Hospitals Around the Country Are Looking for Volunteers to Cuddle Drug-Addicted Newborns

Newborn babies have an opioid epidemic. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, a baby is born suffering from opioid withdrawal every fifteen minutes.

Babies born with opioid epidemic before experiencing anything else, they experience pain and suffering.

Newborn babies which are brought in this world by mothers who suffer from addiction are ending up in Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) – an ICU for infants – experiencing withdraw from the moment they enter this world.

Citizens who serve as ‘baby cuddlers’ give volunteer help to the hospitals across the country. These baby cuddlers rock the infants to sleep and give the needed human connection and love.

The cuddler programs are becoming part-time jobs in Iowa, Virginia, San Antonio and Massachusetts to aid the fight of the crisis. In the entire state of Texas, the highest number of babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) is in the University Hospital in Bexar Country, San Antonio. This number increased to 60% in the last five years.

According to Texas Public Radio, when this University Hospital called out for baby cuddlers, Doug Walters, an Army Veteran was quick to volunteer. Walters has been a part-time baby cuddler for over three years now, specializing in NAS. 

An infant with NAS may cope with symptoms that include:  tight muscles, subsequent body stiffness, tremors, seizures, and overly increased reflexes. These newborn babies are prone to gastrointestinal problems. What is more, they and often have trouble breathing and being fed.

Infants with NAS, often cope with identifiable cry, which is caused by this syndrome. As per Doug, when these babies cry, their cry is very sad, because they don’t understand what’s happening, and they don’t understand why things hurt.



Laurie Weaver, a nurse at the same University Hospital, has been working there for 27 years. She cares for babies with NAS more than any other type of patient. Laurie says that these babies have difficult start of life. She adds that she enjoys holding and comforting them.

Vicki Agnitsch, a former nurse who is a part of the Cuddler Volunteer program at Blank Children’s Hospital in Des Moines, Iowa says that touch is very important to babies. Without touching, there will be failure to thrive, says Vicki Agnitsch.



Vicki says that these babies know when someone touches them. They feel safe and secure that they crave. She also adds that babies had that inside the mom, and then they come out into this cold, bright world. The touching and talking to them help them in their development.

Spending several hours with newborns can improve and their well-being. The cuddler volunteer program is the best part of the week, says Vicki.

Warrenton, Va.’s Fauquier Hospital has established a cuddling program of its own. Cheryl Poelma, director of women services told WTOP News that infants born with NAS receive morphine shortly after their birth to cope with their withdrawal symptoms.

Babies in withdrawal tend to be irritable. They can’t eat well, they may sneeze a lot, have loose stools, says Cheryl Poelma. This Hospital decided to establish a cuddler program in conjunction with the administration of morphine, as a two-pronged program. Cheryl also says that results are visible in few weeks. Namely, the babies will have better eye contact, better fed and they will sleep better. They baby cuddler programs is a form of proactive empathy that makes difference in the world.