’No Baby Unhugged’ program volunteer Kathy Vandermeulen and Gillian Kozinka, manager of the perinatal and neonatal services at VGH, stand next to an Omni bed typically used by babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit who are recipients of life-saving hugs. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)

Hugs bring healthy boost to Victoria newborns

Victoria General Hospital celebrates second anniversary of its baby hugging program

Victoria’s most vulnerable people have received life-changing therapy for two years at the Victoria General Hospital (VGH). While the treatment is powerful, the action is very simple – all it takes is a hug.

The No Baby Unhugged Program was launched at VGH in April 2017. In this program, volunteers hug babies in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) if parents can’t be at the newborn’s side.

Volunteers spend hours at a time rocking, hugging and singing to the babies, who in turn experience a series of health benefits.

“Extra cuddle time for a sick newborn really facilitates healing and growth,” said Gillian Kozinka, manager of perinatal and neonatal services at VGH. “The babies settle and vital signs change when they’re being held by another nurturing human being. The growth hormone is released, they sleep better, they grow faster and there’s a multitude of strongly supported evidence to suggest that our sick newborns benefit from being hugged.”

READ MORE: Baby hugging program introduced at Victoria General Hospital

Kozinka said annually the NICU sees over 600 babies, of which about a third go through the hugging program.

Kathy Vandermeulen had been volunteering for the NICU for three years when the hugging program was introduced.

“When the hugging opportunity came up I jumped on board because I’m also a veteran parent,” Vandermeulen said. “I had two little ones come through here about 28 years ago.”

Since she began, Vandermeulen figures she’s cuddled about 100 babies.

“It’s really good for my blood pressure, and I think it’s awesome for them. We didn’t have that when I came through here, and I think it’s a huge help especially for parents who don’t live here,” Vandermeulen said. “The nurses are so busy, and though they’re good at stopping and cuddling sometimes, this just gives them an extra hand. It’s a wonderful experience.

ALSO READ: NICU reunion a precious reminder for families, hospital staff

There are between six an eight specialized volunteers who work for the program. While the jobs sounds fun, it takes a special character to suit the job.

“An already existing Victoria hospitals volunteer demonstrates a wish to join the hugging program. Then, I have one of my nurse clinicians who really hand picks those individuals to be best suited to an orientation program,” Kozinka said. “We have folks on our team who are fiercely passionate for the health of newborns.”

Island Health took on the Huggies No Baby Unhugged initiative in partnership with the Canadian Association of Paediatric Health Centres. The program continues to be funded by community supporters including the Victoria Hospitals Foundation and London Drugs.

Anyone interested in volunteering at Greater Victoria Hospitals can visit islandhealth.ca/volunteer-resources/.

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com


Send a Tweet: @NicoleCrescenzi

Like us on Facebook  

 

No Baby Unhugged volunteer Sarah Byam hugs a baby in the neonatal intensive care unit at the Victoria General Hospital on Wednesday, April 5, 2017. Island Health launched the Huggies No Baby Unhugged program volunteers can come hug babies at the hospital during times that parents are unable to be with their child. (File photo)

Just Posted

WATCH: Soon-to-be guide dogs take part in the Amazing Puppy Race

10 puppies training to be guide dogs took part in a social Easter egg hunt

Economic inequality, immigration still need work in Victoria: Prosperity index

Housing, environmental health factors show improvements in 2019: report

Victoria City Councillor Laurel Collins wins federal NDP nomination

Collins will run for Victoria in the upcoming federal election

Long weekend starts with series of crashes

The long weekend traffic pile up is starting with a series of… Continue reading

Victoria church bells toll in solidarity with Notre Dame Cathedral after devastating fire

Churches around the globe ring bells to honour iconic Paris cathedral

POLL: How often does your family use BC Ferries?

Navigating the lineups for BC Ferries is a way of life for… Continue reading

Crime Stoppers most wanted for Greater Victoria for the week of April 16

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

B.C. senior sentenced for sexually abusing special-needs granddaughter

73-year-old Cortes Island man will go to jail for three years

Howe Sound Queen sailing toward retirement

Vessel now up for auction ends regular runs between Crofton and Vesuvius at the beginning of June

Should B.C. lower speed limits on side roads to 30 km/h?

Vancouver city councillor wants to decrease speed limits along neighbourhood side roads

Lawsuit eyed over union-only raise for B.C. community care workers

‘Low-wage redress’ leaves 17,000 employees out, employers say

Landlord of alleged Okanagan shooter recounts deadly day

Tony Friesen was working in one of the units of his Penticton building when he heard shots

Foreign national arrested in connection to thefts at YVR

A woman, 60, is being held in police custody as Richmond RCMP investigate

Most Read