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Grandma Volunteers at a NICU and Becomes a Baby “Cuddler”

Seeing this grandmother hug newborns is probably the cutest thing ever. Although he is not paid for it, he has the best job in the world. Who doesn’t love cuddling and caressing a newborn while looking at you with those loving, innocent eyes?

She is a longtime volunteer at New York-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital, and she wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Joan Hart, 81, has earned the nickname “Grandma Cuddler” at the hospital and is loved by everyone. When you hug babies, they seem to instantly calm down, as if they know they are safe in your arms.

How Grandma Cuddler Calms NICU Babies

“When I enter the NICU, my ears perk up. The first thing I hear is a cry, ”says Joan.

If no one is around, he immediately picks them up and starts hugging them. The kind and gentle touch that provides helps calm babies when their parents are not around. Of course, nurses check on them frequently, but they can’t do everything. Hugs bring much comfort and support to the scared and helpless. newly born.

“My name is Joan Hart and my great title is ‘Cuddler.’ Hugs are the people who hold that baby with true love. We are not taking temperatures. We are not drawing blood. We are simply a love bug,” he says.

She has no children of her own, but feels a close connection to the babies she embraces. The nurses and parents love having Joan around because she is natural with newborns. She calls babies her “little angels.”

“I have always volunteered and been around children all my life. I have been a godmother I have forgotten how many times. But here, in 8 years, I have probably hugged at least 1000 babies, and some doctors and some nurses, to a large extent, ”he jokes.

The “hugging grandmother” helps both newborns and their parents

“The NICU, when you first walk in, it’s cheerful, it’s bright, it’s light, but it’s a little scary. The babies floated on Mom’s tummy, nice and comfortable. And here they are, in pain, “says Joan.

The cuddle program began in 2011 when the hospital’s nursing department realized how beneficial it could be. It was designed to provide comfort to babies whose parents were unable to be with them 24/7. When parents have work or have other children at home, it is difficult to constantly monitor a newborn.

“They are the smallest and most fragile beings, and it is extremely important for their emotional needs and their social-emotional development to have that comforting and relaxing touch,” says Christy Dowd, a child life specialist in the hospital’s NICU. “The hugging program is about 8 or 9 years old. Having the cuddle program helps parents feel a little better, knowing that their baby will be comforted and soothed when they are not around. “

Of course, hugs must undergo extensive training to make sure they are prepared. It involves seven hours of counseling under the supervision of a nurse and four hours of follow-up by a child life specialist. The training allows hugs to observe how nurses handle babies and how infant life specialists help babies develop.

Grandma Joan takes training into account when interacting with babies, but she also uses her instincts. When you go into the hospital for the day, you ask the nurses which babies need care. Then use your intuition to figure out what each baby needs and how to calm him down. Sometimes he gently takes their hand or slaps them on the back. Other times, he sings softly to them, gives them a pacifier, or holds them with the permission of a nurse.

Dowd says:

“Having people like Joan walking eases the burden a bit. Joan is definitely our veteran Cuddler. We train our hugs. It’s extensive and we make sure we have the right group of women and men who want to come and snuggle. “

Joan gets to know each baby and what they like after spending time with them. She says that after hugging them and looking at their sweet faces, they each find their way to her heart.

“What is the secret to hugging? You must love, you must have instincts, you must not be afraid, and training will help you get ahead. Some like to be hit on the chest, others on the butt, and they give you an idea. They’ll say ‘I don’t like that’ in so many words. “

Hugs are only expected to volunteer at least four hours a week, but Joan often spends six or seven hours in the NICU. Many parents consider her the grandmother of their newborn and are very grateful for her. Her love, compassion, and selfless nature reassured both the babies and parents.

Juana says sweetly of the children she takes care of:

“I talk to them and I don’t talk like a baby. ‘You are handsome, you are the cutest thing I have ever seen’, I say that to many of the babies. I sing to them. I don’t have children, but I feel like I have angels everywhere. That’s what they are to me. When a baby is ready to go home, it’s like, hallelujah! I pray that they have a good life ahead of them. “

Of course, saying goodbye is usually the hardest part. However, she finds comfort in knowing that she has made a small difference in each of their lives.

“Sometimes I get excited because I don’t see them. And the reality is that I won’t see them, but I was part of their life, and letting go is part of love too, ”says Joan.

Final Thoughts on “Hugging Grandma” at a New York City Hospital

Hugging sweet and innocent babies is one of the greatest joys in life. Joan Hart can do that every week in a NICU in New York, and she never gets tired of it. She has become one of the hospital’s favorite volunteers because of her kind and loving spirit. It is adorable to see her interact with the babies; You can tell that he enjoys it as much as newborns.


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