ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The Opioid Epidemic has hit the country hard over the last two decades. The introduction of fentanyl has only made it worse.

“Unfortunately, when we look at the incidents of opioid use, New Mexico is one of the states that’s hit hardest by that epidemic.”

Dr. Jessie Maxwell at UNMH knows that well, especially for the babies being born into it.

“A lot of the individuals in this state are using opioids, whether those are prescribed or illicit, and when you have a pregnant individual who’s using opiates, that does cross [into] the placenta, and so, it then exposes the developing baby that’s in her womb,” Dr. Maxwell explained.

There hasn’t been a standard of care for infants born through drug addiction until now. A recent study looked at 1,300 infants to come up with the best care, outside of medicine, for those babies. It involved 26 hospitals, including UNMH.

Doctors believe they have found what they were looking for.

“It really supports the infant being able to do the basic things they should do. Can they eat? Can they sleep? And can they console reasonably,” said Maxwell, who was also the Site Principal Investigator for the study.

It’s called Eat, Sleep, Console, and it works to bring the family in on the care of the infant. Maxwell said those babies are 66% less likely to need medication with this approach.

“What we found is that when we use the eat, sleep, console, we can actually decrease the stay in the hospital by almost one week.”

She said it’s already working right here in their NICU.

“We definitely are having less infants require medication. We’re getting them home sooner to their families, and you can really see the engagement of the families being able to help in the care of their infants,” Maxwell said.

Doctors will follow the infants until they’re two years old. UNMH hopes to take this approach statewide.