Cuddling babies is an unusual yet enviable extracurricular activity, and Maria D’Amico ’11 can put it on her resume.
A second-year student at Boston University School of Medicine, Maria serves as a student leader of a new service learning group on the medical school’s campus called CALM (Cuddling Assists in Lowering Maternal and Infant Stress).
“The group organizes medical student volunteers to hold and soothe babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome after in-utero opioid exposure,” said Maria, who explained that babies exposed to opioids in-utero are born in opioid withdrawal.
With the rise of the American opioid epidemic, CALM has been attracting more and more attention for the good it does for both babies and mothers. While all infants can benefit from cuddling, it is especially useful for those with neonatal abstinence syndrome. Babies with opioids in their systems tend to exhibit symptoms such as excessive crying, poor feeding, and sleep problems. Swaddling the baby in a blanket and rocking him or her gently can help to lower maternal and infant stress without the use of medications.
“My first shift was in the nursery, and the baby was two days old,” said Maria in a video produced by Boston University School of Medicine about CALM. “The baby was a little agitated and crying, and as soon as I picked him up, he slept for the entire two hours. It was really amazing seeing the effect of what we did.”