Simple, but novel approach benefits babies born to moms on opiates

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) – You can hear cries of withdrawal echo in the hallway of the in-patient unit on the 7th floor at Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital. It’s where you find babies born to mothers who were on opiates during pregnancy.

Dr. Matthew Grossman explains, “More commonly for us, moms who are on a methadone maintenance program who are getting treatment for addiction.”

For some 30 years, treating each newborn’s dependency with medication was controlled by doctors and nurses. That is, until Dr. Matthew Grossman and his team observed a significant shift.

“We would see if the mom stayed for three nights in a row. The baby’s withdrawal symptoms would be better controlled, and then if they weren’t there one night then the withdrawal symptoms would increase, and so based on our protocols that would mean we would give them more medication. Then we started to think, does this kid need more medication, or more mom?”

Something else had to change as well.

He admits, “There was a level of judging, and we knew the moms felt really guilty about what they had done, but we sometimes added to that.”

Turned out the perfect prescription was being on one team and more of mom, dad, and other family members.

“It’s all about holding those babies, keeping them close to you, rocking them, walking them in the hallways to keep them calm and consoled, ” says Registered Nurse Camisha Taylor who works closely with the families. “We are bonding with the parents as well in creating the relationship that fosters them to be here.”

The new protocol bought about dramatic results:
A baby’s average length of stay dropped from 28 days to seven.
The number of them needing morphine decreased from 97 percent to less than 15 percent.

A cost saving move of $4 million in a two year period.

Dr. Grossman says, “Our role is to empower the moms and to really harness the power of that mother and child bond.”

Another altering decision — the babies were moved from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit to the in-patient unit so now parents can spend the night and stay with their baby as often as they want.

Those involved are now sharing what they have developed with other hospitals in the country.

The Children’s Hospital Association recently honored Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital with the prestigious 2015 Pediatric Quality Award.

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