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A recent medical study has shown that when infants are suffering from opioid withdrawal and Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome they will recover faster when they spend a significant amount of time with their parents nearby. Having the parents close to the infant has shown to greatly improve the outcome. The study findings were used in a presentation for the 2016 meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies. According to Boston Children’s Hospital/Boston Medical Center Combined Residency Program associate Mary Beth Howard, M.D., M.Sc., the lead author of the study, “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.”

As the USA and Canada struggle with an epidemic of opioid abuse more infants will experience opioid withdrawal and Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome from exposure to heroin or other opioid drugs in the womb. Some of the symptoms of NAS include poor feeding, lethargy, tremors, vomiting, diarrhea, poor sleep, and intense irritability. Infants who experience these symptoms are typically treated in the hospital, and this often requires weeks of an inpatient stay along with a variety of drugs to treat the symptoms that the infant experiences. In the study newborns who had their parents at the bedside during the treatment tended to have opioid withdrawal symptoms that were less severe, and these infants were typically released after shorter stays than infants who did not receive the same parental support and presence.

According to Howard “Our results show that non-pharmacologic interventions play a key role in treating opioid-exposed infants and lessening the severity of NAS. 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. Creating a more secure, compassionate, and comfortable environment for mothers and infants will likely lead to improved outcomes for both mother and infant.”