No Baby Unhugged volunteer Sarah Byam hugs a baby in the neonatal intensive care unit at the Victoria General Hospital on Wednesday, April 5, 2017. Island Health launched the Huggies No Baby Unhugged program volunteers can come hug babies at the hospital during times that parents are unable to be with their child. (Dawn Gibson/Black Press)

Baby hugging program introduced at Victoria General Hospital

A B.C. first — No Baby Unhugged program ensures babies get the love they need

Story by Dawn Gibson, Video by Arnold Lim

Sometimes a hug is all a baby needs.

Victoria General Hospital introduced No Baby Unhugged, a new program in partnership with Huggies to provide support fornew parents, and ensure all babies involved in the program were getting the love and attention necessary to thrive.

“It’s not an overnight success,” said Emily Gruenwoldt, executive director of the Canadian Association of Paediatric Health Centres. “There was a lot of communication between Victoria General and Huggies to make sure that intentions and goals and outcomes were mutual.”

Volunteers have been implemented in the neonatal intensive care unit and the paediatric intensive care unit of the hospital,and will cuddle, rock and sing to the newborns.

Cindy Dent, a mother of one of the children involved in the program, said the program is a great idea because the volunteers come and relieve her while she can’t be at the hospital.

“When I heard about the program I was ecstatic,” said Dent. “It’s hard for me to go and do daily things like run errands without with out feeling bad that my son is laying in his crib by himself.”

Dent’s 11 month old child, Gabriel, was born with type 19 Congenital Myasthenic Syndrome, a rare genetics disease that affects his breathing, swallowing, and muscles in his neck, and has been living in the hospital since birth.

“It means a lot because I know when I leave he’s in good hands and I don’t feel so bad for leaving,” said Dent.

Kyla Uzzell, a volunteer that has been working with Gabriel, said that is important for someone to be with him at all times, and she is happy to be there when the parents need a break.

“It’s an amazing environment, I really enjoy it,”said Uzzell.

Emily Gruenwoldt, Executive Director of the Canadian Association of Paediatric Health Centres, said the program is great opportunity to support new parents during such a vulnerable stage of their life.

“I think of myself as a new mom and I think of how thankful I would be if the support were available for me at that time when my kids were that small,” said Gruenwoldt.

The program can benefit babies by stabilizing their heart rates and body temperature, help them gain weight, improve oxygen levels, and give them a better pain tolerance.

“The best part [about the program] is definitely just seeing the happy kids and babies,” said Uzzell. “They really are amazing.”