A program at a Pittsburgh hospital is showing how impactful the human touch can be.

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s Magee-Women’s Hospital is home to a cuddling program designed for volunteers to snuggle and comfort babies who have been exposed to opioids during their mothers’ pregnancies and who show withdrawal symptoms.

Maribeth McLaughlin, chief nursing officer and vice president of Patient Care Services at the hospital, told The Huffington Post the volunteers provide a way to calm and console the babies, who can be a part of the program from one week or up to eight weeks.

“It’s great for our babies because it provides them with care and comfort, and it‘s an assistance to families who may not be able to be there the whole time,” she said.

In a study published in 2016, Notre Dame psychology researcher Darcia Narvaez stressed the benefits of cuddling after finding that providing “affection, play and support” to kids throughout childhood contributes to their well-being as adults.

“Our research shows that when we don’t provide children with what they evolved to need, they turn into adults with decreased social and moral capacities,” Narvaez said. “With toxic stress in childhood, the good stuff doesn’t get a chance to grow and you become stress reactive. It’s hard to be compassionate when you are focused on yourself. We can see adults all around us who were traumatized or undercared for at critical times.”

Australia cuddle services

Queensland – Volunteers from a new “baby buddy” program at Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital (RBWH) are cuddling some of Queensland’s sickest kids to a brighter future.

Premier Anna Bligh officially launched the program in 2008 at the hospital’s Grantley Stable Neonatal Unit.

“The Baby Buddy program is about supporting and nurturing some of Queensland’s sickest children during a critical period of their lives,” Ms Bligh said.

Sydney – The Sydney Children’s Hospital at Westmead also has a Ward grandparents scheme, the volunteers use their experience in loving and caring for their own children and grandchildren to make a difference in the lives of our children.

When parents are unable to care for their children they cuddle, play with, talk and meet the basic needs of the children. They can also offer support and encouragement to parents in their time of need.

Melbourne – A team of more than 500 Volunteers provide invaluable support and assistance to families, patients and staff at The Royal Children’s Hospital.

If you are interested in volunteering please contact your local children’s hospital for further details.

Share your comments below.

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  • This would be good for babies whose Mums are unable to be at the hospital with them for some reason. The Mum could be sick and either in the same or different hospital. I know of grandparents who have been able to step in and substitute Mum’s role. In one case the Father was interstate with work and couldn’t get a flight home that day as all flights were fully booked. As much as they would love to, the nursing staff simply don’t have to time to cuddle the babies. It would be great if hosptials could arrange and set up a network and trustworthy people be able to do this, not necessarily on a roster.


  • Ofcourse children need affection, skin to skin contact.


  • I agree that the human touch can do so much to comfort a baby/child/adult.


  • Oh! I’ve never heard of such a program and I really think it’s amazing!! I hope it well spread more through Australia!


  • I bet this would be lovely for the volunteers too.


  • That’s so wonderful to hear.what fantastic people those volunteers are


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