Volunteering to Hold or Cuddle Premature Babies

Volunteers cuddle babies in the NICU when the parents can not be there.

By Allison Martin

Volunteer Cuddling PreemieA few hospitals have programs for volunteers to hold or cuddle premature babies in the hospital. Volunteers may stroke, hold, swaddle, tend to, sing songs or read to the babies, depending on the program. Sometimes volunteers are reaching into isolettes to gently stroke the tiny babies. Most programs have long waiting lists and a commitment of a year of service. They provide training in advance on various soothing techniques and hygiene requirements.

A few of the hospitals providing this volunteer service are Duke Health in North Carolina, Texas Children's Hospital's Neonatal Intensive Care, University of Chicago's Comer Children's Hospital, Children's Hospital in Milwaukee, UnityPoint Health in Iowa, Baby Buddies program at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Golisano Children's Hospital in Rochester, NY. Some programs, such as Montefiore Medical Center, New York allow staff and medical students to become certified "cuddlers."

Comforting care, kangaroo holding and soothing touch and voice have been found to increase the relaxation and growth of premature babies. Although care must be taken not to over-stimulate preemies, this is a wonderful antidote to the unnatural pain and the noise of the NICU environment. Of course, the best method is for parents to hold their children, but for the times when they can not be there this is a wonderful asset.

Want to see cuddlers in action? View this video on cuddling volunteering in a Bronx NICU or view video on volunteers cuddling babies in Milwaukee NICU. This NICU "grandpa" video is delightful.

Allison Martin is the parent of a preemie.