What if I told you that you could volunteer to cuddle babies? Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICU) across the country often have volunteer cuddler programs. These programs offer an opportunity to not only get some baby cuddles in but to be a part of the miracles that happen in the NICU every day.
As an extended part of a baby’s care team and family, cuddlers help babies grow, relax and go home sooner. In 2014 the journal Biological Psychiatry published a study that featured the benefits of cuddling preemie babies in the NICU. The study proved that as a result of the cuddles, babies developed healthier sleeping habits and were more attentive than babies who lacked human touch.
At Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach, volunteer cuddlers understand that every parent wants to be with their newborn at all times, especially in the overwhelming environment of the NICU. However, some babies may be in the NICU for months at a time and with other responsibilities, not all parents can be there full time.
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“Derrick’s primary ‘cuddler’ will always hold a special place in our hearts,” says Ashely Cervantes, parent of a former NICU patient at Miller Children’s. “Knowing someone was there to hold Derrick when I couldn’t meant everything. Even now, five years later, she comes to his birthday parties and we talk on a monthly basis.”
The benefits of NICU cuddlers reaches beyond baby to the parents, nurses and back to the cuddler. More on the amazing work of NICU cuddlers here.