All babies cry. But the cries of babies who were exposed to opiates in the womb can sound very different. These newborns often have excessive and high-pitched cries, gastrointestinal issues, sweating and other symptoms as they go through substance withdrawal – known as neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS).
Opioid-exposed babies often experience these symptoms of NAS soon after birth as they withdraw from the opioids that were in their mother’s systems while pregnant.
Brenner Children’s Hospital’s Cuddlers on Call program is staffed by approximately 50 volunteers who soothe these newborns by rocking them to sleep, swaddling them and providing the human touch that babies need. These hand-selected volunteers, who have previously worked within the Wake Forest Baptist Health system in a different capacity, have received additional screening and training to help them comfort these babies.
“Newborns affected by NAS are really given a rough start to life,” said Tiffany Lyon, nurse manager-fellow at Brenner Children’s. “Our goal and hope with this program is to add comfort and love to these tiny patients as they navigate through a very challenging time.”
All babies exposed to opioids in the womb are monitored for NAS, however; all babies opioid-exposed will not necessarily develop NAS. The babies that do develop the syndrome require hospital treatment.
Cuddlers on Call recruits from existing and active volunteers within the Wake Forest Baptist system several times a year. Those interested in exploring other volunteer opportunities can visit wakehealth.edu/About-Us/Volunteer-Services to apply.
Wake Forest Baptist Health (www.wakehealth.edu) is a pre-eminent academic health system based in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Wake Forest Baptist’s two main components are an integrated clinical system – anchored by Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, an 885-bed tertiary-care hospital in Winston-Salem – that includes Brenner Children’s Hospital, five community hospitals, more than 300 primary and specialty care locations and more than 2,500 physicians; and Wake Forest School of Medicine, a recognized leader in experiential medical education and groundbreaking research that includes Wake Forest Innovations, a commercialization enterprise focused on advancing health care through new medical technologies and biomedical discovery.