TriStar Centennial Women's Hospital 'NICU Rockers' program healing babies through cuddling

Posted at 5:08 PM, Jul 24, 2019

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — As people across the country deal with drug addiction, even the tiniest members of the family are affected.

More and more babies are born suffering from opioid exposure withdrawals. Volunteers at TriStar Centennial Women's Hospital NICU help infants heal through cuddling.

For 12 years, Janie Layten has volunteered with the NICU Rockers program once a week. She cuddles infants experiencing withdrawal symptoms and knows the importance of the healing process.

Dr. Ashraf Hamdan works in the neonatology department and said the number of babies exposed to opioids is 15-times higher in Tennessee compared to other states.

"The first line of treatments is to try to calm them and soothe them rather than jumping on medications," Hamden said. "They are not sleeping, so usually babies will feed and sleep for two to three hours and they will only wake up for feeding. These babies will not sleep after feeding. They will be crying, they will be jittery, sneezing, watery stools and vomiting and maybe even high temperatures."

Dr. Hamden said the goal of the Rockers program is to offer healing to infants and eventually reunite them with their parents when the time is right.

Amber Price, Chief Operating Officer of TriStar Centennial, said one out of 1000 women in the state of Tennessee dies from a pregnancy-related complication, and of those women 33 percent are affected by opioids.

"Our goal really is that we help moms and dads develop a toolbox so that they really know how to manage these babies. Many of these babies will have problems lasting four to six months after they are discharged. These are babies will continue often to cry when they go home, will continue to show symptoms of the withdrawals from whatever drugs the mom was taking," Price said.

Price also said no one intends to be addicted and addiction does not discriminate. Volunteers are needed to help with the Rockers program and other departments at TriStar Centennial.