Markham Stouffville Hospital recently launched The Huggies No Baby Unhugged program.

To date, Huggies has provided more than $125,000 in grants to initiate and support five baby hugging programs at Canadian hospitals, including Markham Stouffville Hospital, benefitting hundreds of babies admitted to the NICU and Paediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) each year.

Hugging programs train volunteers to administer the soothing and healing power of touch to babies who are premature or medically fragile, with the goal of improving long-term health outcomes.

“Nurturing contact like hugging is a natural and essential need for all babies,” says Dr. Navneet Sharma, MSH neonatologist. “By offering this program to all babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), we are providing enhanced developmental care when it is needed most.”

Through the No Baby Unhugged program, MSH is expanding the developmental services they provide to babies in the NICU. Not only will babies receive hugs when their families are not able to be present, but they will also receive books that both families and huggers can use to promote language and learning development. Music stations will also be available in baby areas for both hugging and sleep time to help soothe infants.

“We are thrilled about this opportunity to support MSH volunteers who are providing an essential service from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. with this hugging program for families and newborns,” said Nadia Malowany, Huggies Canada infant-care brand team leader. “Hugging has been proven to benefit babies in a number of ways from a more stable heart rate and faster weight gain, to shorter hospital stays and reduced pain.”

“It’s the best job in the world,” said volunteer hugger Norm Seidler. “The pay is great,” referring to how amazing he feels participating in the program.

While MSH’s volunteer hugging program is currently full, those interested in volunteering for another MSH program can visit msh.on.ca or find other ways to give by visiting mshf.on.ca.  Visit nobabyunhugged.ca to learn more about how you can support the Huggies No Baby Unhugged initiative.

Photo: New parents Erin and Trevor Manning are all smiles as volunteer hugger Norm Seidler provides a warm hug to Mitchell, their seven-week-old bundle of joy.