NICU Babies Respond to Volunteer Hugs and Cuddles
Hugs and kisses have been known to soothe most cuts and bruises children come home with from the playground, but now there’s scientific evidence that shows how cuddling and reassuring words can help relax babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Babies who spend time in the NICU are surrounded by a hubbub of machines, noises, tubes, and lights that can be disorienting. Special NICU volunteers, the “cuddlers,” visit the hospital for the sole purpose of providing hugs and quiet cuddles with babies whose parents are not able to stay in the hospital around the clock.
Aside from providing reassurance and genuine comfort for these babies, doctors have measured the effects of a volunteer’s touch and have found that babies are less stressed, have a more stable body temperature, and even stronger vital signs and pain tolerance. Cuddlers simply hold these babies and speak to them in soothing tones. A much needed break from monitor beeps, these babies cling to human contact and benefit greatly from hugs.
Many of those who volunteer in the NICU are retired or have previously had a child stay in the NICU before coming home after birth. Whatever their reason for visiting these babies, each volunteer has a significant impact on the baby they hold in their arms. Parents of children in the NICU are grateful as well; with work schedules and other children at home, some parents are not able to spend every possible hour in the hospital. Knowing that their newborn is in the arms of a loving volunteer may ease a parent’s worry and guilt about their baby being in the hospital alone.
Interested in becoming a cuddler? Check with your local hospital and NICU to see if they support a volunteer program.