• Baby cuddlers lend human touch to help newborns develop

    By: Jason Solowski


    BOSTON - The buzzing and beeping of technology inside the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) help care for the tiniest of patients. Now, a local hospital is showing how the power of human touch can lead to a speedier recovery.

    FOX25 visited with volunteers in the Baby Cuddler Program at South Shore Hospital to see how simple actions can have far-reaching results.

    Dotty MacDonald says she looks forward to her volunteer day at the South Shore Hospital more than any other day of the week.

    “It's wonderful to be in the position that you can sit and hold them,” MacDonald explained. “Nurses don't have the time to sit and hold the babies all day long."

    The babies are from the hospitals special care nursery. Most of them were born premature and were recently transferred from the neonatal intensive care unit or NICU. They're here to “grow and feed" until they have enough strength to go home.

    "Some of our babies stay five days, some are here for three or four months." Said Mary Tenney, Nursing Practice Coordinator at South Shore Hospital

    When the babies are here long term, it's hard for working parents to be here round the clock. That's where the cuddlers come in.

    "A baby that's cuddled, research has shown that it calms them, it helps them manage stress better, if they're sleeping better and managing stress better it improves brain growth”

    "They're just so sweet. They just want you to hold them.  The tighter you hold them, the more you pat them, the happier they are," said Patty Birsner, a volunteer at South Shore Hospital.

    Volunteers go through training and a background check to get the coveted position. The cuddlers are mostly retired and have some sort of medical background. Some of the infants at the hospital are very fragile.

    "I walk out sometimes with a lump in my throat," said Birsner.

    It's therapeutic for the babies and the cuddlers and provides parents peace of mind that their babies are getting the attention they deserve.

    "Sometimes I sit here as much as two hours at a time with a baby," MacDonald said.

    The “baby cuddler” program is full and no longer accepting applications, but hospital leaders tell us there are many other programs still in need of volunteers.

    You can find information and apply to volunteer here.

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