Program sets drug-dependent babies, moms on path to recovery

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A groundbreaking new program at Women & Infants Hospital is helping drug-dependent babies and their mothers chart a better road to recovery.

The hospital’s family centered model allows mothers to stay and bond with their newborn babies even after the mother is discharged from the hospital.

Lyndsey Julius’s son, Deklan, was born with neonatal abstinence syndrome, or NAS, last fall — a condition triggered by exposure to opioids or other addictive drugs while in the womb.  Julius was being treated with methadone during her pregnancy to overcome an addition to opioids.

“It was ten years I was on Percocet, and then it was heroin. Did that for about six months and then it was like, this is crazy. I need help,” Julius explains. 

“I was on the methadone throughout my pregnancy and they prepared me for it, telling me it was one hundred percent safe for the baby. It was safer than trying to stop medication at that point.  It could have made me lose the baby.”

Julius says her son began experiencing withdrawal symptoms from day one. 

“He was sneezing and yawning,” she recalls. “It was really hard. I felt really guilty. It was horrible and heartbreaking because I know what it feels like.”

But even after she was discharged, Julius was able to stay by Deklan’s side in one of five rooms earmarked for mothers who have babies with NAS.  

“I was dying to bring him home. I hated that I had to stay with him,” Julius explains. “It was nice, though, because they were monitoring so well. He wasn’t miserable. They were right on top of it.”

Deklan was monitored by hospital staff around the clock while his mother was there to bond with and comfort him. She was also involved in helping doctors and nurses assess her child’s progress.

“While the babies are in the rooms with the mothers, our nurses will go in there and ask the mom, ‘So, what do you think of the score here?,'” explains Dr. Adam Czynski, Medical Director of the Newborn Nursery Service at Women & Infants Hospital.  “And we’ll ask them specific questions to get that information, but we are forming the score by what the mother is telling us.”

In just ten months since the family centered model was launched, Women & Infants has alread seen a noticeable drop in the length of stay for babies with NAS.

“Before we started this, our average stay was around 21 days. We’ve now dropped that to 18 days, just by promoting this mother baby bonding and being supportive and transferring the care back to mom,” says Dr. Czynski.

As the program approaches the end of its first full year, Women & Infants says it is treating an average of seven babies with NAS per month.

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