Cuddling Babies: Hospital Volunteers Show the Power of Human Touch

ABC baby cuddler sr 140313 16x9 608 Cuddling Babies: Hospital Volunteers Show the Power of Human Touch
ABC News

It’s true! Whether in a difficult situation as is illustrated in the story or in the constant care of day-to-day life of a stay at home mother, babies need to be cuddled.

The neonatal intensive care unit is full of buzzers, bells and the steady hum of technology. The machines that line the rooms are safeguarding the most fragile human lives. Lives like baby Oliver and his twin sister, Skye, who were born three months premature.

How reassuring, then, is the sound of a friendly voice? The look of a friendly face? Babies in the neonatal intensive care unit cling to moments like that, but sometimes parents and nurses can’t be there to offer the constant reassurance.

That’s where Pat Rice comes in. He is a volunteer “cuddler” at the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford.

He and his wife, Claire Fitzgerald, have been cuddling babies there for 16 years, including Oliver and Skye. His deep voice helps soothe the babies. He joked someone once told him it sounded like a tuba.

“Apparently the voice helps make a difference. I don’t know why,” said Rice. “But I find that it works pretty well.”

The nurses said that the cuddles have an immediate impact for these infants. It can even be measured. Their blood oxygenation starts to climb, meaning the baby is relaxed and is breathing deeper.

The doctors say cuddling leads to better tolerance of pain, more stable body temperature and even stronger vital signs.

Asked whether he believes that a hug sometimes can be the best medicine, Dr. Ronald Cohen, the medical director of the intermediate care nursery at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, said: “Absolutely.”

“I’m sure if you remember back to your own childhood there were plenty of dents dings scrapes and bruises for which you found out mom’s hug was the best medicine,” Cohen said.

Read the rest here.

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