(CNN) – Doctors know the healing power of touch, especially for pre-term babies, or those born with addiction, or other health issues. They are now seeking volunteer baby cuddlers for Raleigh’s UNC-Rex Birth Center NICU.
“It decreases pain, it decreases the baby’s stress and it helps promote healing,” Nicole Ross, a registered nurse and the Newborn Screening coordinator at UNC-Rex Birth Center told CNN affiliate WRAL. “It helps with brain development, and it helps decrease their length of stay.”
Cuddlers are an essential part of the care provided at the hospital. Snuggling is not only vital to helping the newborns overcome the obstacles they are facing, but also to the parents and their own recovery.
“It’s a huge stress reliever,” said Jennifer Majure, who sometimes has to leave her 2-month-old son Wilder with volunteer cuddlers. “Knowing that he’s in great hands has been a great, tremendous comfort.”
Volunteer Kelli Ready is one of the current 10 trusted cuddlers. “This is exciting for me, to get to come and snuggle babies.”
While Ready cuddles newborns such as 2-week-old Kamani, it allows mom Cecelia Williams to snuggle Kamani’s twin brother Kamari.
“I just feel like I’ve done something great for the babies to hopefully relieve their stress and improve their day,” Ready said.
Cuddlers like Ready have improved the care provided to patients and their families at UNC-Rex, the hospital says. It started a trial program for volunteer cuddlers a little more than a year ago, and due to its success, they are hoping to expand.
Several hospitals across the country have similar programs.