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Baby Cuddlers Provide a Human Touch to Our Tiniest Patients

Kim Carson knows first hand how scary it can be to have a baby in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (also called the NICU).

That’s why when our Baby Cuddler volunteer program started at UVA in 2009, she was one of the first to sign up. “It’s near and dear to my heart,” says Carson.

Kim Carson cuddles a preemie at UVA's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit
Kim Carson cuddles a preemie at UVA’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

The cuddlers are volunteers in the NICU who hold, rock and cuddle some of our most fragile patients, providing human contact and soothing words. In fact, it’s not uncommon to watch a fussy baby calm down and fall asleep in a cuddler’s arms.

“Within moments after a baby is placed in a cuddler’s arms, they calm down,” says Susan Card, RN, who is the NICU’s Education Orientation Coordinator.

“We count the cuddlers as part of our team. Just as you give medication or physical therapy to meet a need, this is part of their [the babies] care,” says Card.

Research shows that a human touch enhances growth, improves health and helps babies, both premature and full-term, develop trusting relationships later in life.

“The volunteers just come with huge hearts,” says Kim Garofalo, Children’s Hospital Volunteer Coordinator.

Want to Volunteer at the Hospital?

Please note: This program is so popular that the NICU isn’t looking for additional baby cuddlers at this time.

But there are lots of other ways you can make a difference!

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