Eskenazi Health Cuddle Buddies Program Aids Infant Development

INDIANAPOLIS, Feb. 18, 2019 – Eskenazi Health recently received a $10,000 Huggies No Baby Unhugged Hospital Hugging Grant, which will allow the program to be expanded.

The purpose of Cuddle Buddies is to aid infants in development. Being held is a natural, no-cost intervention that can help with pain management, better sleep, faster growth and shorter hospital stays. Volunteers rock, hold, sing to, talk to and be there to comfort babies in the Eskenazi Health Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).

“What an asset to have the cuddlers here to love and cuddle our babies when the nurse needs to attend to the next patient,” said Kellie Rumple, an Eskenazi Health NICU staff nurse. “I can only imagine how much the babies are benefiting because we have cuddlers who read and sing to the babies. This is such a wonderful program.”

The volunteers do not replace parents. This service is offered when family members need to leave the hospital for work or other obligations.

“It’s a very rewarding volunteer experience,” said Carol Kempf, an Eskenazi Health volunteer cuddle buddy. “I love holding and cuddling all these babies.”

Recruitment is underway for volunteers willing to commit to a long-term partnership with Eskenazi Health to help expand the program. Volunteers will work one three-hour shift per week.

“The Cuddlers are such a help to me as a nurse,” said Rosie Dreyling, an Eskenazi Health NICU staff nurse. “It is nice to know if I have a fussy baby, and am busy with a with another baby, that there is someone I can have to comfort that fussy baby for me. It is very stressful to hear a baby crying and not be able to comfort it.”

Volunteers must be at least 18 years old, be non-smokers and complete the full volunteer onboarding process, which includes a health screening, a flu shot and e-learning modules. There is also a NICU Cuddle Buddies orientation. For the benefit of the Cuddle Buddies program and those it serves, Eskenazi Health requires a long-term commitment.

The Huggies No Baby Unhugged grant funds will help NICU infants get the hugs they need to thrive. Hospitals who receive the grant may use funds in a variety of ways, from investing in volunteer training and recruitment, hugger chairs, educational materials and more.

Through No Baby Unhugged, Huggies partners with NICU specialists to provide hospitals with products specifically designed for the smallest, most delicate infants; deliver clinical insights to support and advance education on newborn skin and development; enable more volunteer hugger programs in hospitals, and assist families in need by driving diaper need awareness and donations.

In 2018, Eskenazi Health delivered more than 2,500 babies. Of those, around a quarter were admitted to the NICU.

The Cuddle Buddies program was formed through a collaboration between Eskenazi Health Volunteer Services and Eskenazi Health Women’s & Children’s Services. If you have any questions about Cuddle Buddies, please contact Scott Lawson, manager of Volunteer Services, at 317.880.3311 or



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