Ky. hospital using high-tech sleeper for babies born drug addicted

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WDRB) -- For more than 40 years, Dr. Nirmala Desai has walked the halls of Kentucky Children's Hospital caring for the hospital's tiniest, most vulnerable patients: babies born drug dependent and going through withdrawal. It's a growing problem in Kentucky.

"It used to be six, seven years ago, you'd see one a month or something like that. It was not that often you saw that. But now, it's like an epidemic, 15 to 20 percent of patients," said Dr. Desai.

She's not an expert on opioid and addiction, but nowadays all staff here are fighting on the front lines, battling the epidemic.

"We're making the best of a not so great situation. This problem does not seem to be going away anytime soon," said Tiffany Back, a nurse in the NACU, where babies with neonatal abstinence syndrome are cared for.

"The babies do require a different kind of hands on, more, because of their behaviors and needing soothing," said Back.

In addition to traditional treatments for babies going through withdrawal, doctors and nurses here are looking to alternative therapies, such as art therapy and massage. They've also introduced a smart-tech baby sleeper popular with the rich and famous. The SNOO is marketed as a game-changer for sleep-deprived parents based on the principals from the best selling book "The Happiest Baby on the Block."

It comes with a steep price tag of more than $1,100. The children's hospital in Lexington has 10 SNOOs available for babies and parents battling addiction.

"Sometimes motion and sounds can be soothing for the babies," Back said.

With the SNOO, babies are swaddled and zipped into a sleep sack, which is then secured to the bassinet. The SNOO then rocks while a white-noise lullaby begins.

"These babies don't have the ability to self soothe. So any of these external measures is in addition is helpful to get them quiet, to get them to sleep," said Dr. Desai.

The unit has had the SNOOs for a few months and have already seen success.

"It wasn't created for NAS babies, but it has been effective for the NAS babies," said Back.

The beds then can be moved right next to the mothers allowing families to sleep better with the hope of getting babies out of the hospital sooner and with less medication.

"We always would like to avoid having to use opioids to get a baby through withdrawals, so it's real important that we explore all the therapies that we can," Back said.

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