AURORA, Colo. (CBS4)– Wanted: baby cuddlers. At UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital, volunteers can sign up to comfort tiny babies who need time in the neonatal intensive care unit, or NICU.

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Right now, about 18 men and women are spending time cuddling newborns who have to spend weeks, sometimes months, in the hospital.

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Becky Prater is one of the volunteers. In a dimly lit, quiet space, she cradled tiny Bryson. He was born Nov. 23, 2018, 13 weeks early.

Becky Prater (credit: CBS)

“I’ve always kind of had this idea that I needed to hold babies,” Becky told CBS4 Health Specialist Kathy Walsh.

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So, Becky became a volunteer in the NICU at UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital. The author and life coach is a cuddler.

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“These little guys need somebody to love them when their parents can’t be here,” she said.

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Bryson’s mom and dad live hours away in Silt. When they can’t be with him, cuddlers are welcome comfort.

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Anne Powley (credit: CBS)

“We love our cuddlers,” said Anne Powley, R.N., who works in the busy NICU.

Powley sees babies respond to cuddlers.

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“We see heart rates calm, we see respiratory rates calm,” she said.

Calm baby, calm Becky. She relaxes when cuddling and she says so can her adult children. She’s not a grandma yet.

CBS4 Health Specialist Kathy Walsh interviews Anne Powley (credit: CBS)

“This is definitely taking the pressure off my own kids,” said Becky.

And nestling newborns has given her a better outlook.

CBS4 Health Specialist Kathy Walsh interviews Becky Prater (credit: CBS)

“You know, it’s moments of peace in my life and helps me focus on what’s really important,” Becky said.

It’s just three hours a week, but Becky embraces every minute.

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“It’s the best volunteer job I could possibly have,” she said with a smile.

A study published in 2014 found that premature babies in the NICU cuddled from birth had better sleep habits and were more attentive than those who weren’t cuddled. It found, at age 10, those children showed better stress management skills when faced with anxiety-inducing situations.

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UCHealth needs volunteer cuddlers for evenings and weekends.

For more information call 720-848-4068 or go to https://uclive.vsyslive.com/

Kathy Walsh

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