UAB relaunches volunteer newborn cuddler program

UAB brings back neonatal helping hands program
Published: Sep. 22, 2023 at 10:01 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - UAB has relaunched Neonatal Helping Hands. The volunteer program allows people to come to the RNICU and CCN to hold, read, talk, and sing to newborns.

Debra Nelson began volunteering as a baby cuddler in 2017. She was inspired by a volunteer who helped in the nursery when her first child was born.

“She would come in with the babies that were crying all the time, she would come in and rock those babies and I thought ‘That is so nice,” said Nelson.

UAB is the regional referral hospital meaning families travel from across the state to deliver in Birmingham. Family nurse liaison Sandra Milstead said the volunteers help fill any gaps when mom and dad can’t be there.

“It really is great for not only the families, but also our staff. They take care of more than one baby and we don’t want to see any babies crying,” said Milstead.

Nelson loves volunteering with the newborns, referring to them as her babies. Each day, she makes an effort to give every child her attention, especially the ones whose parents are traveling. She said she enjoys talking and singing to them. In 2020, the program had to shut down because of the pandemic. Nelson prayed every night that the program would come back. This year, her prayers were answered.

“I got that email, you would have thought I won the lottery,” said Nelson.

The program is looking for more volunteers. Anyone interested needs to apply and go through a background check. If they are accepted, they go through orientation. Anyone interested is asked to commit for one year and volunteer for four hours over two weeks.

You can find information and the application here.

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