’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

Victoria resident faces discrimination from BC Transit since transitioning to a wheelchair

Daniel Sands says they are often not allowed on buses, even when there is room

Single dad reaches out to Greater Victoria community to help kids celebrate Christmas

A young family was overwhelmed with the warm response from strangers

North Saanich woman arrested after police pursuit, alleged abduction at elementary school

Two police officers were injured and one police vehicle damaged

Thief targets staff rooms at Victoria businesses

Surveillance shows man entering staff room where several items were reported stolen

VIDEO: More air-passenger rights go into effect this weekend

The first set of passenger rights arrived in mid-July in Canada

Navigating ‘fever phobia’: B.C. doctor gives tips on when a sick kid should get to the ER

Any temperature above 38 C is considered a fever, but not all cases warrant a trip to the hospital

POLL: Do you have a real or artificial Christmas tree?

The lights are up, holiday shoppers are bustling through the streets and… Continue reading

Swoop airlines adds three destinations in 2020 – Victoria, Kamloops, San Diego

Low-fair subsidiary of WestJet Airlines brings new destinations in April 2020

Transportation Safety Board finishes work at B.C. plane crash site, investigation continues

Transport Canada provides information bulletin, family of victim releases statement

Trudeau sets 2025 deadline to remove B.C. fish farms

Foes heartened by plan to transition aquaculture found in Fisheries minister mandate letter

Wagon wheels can now be any size! B.C. community scraps 52 obsolete bylaws

They include an old bylaw regulating public morals

Suspect steals 150 pairs of cosmetic contacts from Nanaimo party supply store

Incident happened at Pattie’s Party Palace on Rutherford Road on Thursday

Indigenous mother wins $20,000 racial discrimination case against Vancouver police

Vancouver Police Board ordered to pay $20,000 and create Indigenous-sensitivity training

Most Read