FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) Lutheran Children's Hospital has begun a cuddler volunteer program in the neonatal intensive care unit.
With parental consent, the cuddler volunteers will not only hold infants, but also read to patients and assist families and nursing staff in a variety of ways during their stay in the NICU or The Birthplace.
According to Lutheran, 10 cuddler volunteers have already been trained.
Research shows that physical touch and interactions create pathways in the developing brain, which is especially important for premature babies.
"While our team does an excellent job of providing developmentally appropriate touch, we know that they are sometimes limited in the time they can spend just holding babies," said Krista Peak, executive director of Lutheran Children's Hospital. "Our cuddler volunteers are a welcomed resource to hold these babies, to provide touch that is not medical in nature and to help create pathways in the brain that signal to the child that touch is not a negative sensation."
Being cuddled can also help babies born to drug-addicted mothers by minimizing the symptoms associated with withdrawal.
"We are excited to have the cuddler volunteers on our team to round out our NICU family, and we're thrilled to offer this incredible service to our babies and their families," said April Barcalow, NICU team educator, Lutheran Health Network. "Cuddlers in no way replace family involvement, rather they provide another layer of support and encouragement to families. We would love to have at least one cuddler in the unit at all times."
Lutheran's Volunteer Central is currently accepting applications and screening potential cuddler volunteers.