"Cuddlers" Program Grows

ROCKFORD (WIFR) – A local program that’s been around for nearly two decades at Rockford Memorial Hospital has seen so many volunteers, dozens of people are now on a waiting list to become something the organization calls a “professional cuddler”.

“This is perfect for me. I would come every day if I could.”

It’s a job you don’t typically see on the average resume. Chris Hermie is a professional cuddler, a position she considers a coveted opportunity.

“It just fills my heart with joy, I love it, absolutely love it,” Chris said.

Hermie has been volunteering in Rockford Memorial Hospital’s NICU for more than half a decade, she’s held dozens of infants as part of RHS’ cuddler program. It’s an approach that uses human touch to heal.

“Parents sometimes have a hard time getting here all the time because babies stay for months or they live a long way away, up to two hours, so we use them as a helping hand to keep the little one’s happy.” said RMH nurse, Sarah Stimes.
Medical experts say it’s more than just a newborn’s state of mind, touching and cuddling can help babies gain weight, stabilize heart rates and bring up oxygen levels.

“The love you see in this unit is unbelievable.”

Right now more than 40 people volunteer in the cuddler’s unit, some working past their scheduled shift to donate more love and time to the little ones, and the job is in high demand as mor than 50 people are currently on a waiting list to help.
“Someone is holding them, talking to them and giving them love.”

Hermie says she tries not to get attached to the infants, saying she looks forward to the day they are healthy enough to make it home.

The unit is not in need of volunteers right now as they have a pretty long waiting list. Members f the unit go through an extensive background check and strict training before they are able to hold the babies.

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