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Calming a newborn with neonatal abstinence syndrome

With the rapid spread of the opioid epidemic in the United States, there has been an unprecedented rise in the number of babies gripped by it. Children born with opioid withdrawal suffer from serious health issues, such as breathing problems, nausea, diarrhea, tremors, rashes, etc. Also known as neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), the devastating symptoms are a result of opioid use by mothers during their pregnancy.

Babies born to mothers abusing opioids and other substances are extremely prone to illnesses and cry inconsolably. Their cries bear no semblance with the normal cry of a newborn and are often accompanied by irritation, seizures, vomiting, and diarrhea, which are the first signs of withdrawal.

A research presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) 2016 Meeting revealed that babies with NAS experience reduced withdrawal symptoms when parents stay by their bedside. Babies whose parents held their hands and caressed them required fewer weeks of hospitalization and medical intervention.

Tips to soothe a baby with NAS

Whether it is a fetal alcohol syndrome, found in babies born to mothers addicted to alcohol during pregnancy, or NAS, there is a considerable psychological and behavioral impact on the life of such children. However, with timely intervention, it is possible to reduce not only the severity of the withdrawal but also the hospitalization costs.

According to lead author Mary Beth Howard of the Boston Children’s Hospital/Boston Medical Center Combined Residency Program, parental physical closeness with the affected baby has therapeutic benefits. Elaborating on the role of new mothers in alleviating the symptoms of NAS in their newborns, Dr. Howard said, “Encouraging and supporting mothers with substance abuse disorders to be involved in their infant’s care while they are being treated for withdrawal symptoms should be a priority of providers caring for opioid-exposed newborns.”

Listed below are some of the ways to soothe NAS-afflicted babies:

Swaddling the baby: Whether it is for soothing a crying child or comforting the child with colic, swaddling has many positive effects. It increases bonding with the mother and makes the baby feel less vulnerable and irritable.

Rooming-in: According to Dr. Howard, rooming-in with the baby could have many unintended benefits both for the mother and the child. Talking about the benefits of rooming-in, Dr. Howard said, “Rooming-in may provide opportunities for bonding and normalize the postpartum process for women who may feel vulnerable and stigmatized because of their opioid dependence history.”

Caring like a kangaroo: Cuddling the baby just like a kangaroo, i.e., putting the baby close to one’s heart, can be a great way to calm down a baby who is crying inconsolably. Studies have shown that skin-to-skin contact can shorten hospitalization durations.

Breastfeeding: Breastfeeding is another form of skin-to-skin contact that keeps the baby at peace. As most NAS babies are low in nutrients, it is essential that they get extra calories though baby formulas.

Using experiential therapies: Experiential therapies, such as aromatherapy and Reiki massages have been found to be effective in easing infant withdrawal. Also, it is essential that babies are kept in dimly lit rooms and far away from disturbances of any sort. Some hospitals used lavender and peppermint oils, under the supervision of a trained nurse, in order to soothe crying babies.

Road to recovery

If someone is on drugs and plans to conceive a baby or is pregnant, it is essential to contact one’s health care provider right away. However, one should not quit without medical supervision, since it might increase the chances of serious health issues in the newborn. At times, even prescription drugs could cause NAS, therefore, it is essential to inform the prenatal care providers about any drug or medicine that is being used.

If you or someone you know is suffering from drug addiction problem, it is best to seek professional help. The Florida Drug Addiction Helpline can suggest the best drug rehab facilities in Florida that offer holistic healing programs to help get life back on track. To know more about evidence-based addiction treatment centers in Florida, call our 24/7 helpline number 855-982-2401 or chat online with our experts.