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Melania Trump visits hospital's 'cuddle' program for babies exposed to opioids in the womb

Yahoo! Lifestyle logo Yahoo! Lifestyle 11/6/2019 Elise Solé

Melania Trump wearing a black shirt: First Lady Melania Trump visited Boston Medical Center on November 5, 2019, to learn about a cuddle program that helps babies born with drug-withdrawal symptoms. (Photo: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images) © Provided by Oath Inc. First Lady Melania Trump visited Boston Medical Center on November 5, 2019, to learn about a cuddle program that helps babies born with drug-withdrawal symptoms. (Photo: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images) Melania Trump spent part of Wednesday visiting the Boston Medical Center’s CALM program, which offers cuddles to newborn babies experiencing withdrawal symptoms from in-utero exposure to drugs.

“Looking forward to visiting @The_BMC tomorrow w/@SecAzar to learn more about the compassionate natal care & support given to mothers & babies w/NAS,” tweeted the 49-year-old first lady on Tuesday, ahead of her visit to Massachusetts with Department of Health and Human Services head Alex Azar.

On the trip — part of Trump’s Be Best campaign, which targets opioid abuse — the first lady visited with babies who suffer from neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) to learn how loving physical touch helps treat symptoms.

According to Boston Medical Center (BMC), due to a rise in maternal opioid use, a baby is born experiencing opioid withdrawal every 25 minutes. When used during pregnancy, opiates infiltrate the placenta, the organ that provides oxygen and nutrients to the baby. Symptoms run from irritability, difficulty eating or sleeping, and vomiting. After the program, says BMC, only 30 percent of the babies need methadone, a drug that eases withdrawal symptoms.

The BMC program CALM (Cuddling Assists in Lowering Maternal and Infant Stress) offers a warmer alternative to methadone.

"Cuddling is the first line of treatment," Elisha A. Wachman, M.D., associate professor of pediatrics at Boston University School of Medicine, said in a story published by BMC. "We make sure they are sleeping, eating and comfortable. We hold them a lot and keep the lights low.”

The program works with assistance from Boston University volunteers who open their arms when mothers with substance use disorders cannot be present. In a YouTube video published by Boston University School of Medicine, one first-year medical student described a crying two-day-old baby with NAS as “agitated” but noted that when she picked him up, he slept through her two-hour shift.

A representative for Boston Medical Center was not immediately available for comment when reached by Yahoo Lifestyle.

Cuddled babies can feel warm and safe because of the hormone oxytocin, which is discharged into the bloodstream from the brain’s hypothalamus, according to the American Psychological Association (APA).

Oxytocin plays an important role in the baby-mother relationship, including with pregnancy and childbirth. A 2007 small study published in the journal Psychological Science showed that women with higher levels of plasma oxytocin throughout pregnancy and during the postpartum period exhibited more “exclusive” behaviors, such as singing to the infants, bathing and feeding in specific ways, and concern for the child’s safety.

The hormone also helps start contractions during childbirth and the flow of breast milk from mother to baby. Touch is so potent that one Current Biology study determined that human contact can affect the cognitive and social development of premature babies.

However, Trump’s visit to Boston didn’t stir the feels in everyone— outside Boston Medical Center, medical professionals silently held up signs reading "We Care Do U?" a slogan inspired by the first lady’s "I Really Don't Care Do U?” Zara jacket worn to visit detained children in 2018. According to Boston Magazine, the “Stand-In for Solidarity” event supports patients who do not support President Trump’s policies.

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