with Infants Born Addicted To Drugs

Matthew is just one of the 13,000+ babies born in the US each year with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome . Babies get NAS when mothers use narcotic painkillers or other opiates like heroin during pregnancy. The child becomes addicted in utero. Once born, the drug supply from mom is removed, so they suffer withdrawal symptoms.

These symptoms are the same as those suffered by adult drug users in withdrawal. They include tremors, irritability, indigestion, muscle spasms, vomiting, diarrhea, and fever. To recover from NAS, newborns stay an average of 24 days in the hospital.

The babies, they are really unsettled, they really suffer, just like adults do when they withdraw from narcotics, explains Dr. Terrie Inder, chair of pediatric newborn medicine at Brigham and Womens Hospital in Boston, The babies are very irritable and sometimes have high heart rates, sweating, flushing, diarrhea. They cry a lot. Often, they need someone to really hold and cuddle and nurture them and support them.

Recommended Reading: How Many People Struggle With Addiction

Hospitals In Search Of Cuddlers To Heal Drug Addicted Babies

Imagine all of the worst aspects of opiate withdrawal: the sweats, cramps, irritability, unbearable cravings, nausea, shakes, temperature fluctuations, and bone-deep pain. The pain of withdrawal is so great that most adults who are dependent on opiates and other substances cant bear to detox without medical assistance. Now, imagine all of this happening to a newborn infant. Its a terrifying prospect, but the reality is that drug-addicted babies are born every day, and the number of infants born dependent on substances is increasing every year.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , the incidence of babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome , or babies born addicted to opiates, has tripled over the past fifteen years. That jump mirrors the trend of the opiate addiction epidemic within the general United States population, which has steadily increased in frequency and intensity in every state in the country. Now, hospitals are responding by establishing cuddler programs, in which volunteers hold and cuddle drug-addicted babies to provide relief from withdrawal and to help them heal.

Care To Cuddle Cuddle Programs For Drug Addicted Babies

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Many people volunteer for very rewarding reasons and opportunities. Others are unsure theres a project or a goal thats just the right fit for them. Well due to life circumstances, for reasons that arent within their control, there are babies that need volunteers who are willing to cuddle them, and thats got to be one of the most mutually rewarding chances to volunteer weve ever heard of!

Photo: Pixabay

Some babies are born addicted to drugs as a result of the pregnancy they developed from. In 2016, the Center for Disease Control reported that the incidence of babies being born addicted to opioids alone had increased from 1.5 per every 1,000 born in 1999 to 6 per every 1,000 born in 2013. Thats more than triple the rate in just over a 10-year study period. And, this was based on only 28 states that had opioid addiction data that was publicly accessible.

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How To Become A Volunteer Cuddler Of Opioid

In response to the story about volunteer “cuddlers” for opioid-dependent newborns, dozens of readers have asked how to join the effort.

“I am a recently retired elementary teacher and I am looking for worthwhile volunteer programs. This sounds wonderful,” one reader emailed.

In general, the answer is straightforward: Hospitals have volunteer offices that accept applications, conduct interviews, and oversee placements, including for cuddler programs. Search the hospital’s website for “volunteer services” to find an application and information. If you don’t like to use a computer, call the hospital and ask for the volunteer office.

“Everyone must apply regardless of where they want to volunteer,” said a spokesperson at the Virtua health system in South Jersey.

Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia uses cuddlers and you can find their volunteer office webpage here.

But not all hospitals enlist cuddlers in their newborn intensive care units, so find that out first. And while an oversupply of altruistic people is hard to imagine, some hospitals actually have more volunteers than they can use.

Jefferson may be a particularly popular site. For each four-hour shift, volunteers receive a cafeteria meal voucher, a hospital pharmacy discount, and an invitation to attend lectures and special events.

In any case, it’s heart-warming to know this region is full of good-hearted people who want to open their arms to babies.

That’s Where Hospital Volunteer Heroes Come Into The Picture

You Can Volunteer To Cuddle Drug

The CDC reports a staggering 383 percent increase in cases of NAS in the last couple of decades. As the incidence has risen, the need for willing volunteer cuddlers has increased as well.

Rising to the challenge, compassionate groups of cuddling volunteers have been gathering in hospitals nationwide. They come alongside the overwhelmed nursing staff to help give these infants a chance at survival and a decent quality of life.

Jane Cavanaugh, a nurse from Pennsylvania, felt the need to start a volunteer program to help babies born addicted to drugs. She established just such a group at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. Cavanaugh explained to media outlets that these babies need longer than average cuddling and attention to make it safely through the withdrawal process.

Leaders of other cuddle volunteer programs concur. Increased amounts of human touch can allow these babies to come out of withdrawal more quickly without needing as much medication. Rather than inconsolable and agitated the drug-addicted babies who are part of cuddle programs tend to be calmer than those who don’t have this benefit.

It’s even been shown to make their after-birth hospital stays shorter.

Skin-to-skin contact is part of the natural bond between humans and their offspring. Unfortunately, when a parent is unable to provide for this basic human need, a newborn child can suffer. This natural need is heightened for drug-addicted infants.

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The Benefits Of Cuddling

Contrary to what was once believed, research shows that theres no too much when it comes to holding and cuddling newborns.

The importance of touch in a babys development cannot be overstated, and the latest research suggests that holding a baby is more crucial to brain development than previously assumed. And for babies going through withdrawal, the benefits are compounded.

Promoting skin-to-skin contact or kangaroo care between newborn and parents has become commonplace in many hospitals and NICUs around the country .

And one hospital in Atlanta has an ICU Grandpa who steps in to cuddle babies at times when hospital staff or parents cant.

Hooray for these volunteers who are taking time to help the smallest and most vulnerable among us.

How Do Hospitals Help Drug

Drug-addicted babies who are born to mothers dependent on substances like opiates require extra care and monitoring. Besides the discomfort and pain of withdrawal, these babies are at risk of developing serious developmental or health problems. Babies born dependent on opiates or other substances are at a greater risk for:

  • Sudden infant death syndrome
  • Developmental delays
  • Low birth weight or impaired growth
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Central nervous system problems
  • Emotional or behavioral issues later in life

Some infants can be treated for withdrawal medically, while others are unable to tolerate medical treatment. Most of these infants suffer severe discomfort in the first hours and days of life. Some hospitals have found a way to help soothe that discomfort. In states like Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, where the opiate epidemic has hit particularly hard, some hospitals have started volunteer programs in which screened individuals come cuddle, rock, and hold drug-addicted babies while the little ones recover in the hospital. This physical touch and cuddling comfort the babies and helps alleviate some symptoms of withdrawal, such as restlessness. In fact, skin contact helps babies developmentally, emotionally, and physically. This contact can help:

  • Promote good sleeping patterns
  • Promote alertness and emotional stability later in life

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