A hospital in North Carolina is looking for volunteers to cuddle newborn babies. This is to provide babies with love and comfort in the first days of their lives, while also relieving their stress and helping promote healing.
UNC Rex Healthcare Hospital in Raleigh seeks baby cuddlers to help families in the NICU. “A lot of our babies tend to have long periods of stay. If they’re born prematurely, they can be here for a couple of months,” said one of the doctors at the hospital, Marie Ambroise Thigpen.
Thigpen said that the busy environment of the NICU can be a source of stress in the babies. She said, “It’s bright and noisy. We have to draw blood from them.”
The good news is that a human’s touch can be powerful to soothe the babies and even help lower their heart rate. According to a registered nurse, Nicole Ross, cuddling newborn babies has lots of benefits. She said, “It decreases pain, it decreases the baby’s stress and it helps promote healing. It helps with brain development, and it helps decrease the length of their stay.”
Researchers from Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Ohio proved that cuddling babies early has long-term, positive impacts on the children’s health and development. Findings of the study revealed that early skin-to-skin contact leads to higher IQ, improved neurodevelopment and lower rates of aggression.
“Gentle touch, especially on skin, is just one of the most important things parents can do for their babies,” said lead study author Dr. Nathalie Maitre.
The volunteer cuddler program does not only have huge benefits for babies but also their parents. It also helps reduce the stress and anxiety of parents knowing their children are getting the love and care they need in the NICU.
“It’s a huge stress reliever,” Jennifer Majure said, a parent who sometimes leaves her 2-month-old baby with volunteer cuddlers.
The program also helped first-time mom Allisa Pulley a lot. “Since I started back to work last week, I’ve been not on my usual schedule of coming here, so I was like, who’s going to be there when she cries and when she wants to be held?” Pulley said. “She likes to be held because she’s used to me holding her all the time. So, that’s why I signed up for the cuddling program because she likes to be held,” Pulley said.
For volunteers, their job is very rewarding and meaningful. “This is exciting for me, to get to come and snuggle babies,” volunteer Kelli Ready said. “I just feel like I’ve done something great for the babies to hopefully relieve their stress and improve their day,” she added.
Like other volunteer programs, the cuddler program in UNC Rex provides training and orientation to volunteer cuddlers who also go through a screening process.
Since the hospital started the NICU Volunteer Cuddlers Pilot Program, a lot of people showed interest to help the babies and their parents. The program has been successful and now they are looking to expand the program. Today, they are seeking volunteers to cuddle, rock and look after newborn babies in the NICU.
For people who love babies and want to help others in their own little way, this volunteer program is a great opportunity. Watch the video below:
Here are some hospitals we gathered online that offer the same ‘baby cuddler’ volunteer program:
California Hospital Medical Center
St. Boniface Hospital