Treating Babies in Opioid Withdrawal at Yale-New Haven Hospital

Nationwide and especially in New England, a growing number of babies are going into opioid withdrawal right after they are born.

"The number of babies who have gone through this around the country has quintupled over the last 10 to 15 years," said Dr. Matthew Grossman, the quality and safety officer at the Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital. "So the babies are born, they’ve been exposed to the opioid throughout the pregnancy and when they’re born they no longer get it."

In newborn intensive care units, DGrossman said the hospital staff would depend on morphine to treat the babies’ withdrawal symptoms until they’d be ready to go home.

But now, he said Yale-New Haven has scrapped that approach of separating the child from his or her parents.

"The most effective treatment for that was not medication," Grossman said. "But having the parents really close by and doing intensive baby care, basically that the parents, particularly the moms were a really powerful treatment."

This new strategy shortens the average length of care from around four weeks to about five days, Grossman said.

"Mostly treating the baby as a baby, and so instead of trying to account all their withdrawal signs it’s trying to make sure they can behave like a baby, that they can eat, they can sleep, that we can calm them down," he added.

The opioid epidemic is not likely to end anytime soon.

"Trying to take the stigma away form this is a good first step, of treating people with respect," Grossman said. "And having the baby and the mom together can help sort of treat each other."

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