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Eskenazi Seeks Volunteers to Cuddle Babies

Eskenazi Health is looking for volunteers to hold babies in its neonatal intensive care unit. 

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Calling all cuddlers. Eskenazi Health is looking for volunteers to hold babies in its neonatal intensive care unit. 

"There's nothing that can go wrong with just being able to sit and rock a baby ," said registered nurse Kellie Rumple.

But, there are some measurable positive health effects, according to Rumple. 

"Babies, they sleep better, they're more relaxed when you hold them in your arms. You can just see their heart rate go down. Their oxygen goes up," she said.  

It also helps the nurses, who can get too busy to give one-on-one attention to the babies. The program is designed for parents who can't be at the hospital 24/7: Maybe their newborn requires a longer stay, and they either have to get back to work or have other children they need to tend to. That's when the cuddlers step in. 

"The nurse hands off the baby to them. They do their rocking, singing, reading them a book, just holding them," Rumple said.

As tempting as it may be volunteers cannot kiss the babies. There are a slew of other rules, too, including one that volunteers must agree to a background check, cannot be smokers and are not allowed to walk around with the babies. 

"Whenever they're done holding the baby or they've got another one to hold and stuff, they push the call button and the nurse comes and takes the baby and lays them back in the bed," Rumple said. 

The No Baby Unhugged Hospital Hugging Grant came from, fittingly, Huggies. Huggies gave $10,000 to Eskenazi. It'll be used to train volunteers and to buy rocking chairs, soothing music and other goods. The program has been in place for about a year. 

About 25 volunteers are in the Cuddle Buddies program. Eskenazi is hoping to sign up about 25 more people to cover every shift every day. Click here to find out more and sign up online.

(Photo by WISH-TV.)

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