Lutheran Children’s Hospital adopts cuddler volunteer program for newborns
Human contact with recovering infants proven to help ease withdrawal from addiction
FORT WAYNE, Indiana (Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017) – The neonatal intensive care unit at Lutheran Children’s Hospital has begun a cuddler volunteer program for infants to receive extra holding and comfort measures while hospitalized. According to LCH, 10 cuddler volunteers have already been trained. 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.
Research shows that physical touch and interactions create pathways in the developing brain. In premature babies, which comprises the majority of NICU patients, one-third to one-half of the brain's development happens after birth while the infants are in hospital care. Much of the touch all babies experience early on is medical in nature, and at times painful.
“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, 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.”
Research has also shown that for babies withdrawing from addictive substances, being held is instrumental in minimizing the symptoms associated with this uncomfortable process. Cuddler volunteers are being used to support babies with addiction symptoms and their families throughout the difficult process of withdrawing from substances.
“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 for LCH. Visit http://www.lutheranhospital.com/volunteer-central, to learn more about it, or to apply.
Find more information about The Birthplace at Lutheran Children’s Hospital at lutheranchildrenshosp.com/the-birthplace.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Media interested in interviewing a neonatologist or a trained cuddler are invited to meet in the main lobby Thursday, Sept. 7, at 10 a.m. Contact Lizette Downey directly at (260) 450-5277, if running late.