Cuddler Volunteer Program

Applications closed

The Cuddler volunteer program is currently full and not accepting new applications. You may contact Volunteer Services at to be put on a waitlist, but the wait time may be considerable for this very popular program.

The birth of a baby who needs intensive medical care is often unexpected. Often, obligations at home and work mean that families cannot visit the hospital each day to spend time with their new baby.

Cuddler volunteers can help. Our volunteers are here to support all critical babies in the UCI Health Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and their families. Cuddlers provide extra love and developmentally appropriate support under the guidance and direction of our medical staff in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

What is a Cuddler?

A Cuddler volunteer is a trained adult who is able to:

  • Hold the baby under the supervision of medical staff
  • Talk to the baby in soothing and stimulating tones and words
  • Sing to the baby in rhymes and favorite lullabies
  • Console the baby with positive touch and sensitive comfort

Cuddler benefits

Babies who are cuddled often demonstrate greater growth, physiologic stability and have shorter hospital stays than babies who have not been cuddled.

Research shows that cuddling:

  • Is vital to a child's emotional well being
  • Helps babies maintain developmental and social milestones, such as self-esteem development, increased learning ability and greater self-esteem

Cuddler requirements

Cuddler shifts are two hours per week. Every volunteer is supervised by staff from the Child Life department with assistance from the NICU staff.

Cuddlers must complete all requirements and attend orientations prior to starting work in the NICU. To be accepted as a volunteer, all cuddlers must:

  • Be at least 21 years old
  • Commit to a minimum of six months
  • Have prior experience holding babies and/or work with babies and children
  • Sign a confidentiality agreement
  • Adhere to all hospital policies
  • Complete a background check
  • Complete annual health clearances
  • Attend orientations