Sweet Spot With Mike Sugerman: Cuddlers Bring Comfort To NICU Babies And Parents

Mike Sugerman
August 30, 2019 - 5:00 am

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) -- Of all the jobs in a hospital, Ilene Adams may have the best one.

She's a cuddler.

"We cuddle tiny babies," Adams tells Mike Sugerman in this week's Sweet Spot. "It's an amazing job."

She and other volunteers hold and sing or talk to the tiny babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at NewYork–Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital. Some of the babies are born 17 weeks early, weighing only one pound.

"It's amazing to see how when you cuddle a baby how their heart rate just goes down," nurse supervisor Patricia St. Jean said.

"Their oxygen saturations improve, their oxygen requirements go down, and they're prevented from crying or being fussy all the time," Dr. Madhu Gudavalli said.

It helps parents too who can't be there all the time. Some of these babies stay in the hospital upwards of six months.

"Mom will take a sigh of relief and say, 'Oh my God, I feel good now if I'm not here I know there's someone who will comfort my baby,'" Adams said. "That makes my heart so excited."

She knows the feeling. Her daughter was born premature and had to go through what these parents are going through. 

"'Is my baby OK?' 'Will my baby be OK?' I know what that feels like so I can impart a lot of my experience to these moms and comfort them and let them know I've hugged them, I've cried with them, I've laughed with them," Adams said. "I take it very personal when I come in and see these babies."

The cuddling program launched at the hospital in 2008 and Adams was the first volunteer — that was 1,100 babies ago.