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Cuddle Buddies

  • UMass Memorial NICU
  • Second Year Medical Student Cuddling
  • Second Year Medical Student Cuddling

Information about Cuddle Buddies

What is Cuddle Buddies?

Cuddle Buddies is a student group that allows opportunities for students to volunteer to hold newborns at UMass Memorial’s NICU! We also offer talks each semester about various topics on neonatal health. Be sure to look out for our e-mails about these!


How does Cuddling make a difference?

Established in 2013, Cuddle Buddies was created due to growing research suggesting that cuddling has a calming effect on infants who are born prematurely or with medical conditions.  Babies who are cuddled have been shown to sleep better, manage stress better, and control their autonomic function better. It has also been shown to decrease the length of stay for infants suffering from Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS).

Baby cuddlers can be especially helpful in the care of infants exhibiting withdrawal symptoms due to NAS. Although some of these babies are withdrawing from illegal substances used by an addicted mother, many of these babies may be withdrawing from necessary substances prescribed to a mother during pregnancy. Regardless of the substance, withdrawal symptoms tend to cause these babies an overwhelming amount of distress and discomfort, usually exemplified by their characteristic high-pitched cry, in addition to symptoms such as tremors, fever, nausea, vomiting, nasal congestion, sleeping and feeding problems and possibly seizures. Not only does physical contact help put these babies at ease, but studies have found that it can also help give them the edge they need to bounce back and reduce their length of hospital stay. In some cases, the constant presence of human contact and warmth can help prevent a possibly fatal outcome.

Although cuddling neonates is not a novel idea, as many volunteer programs exist at hospitals across the country, our students volunteer during evening shift hours when other volunteer cuddlers have left for the day. In the evening hours, recovering mothers and spouses, especially those with other children, may not be able to be at the hospital and this is an optimal time to comfort the babies.


How can I become involved with Cuddle Buddies?

All cuddlers must attend an orientation before volunteering for Cuddle Buddies. We aim to offer at least one orientation per semester. Please look out for our e-mails, which will contain a sign-up. Since orientations are limited to about 20 students, please be sure to sign up as soon as you can if interested. After students attend an orientation, a sign-up for volunteer sessions will be sent out and you may sign up as little or as often as you like!


A Summary of Key Points from Orientation for Current Cuddlers:

As a reminder, the NICU is on the 5th floor of the E (East) elevator at Umass Memorial Hospital

* When you arrive, sign in on the orange pages of the cuddle book (someone at the front desk can help you find this)

* The book will also list the babies that are good for cuddling (once Erin takes maternity leave, this list might no longer be updated, so if you cuddle a baby, then feel free to add it to the list)

* If you're not sure who to cuddle… Ask a nurse! Even if you are sure, always ask a nurse before picking up a baby

* You can put your things in the locker room located through the doors immediately on the left once you walk into the NICU (you can ask someone at the front desk for the keys which are located in the closet behind the front desk)

* Wash your hands thoroughly (up to elbows) in the sinks outside the pods before starting your shift

* Before cuddling each baby, use hand sanitizer (in and out of each bed-space)

* Wear a gown and gloves (and change this for each baby, even twins!).. Yellow gown and glove boxes are located at each bed-space

* Never wake a sleeping baby

* Ask a nurse before picking up a baby, and you can always ask the nurse to hand you the baby/ help put the baby back

* Never turn off an alarm

* If you come, and there are no babies to cuddle, feel free to stay as long or as little as you want (if this happens, let me know! And please sign up for a new spot to make up for it!)

* If you are feeling sick, please don't cuddle! Just let me know, try to find a replacement, and sign up for a new spot… If you're not sick but think you might be coming up with something, you can always wear a mask! (just ask a nurse where to find one!)

* Lastly, there are lots of open spots, so on the day of, if you feel like cuddling, and check the googledoc and no one is signed up, write your name in and go for it!


Upcoming Events

To be announced! Be on the lookout for information about a talk by Dr. Ryzewski this fall!

Contact Us

Contact Information

Student Leaders

Eden Hen
Ashley Millette
Peyton Morris

Faculty Leader

Lauren Miller, MD