A volunteer hugs a baby through the Victoria General Hospital’s “No Baby Unhugged” program (File contributed/ VGH)

Hugs bring healthy boost to Vancouver Island newborns

Victoria General Hospital celebrates second anniversary of its baby hugging program

Victoria’s most vulnerable people have received life-changing therapy for two years at the Victoria General Hospital (VGH). While the treatment is powerful, the action is very simple – all it takes is a hug.

The No Baby Unhugged Program was launched at VGH in April 2017. In this program, volunteers hug babies in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) if parents can’t be at the newborn’s side.

Volunteers spend hours at a time rocking, hugging and singing to the babies, who in turn experience a series of health benefits.

“Extra cuddle time for a sick newborn really facilitates healing and growth,” said Gillian Kozinka, manager of perinatal and neonatal services at VGH. “The babies settle and vital signs change when they’re being held by another nurturing human being. The growth hormone is released, they sleep better, they grow faster and there’s a multitude of strongly supported evidence to suggest that our sick newborns benefit from being hugged.”

READ MORE: Baby hugging program introduced at Victoria General Hospital

Kozinka said annually the NICU sees over 600 babies, of which about a third go through the hugging program.

Kathy Vandermeulen had been volunteering for the NICU for three years when the hugging program was introduced.

“When the hugging opportunity came up I jumped on board because I’m also a veteran parent,” Vandermeulen said. “I had two little ones come through here about 28 years ago.”

Since she began, Vandermeulen figures she’s cuddled about 100 babies.

“It’s really good for my blood pressure, and I think it’s awesome for them. We didn’t have that when I came through here, and I think it’s a huge help especially for parents who don’t live here,” Vandermeulen said. “The nurses are so busy, and though they’re good at stopping and cuddling sometimes, this just gives them an extra hand. It’s a wonderful experience.

ALSO READ: NICU reunion a precious reminder for families, hospital staff

There are between six an eight specialized volunteers who work for the program. While the jobs sounds fun, it takes a special character to suit the job.

“An already existing Victoria hospitals volunteer demonstrates a wish to join the hugging program. Then, I have one of my nurse clinicians who really hand picks those individuals to be best suited to an orientation program,” Kozinka said. “We have folks on our team who are fiercely passionate for the health of newborns.”

Island Health took on the Huggies No Baby Unhugged initiative in partnership with the Canadian Association of Paediatric Health Centres. The program continues to be funded by community supporters including the Victoria Hospitals Foundation and London Drugs.

Anyone interested in volunteering at Greater Victoria Hospitals can visit islandhealth.ca/volunteer-resources/.

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com


Send a Tweet: @NicoleCrescenzi

Like us on Facebook  

 

’No Baby Unhugged’ program volunteer Kathy Vandermeulen and Gillian Kozinka, manager of the perinatal and neonatal services at VGH, stand next to an Omni bed typically used by babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit who are recipients of life-saving hugs. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)

Just Posted

A look back at hand logging on Cortes Island

David Ellingsen explores his family’s logging roots with the help of his camera

Vancouver Island writer goes with the flow in River Tales

Crofton author documents life on the banks of the Cowichan River

EDITORIAL: If climate really is an emergency, then act like it

Communities busy declaring climate emergencies while not doing nearly enough to fix the problem

Vancouver Island man who pleaded guilty to beating over drug debt handed nine-year jail sentence

Colin Damen Gary Lamontagne sentenced in B.C. Supreme Court in Nanaimo

Vancouver Island’s longest, steepest, zip line nears completion

Mount Washington aims to thrill with 2.3-km drop reaching speeds approaching 100 km/h

Rich the Vegan scoots across Canada for the animals

Rich Adams is riding his push scooter across Canada to bring awareness to the dog meat trade in Asia

Six inducted into BC Hockey Hall of Fame

The 26th ceremony in Penticton welcomed powerful figures both from on and off the ice

RCMP investigate two shootings in the Lower Mainland

Incidents happened in Surrey, with a victim being treated at Langley Memorial Hospital

CRA program to help poor file taxes yields noticeable bump in people helped

Extra money allows volunteer-driven clinics to operate year-round

Recall: Certain Pacific oysters may pose threat of paralytic shellfish poisoning

Consumers urged to either return affected packages or throw them out

How a Kamloops-born man helped put us on the moon

Jim Chamberlin did troubleshooting for the Apollo program, which led to its success

Sexual harassment complaints soaring amid ‘frat boy culture’ in Canada’s airline industry

‘It’s a #MeToo dumpster fire…and it’s exhausting for survivors’

How much do you know about the moon?

To mark the 50th anniversary of the first lunar landing, see how well you know space

Body, burning truck found near northern B.C. town

RCMP unsure if the two separate discoveries are related

Most Read