Gift of Life Adoptions is always looking for new ways to educate ourselves on all aspects of adoption.   So we were very excited when our director, Meghan, and myself got the opportunity to attend a presentation regarding infant care and Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome.

Our intention was to gather as much information as we could so we could come back and share the information with the rest of the staff.  We went into the presentation with our study hats on!

As we walked in and found our name tags, it was great to see a conference room full of so many professionals from multiple backgrounds including: NICU nurses, Healthy Start Workers, and case managers. We recognized quite a few faces.

During the presentation we learned about some basic infant care which included: safe sleep, swaddling, and kangaroo care. I was surprised to learn about “swaddled bathing” as I had never heard this term before.

In short, this is when new parents bathe their baby while still swaddling them because it provides warmth and a positive bonding experience for both baby and parents.  We even got to try out our own bathing techniques.  They set up hands on stations with baby tubs and dolls so we could try out our bathing and swaddling skills!

The next hands on station was to teach us more about Shaken Baby Syndrome. To truly demonstrate how easily and quickly shaking a child can damage their brain, the trainers had us each take turns holding a lifelike doll that would cry and scream much like a newborn, and then she asked us to shake it to stop the crying. The head on the doll would light up red to show us the areas of the brain that would be affected by shaking a baby. It was an amazing exercise showing us firsthand  how delicate an infant’s head, neck, and brain can be, and how easily a frustrated adult can do permanent damage. The experience was eye-opening and could be an effective tool in working with new parents.

After a short intermission, the presentation changed from infant care to Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, or NAS. This is the medically terminology used for narcotic withdrawal in infants.

At times we have birth mothers who struggle with addiction, so this was a great opportunity to learn more about NAS and what to expect.

We learned about symptoms of NAS and how babies with NAS are cared for in the NICU. We also learned about comfort measures that parents can do to help with the symptoms of NAS. It was noted that not all of the comfort measures provided to us would work for every baby, so at times a “trial and error” period is needed to figure out exactly what works best for you and your baby.

This information will help us educate our prospective adoptive parents. That being said, we always strongly encourage our potential adoptive parents to speak with their pediatricians as well.  We are only social workers, and not doctors!

Overall, it was a privilege to be able to go and learn some new material that we can apply in our everyday professional lives here at Gift of Life Adoptions. It was a great experience.  We walked away feeling confident in what we learned as well as excited to share the material!

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