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Eat, Sleep, and Console

Welcome to UPMC in Central Pa. and congratulations on the birth of your beautiful baby. Our Baby STRENGTH program aims to do exactly that: keep you and your baby together in the hospital, provide you with respectful care, and encourage you to care for your baby throughout your stay

Babies who experience withdrawal symptoms from opiates are diagnosed with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS). Symptoms of NAS can start anytime within the first few hours of life but sometimes do not start until five days after birth. Your baby will be observed in the hospital for symptoms of NAS for at least five days. Most babies can get through withdrawal with the love and support of their family while caregivers observe the baby for signs of withdrawal. If symptoms of withdrawal become severe, your baby may need medication along with supportive care. NAS symptoms vary from baby to baby, but if your baby is able to eat, sleep well, and be easily consoled they may be discharged in five days. If your baby has severe withdrawal symptoms and needs medication treatment they may remain in the hospital for a few weeks.

Baby STRENGTH is a program that offers you the opportunity to be the “treatment” for your baby. Babies with NAS do best when their family is close by and able to give them feelings of comfort and safety. As they experience withdrawal, they need to be in a calm, quiet space without loud noise, bright lights, or a lot of people around. Breastfeeding is another way you can help your baby through their symptoms of NAS. You can be your baby’s best treatment. If you commit to staying with your baby, breastfeeding, and keeping their room calm and quiet, you will greatly decrease their need for medication!

Here is our commitment to you:

  • After birth, your baby will stay with you on Maternity if they are born at 35 weeks or more and do not require intensive care for any reason. When you are discharged from the hospital, your baby will be admitted to Pediatrics or the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for further monitoring.
  • Regardless of what unit your baby is admitted to, you will be able to stay in the room with your baby, and nurses will check your baby for symptoms of NAS after feedings every few hours.
  • No matter what unit your baby is admitted to, they will be monitored in the hospital for at least five days. We will let your baby go home when we know that they have gotten through the peak of their withdrawal symptoms.
  • If your baby has problems eating, sleeping, or consoling despite all comfort care measures, your baby may be started on medication.
  • On average, babies being treated with medicine need to stay in the hospital for one to two weeks. However, it sometimes takes longer. It is important that you stay with your baby this whole time. Once your baby is off medicine and showing no symptoms of NAS for a day or two, they will be ready to go home.

What commitment we need from you:

  • During your baby’s time in the hospital, you will be your baby’s primary caregiver. We will be here to help you, but your baby will do best if you are the one providing all of their care. You can:
    • Keep your baby close to you “skin to skin” when you are awake and not sleepy.
    • Talk to and sing to your baby.
    • Feed your baby when they show hunger or feeding cues (licking lips, bringing hands to mouth, opening mouth to something touching lips or cheek), at least every three hours.
    • Breastfeed your baby (unless told not to by a doctor for medical reason).
    • Swaddle your baby in a thin blanket keeping the top of the blanket away from his or her face.
  • Be with your baby 24/7. Babies with NAS do not do as well when they are in bright, loud settings such as the nurses’ station.
    • Stay with your baby in your private room as much as possible.
    • If you need to leave the unit for any reason, (such as an appointment or a walk), and your support person cannot stay with your baby, please let your nurse know so they can make a plan ahead of time. We will work to find a specially trained cuddler in our H.U.G.S. program (Helping Us Give Strength) to help hold your baby in your own room if you need to be away. The sooner you can tell us about these needs, the better we can work together to help you and your baby.
  • Help us watch your baby for symptoms of NAS. Let us know if your baby has any problems with eating, sleeping, or consoling. These are the symptoms that are most important to your baby. You can also keep track of these symptoms and other symptoms of NAS in your baby’s “Newborn Care Diary.”
  • Make a plan to stay with your baby for as long as he or she needs to be in the hospital. It is very important that you are able to stay with your baby the whole time they are in the hospital. Your baby will be much less likely to need medicine, or will need medicine for a shorter amount of time, if you are here to care for your baby all of the time. Here are a few tips to help prepare you for your baby’s hospital stay:
    • Plan to have someone watch your other children and/or pets while you are away.
    • Plan to follow up with your baby’s primary care provider the first two days after your baby’s discharge.

We look forward to working with you to help you and your baby have the best experience possible. If you have any questions about any of the information in this letter, please contact one of the department’s Social Workers:
Brittany Matthews at 717-213-3909 or Tina Willier at 717-782-3517.

Need more information?

Phone: 717-988-1672

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