High-Tech Bouncers Ease Withdrawal for NICU Babies

About every hour in the United States, a baby is born exposed to maternal in-utero narcotic abuse, according to the Ohio Perinatal Quality Collaborative. These drugs could include opiates, narcotic drugs such as heroin, codeine, oxycodone (Oxycontin), methadone, or buprenorphine. Babies who are exposed to narcotics while in the womb can have Newborn Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) — a group of problems associated with the baby’s withdrawal of the drugs they have been exposed to.

The most common conditions associated with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, or NAS, are general agitation or difficulty to calm, respiratory complications, low birth weight, feeding difficulties, tremors, and seizures.

The certified Child Life staff members in ProMedica Toledo Children Hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) researched the use of various soothing methods used throughout the nation for babies born with NAS to find the best product for their NICU. The quest led to the MamaRoo, a “space-ship-like” orbital swing that provides just the right balance of motion and stimulation to soothe and comfort babies experiencing withdrawal.

Images from www.4moms.com

Unlike a typical bouncer, the MamaRoo bounces and sways, and replicates five unique motions labeled Car Ride, Ocean Wave, Rock-A-Bye, Tree Swing, and Kangaroo. The seat also reclines to any position along its axis, from recline for napping to upright for play.

The bouncer can’t take the place of a human, but it’s an important comfort for the hospital’s smallest patients. “We make every effort to educate and support parents and caregivers on the vital role that kangaroo care [skin-to-skin contact] plays for all babies, but especially this sensitive population,” said Shona Christy, Certified Child Life Specialist. Unfortunately, some babies with NAS don’t have a caregiver at bedside 24/7. The NICU Cuddler Program and nurses fill in as they are able, but Christy says that the Mamaroo offers the right amount of vestibular input to allow these babies to be soothed enough to grow and develop.

Mischel Balazs, MSN, a Neonatal Certified Nurse Practitioner, said that since bringing a MamaRoo to the NICU, babies have enjoyed the various types of movement that are more fluid than a typical bouncer. “Many babies with NAS tolerate a vertical rocking instead of the horizontal rocking that most babies prefer,” she explained. “The neurological systems of these infants cannot tolerate that motion. The MamaRoo also allows them to face outward, which the babies prefer.”

In addition to helping babies with NAS, the MamaRoo has proven to be effective and calming for NICU babies with severe reflux as well.

Through a grant provided by the Toledo Hospital Auxiliary, the Child Life NICU team was able to buy two MamaRoo swings for the NICU to utilize. The hospital hopes to grow their MamaRoo collection to nine for the NICU, plus one for each of the nurseries in hospital’s labor and delivery unit to meet the need as the number of babies with NAS rises.

The inclusion of MamaRoos is one of the patient and family-centered care strategies the hospital is implementing to ensure that patients and their families are supported and encouraged throughout their hospital experience. Learn more about Toledo Children’s Hospital’s Child Life.