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Methodist Health NICU babies benefiting from new Rock-A-Bye Baby program

Methodist Health NICU babies benefiting from new Rock-A-Bye Baby program

When Sebree, KY resident Chris Hedrick retired two years ago, he had no idea he’d end up volunteering to cuddle babies in Methodist Health’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), and would feel like he’d found his calling. “Being here as a rocking chair grandpa is a real blessing,” he said.

“He’s known as ‘Papa’ in the NICU,” said Terri Nunn, BSN, RNC, OB/Labor-Delivery/Nursery/NICU Manager, who explained that the Rock-A-Bye Baby program was recently launched at Methodist Health to provide extra cuddling and touch to babies born prematurely or with medical issues who are in the NICU.

“Our NICU babies often spend the first weeks or even months of their lives here,” noted Nunn. “Their parents must often return to work and can’t be here around-the-clock to give them the nurturing they need, and studies have shown that babies do better when they are held and talked to; babies grow in love!”

“Currently, one volunteer, Chris Hedrick, has been vetted and screened through Methodist Health Volunteer Services, and is serving as our NICU Papa,” she added. Parents must give consent for their babies to be cuddled in their absence, but Nunn said most do and are happy their babies are getting an extra dose of love.

Hedrick, whose wife, Verna, works at Methodist Health in Gastroenterology, was encouraged to become a volunteer by Sandy Blue, Coordinator of Volunteer Services, and the new Rock-A-Bye Baby program seemed to be a perfect fit. “The first day I rocked those babies was awesome,” he said. “To see God’s miracles close up and the way the nurses and doctors care for them was mind-blowing. I was hooked.”

Hedrick rocks and cuddles each baby, changing his gown and washing his hands in between each one. Thanks to his availability, whenever there are newborns in the NICU in need of cuddling, he can most likely be found in the rocking chair with a baby in his arms.

Cuddling programs like Methodist Health’s Rock-A-Bye Baby program are a growing trend at hospitals across the nation. “We are so happy to have our NICU Papa here,” Nunn added. “Studies have shown the importance of sensory stimulation and touch to the babies’ growth and development. Infants receiving sensory stimulation averaged 47% greater weight gain per day than the control group who were not receiving sensory stimulation and were discharged an average of six days earlier.”

The Rock-A-Bye Baby program is currently fully staffed with volunteers and additional volunteers are not needed at this time. If you are interested in other volunteer opportunities at Methodist Health, please contact Volunteer Services at 270-827-7413.

Photo Caption: Chris Hedrick, Methodist Health volunteer for the new Rock-A-Bye Baby program in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), is pictured with Emma, daughter of Ryan and Danielle Rhoads.

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For questions regarding this press release, please contact Brandi L. Schwartz at 270-831-7836 or bschwartz@methodisthospital.net.