Lehigh Valley

Cuddler program pairs volunteers with NICU babies

Health experts say newborns need to be cuddled in order to develop properly and to thrive.

A special program at St. Luke's and some special people are making sure babies meet their cuddle quotient.

Lauren Fontana is a NICU mom.

"My boys were born 3 1/2 months early and they spent 97 and 99 days in the NICU," she said.

Now she is a volunteer for the St. Luke's Cuddler program.

NICU Nurse Barbara Raab said Fontana is just one of seven volunteers in the program who are using the power of human touch to help newborns thrive.

"It decreases length of stay, it decreases need for respiratory intervention as far as like if a baby is weaning off respiratory support. It's calming to babies and it helps them digest their food better, it is just a win-win situation all the way around," Raab said.

The program is only a few months old but already there is a wait list for volunteers.

Lauren's boys are now 17 months old and doing well. She says she remembers what it was like when they were in the NICU and she couldn't always be by their side.

"It's just feeling like your heart is pulled in a bunch of different directions and there is no one there loving on your baby at the time," she said.

Fontana said she hopes the Cuddler program will bring comfort to NICU parents.

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