Cuddle with a local baby, help in fight against opioid addiction

Laurie Mays is one of Miami Valley Hospital’s cuddler volunteers. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

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Laurie Mays is one of Miami Valley Hospital’s cuddler volunteers. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

If you are interested in caring for babies or in helping to combat the growing opioid addiction epidemic, you can do both at the same time at Miami Valley Hospital.

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The hospital has launched a program to care for and comfort infants of women who take opioids during pregnancy.

The Infant Cuddler Program helps babies with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS), or a group of physical withdrawal symptoms including fussiness, crying, inability to sleep, fever, jitteriness, diarrhea, vomiting, sneezing and more, according to the hospital.

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Opioid overdose deaths in Montgomery County are on course to shatter records this year, and about 90 babies per year are admitted to Miami Valley Hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for NAS. If a mother has signed the consent form, cuddlers in the new volunteer program will be permitted to hold the baby and help make a positive difference in the start of life for these little patients, according to MVH.

“Activities of social interaction support the neurological development and physiologic stability of NAS babies,” said Amy Clayton, RNC-NIC, BSN, clinical nurse educator for Miami Valley Hospital’s NICU. “Creating a compassionate, comforting, safe environment for the infants is the goal.”

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NAS is one of the most challenging conditions faced by neonatal nurses today, according to the hospital. Babies are treated with medication for withdrawal but need additional support, such as holding, rocking and quiet social interaction, to help lessen the physical symptoms.

Cuddlers help fill the gap for the babies if a parent or nurse is not available.

Volunteers are not responsible for the physical care of the infants; they hold, rock and gently talk to the babies, and also may walk them in NICU-provided strollers through the unit’s hallways, according to MVH.

Volunteer candidates must exhibit kindness, a non-judgmental nature and a sensitivity to the issue of drug abuse. After two rounds of interviews, selected individuals are required to complete a background check, test negative for tuberculosis and meet all requirements for volunteers at Miami Valley Hospital.

Classroom training is also required, as well as hands-on training under the supervision of a nurse. Supervision continues until all the cuddler’s duties are satisfactorily performed and understood.

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For more information on the program, or to apply for a volunteer position, contact Miami Valley Hospital’s Volunteer Services at (937) 208-2879.

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