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4/5/2018 5:39:53 PM Reporting from Detroit,MI
Volunteers help comfort newborns at Beaumont, Dearborn
4/5/2018 5:39:53 PM
A program new to the Dearborn NICU is helping comfort infants.

Volunteers help comfort newborns at Beaumont, Dearborn

A program new to the Dearborn NICU is helping comfort infants.
Beaumont Health

Volunteers help comfort newborns at Beaumont, Dearborn

Thursday, April 05, 2018

NICU program

A program new to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Beaumont Hospital, Dearborn is helping infants born with neonatal abstinence syndrome fight through withdrawal symptoms. In use at hospitals nationwide, the program recently landed at Beaumont, Dearborn thanks to Emily Bair. She is pursuing a graduate degree in public health at the University of Michigan.

“I grew up around this hospital,” said Bair. “When I heard that the Beaumont, Dearborn NICU team was interested in establishing the program, I jumped at the chance to help.”

Bair worked with Valerie Halt-Williams, RN, the NICU’s clinical nurse manager. Two volunteers come each day for three- to four-hour shifts. Their task: give comfort to infants in the NICU as directed by nursing staff. Volunteers provide comfort by cuddling, swaddling, talking to the newborns, and playing and singing soft music.

Some of the newborns are the youngest victims of an ongoing epidemic in the United States. Even when mothers seek treatment for their addictions early in pregnancy, they are typically urged to stay on methadone to minimize the risk of miscarriage.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, NAS is a postnatal drug withdrawal syndrome in newborns caused primarily by in utero exposure to opioids. In the United States, the incidence of NAS increased 383 percent from 2000-2012. Withdrawal symptoms usually occur 48-72 hours after birth and include tremors, hyperactive reflexes, seizures, excessive or high-pitched crying, and irritability.

Volunteer program reduces addicted infants’ withdrawal pain

NICU nurses provide these at-risk newborns with their medical needs; however, taking the time to sing to babies, calm them down by rocking or just holding them is not always possible for these busy professionals.  

“By having volunteers come in, they can provide that tactile support, which research has shown helps reduce pain the infants are experiencing without having to provide them with as many pain medications for their withdrawal symptoms,” Bair said.

The program is a hit at the Beaumont, Dearborn NICU and nearly all of the babies in the unit are benefiting, not just infants going through withdrawal.  

“It’s a fantastic program,” said Halt-Williams. “In addition to NAS babies, we had an infant who was here close to 100 days with us whose mother had another little one at home. She could not get here every day. So, we would have the volunteers hold that baby, who needed physical contact as well.”