Body & Fitness

Meet the volunteer who cuddles babies addicted to drugs

These newborns are their most vulnerable.

Addy Schultz is one amazing woman. The 72-year-old volunteers at the intensive care unit at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Pennsylvania. There, she cuddles and soothes babies who are slowly being cured of an opium addiction, a result of their mothers taking the drug while pregnant.

When a story about Schultz’s unique work ran on, it sparked a surge of volunteers who wanted join the program, cuddling babies as they receive decreasing doses of oral morphine or methadone to cure them.

“Babies with NAS [neonatal abstinence syndrome] are among the most vulnerable infants in need of cuddling, as the process of opioid withdrawal is so very difficult for them to endure,” developmental specialist Arlene J. Verno told

All newborns need cuddles and attention, but those born with NAS need special attention as the drug affects their nervous and digestive system resulting in vomiting, fever and muscle spasms. Studies from the 1980s show that babies suffering with NAS have seen proven benefits from the extra attention, including faster weight gain and less time spent in hospital.

“They need human touch. They need soothing. They need talking,” said Jane Cavanaugh, the nurse who created the cuddling program a year ago.

Now, volunteers in the program hum, chant and sing to the babies.

Interest in volunteering has been overwhelming and the hospital has now created a waitlist to cope with demand. Although the hospital is grateful for all the help as it has relieved some of the strain on nurses, who sometimes are dealing with 12 babies at a time going through withdrawal.

For more, visit our Facebook page or follow us on Instagram

Related stories