First lady Melania Trump, left, speaks with pediatrician Eileen Costello, front right, as U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, behind center, looks on during a visit to Boston Medical Center, in Boston, Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019. Credit: Steven Senne | AP

BOSTON — First lady Melania Trump on Wednesday visited a Boston hospital that uses cuddling to help infants born dependent on drugs or alcohol.

The first lady met with caregivers and administrators at Boston Medical Center and told them she’s “very focused” on their pioneering work with babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome.

“I hope today’s visit helps shine a light on programs like yours,” she said, joined by Alex Azar, secretary of health and human services.

Outside, as many as 200 workers at the hospital gathered to protest the visit, condemning the tough immigration policies of President Donald Trump’s administration that they say discourage immigrants from getting health care.

Cecilia Girard, a 26-year employee who currently works as a nurse midwife, said Mrs. Trump represented the same administration that has taken a harsh approach to immigration, including caging some immigrants who have tried to cross into the U.S. via the southern border.

“This is not a person that we want to come to our home, our hospital,” Girard said.

Other workers who joined the protest wore white hospital jackets with the slogan, “We really do care, do you?” on the backs. Some carried signs that read, “BMC cares for all patients.”

The hospital developed the cuddling program to nurture babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome. The hospital also works with expectant mothers who misuse drugs or alcohol.

Proponents say cuddling helps lower stress in infants born to addicted women. It includes parental presence at the infant’s bedside, skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding.

After being briefed on the programs, Mrs. Trump was scheduled to tour the hospital’s pediatric unit and meet with children who have been successfully treated, the White House said.


Associated Press writer William J. Kole in Boston contributed to this report.