Study: Babies with opioid withdrawal better off with mom

LEBANON, N.H (WCAX) Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, or NAS, affects babies who are suffering from withdrawal. And the numbers in this region may surprise you. What is also surprising is that according to new research, one possible solution is as simple as staying in your room.

According to doctors at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, one in 10 newborns is exposed to opiates in the mother's third trimester.

"That does include a lot of moms who are in medication-assisted recovery programs," said Dr. Kathryn Dee MacMillan of DHMC.

Traditionally, babies suffering from NAS are moved to the intensive care unit. Withdrawal symptoms include difficulty regulating sugars and body temperatures.

"They may have some gastrointestinal dysregulation and some fast breathing and high temps but mostly what we care about is a lot of times they have difficulty feeding," MacMillan explained.

MacMillan recently reviewed multiple studies involving about 500 births across the globe. The research shows that the NICU might not be the best place for newborns with NAS because of the bright lights and noise. Instead, the study shows that babies suffering from withdrawal should stay with mom, known as rooming in.

"They required treatment with an opioid medication less often, they were usually able to go home, had a shorter length of stay and not all of the studies reported on this but those that did showed that there was at least as good and often better breast-feeding success," MacMillan said.

Her findings were recently published in Journal of the American Medical Association. MacMillan says that being close to mom has a calming effect that makes the infant more content and gives the new mother better insight into her life-changing role.

"So they get to practice learning about their baby and forming that bond early on," MacMillan said.

Bottom line-- doctors say parents should be on the front lines of making sure their kids get a healthy start, while at the same time, reducing costs and improving outcomes.