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Cuddle up. (people).

What parent doesn't wax nostalgic about the bliss of cuddling a newborn infant? Let's face it, only the sweet murmur of a sleeping baby gets you through the night feedings and foul-smelling diaper deposits. NEA-Retired Arizona member John Campbell isn't a new dad, but he's head-over-heels in love with his volunteer assignment as a "cuddler" of premature infants born at the Thunderbird Samaritan Medical Center in Glendale.

"It's heaven," says Campbell, now in his third year as president of the Arizona Education Association-Retired. "The cuddlers, the nurses, and the babies all benefit from the program."

Under the supervision of a developmental nurse specialist, the volunteers cuddle newborns who are premature or face other issues, such as absent parents or a drug addiction.

"The human touch and the rocking is very beneficial to the babies," Campbell says. "They're often cranky, and when you rock them, that quiets them right down." Campbell is a volunteer cuddler once a week for four hours, also volunteering at an information desk at the hospital another four hours per week.

After being trained, Campbell's first assignment was to cuddle Brandon, who was born three months premature and weighed just two pounds. "I had a thought that maybe I can't do this," he confesses. But Brandon gradually made strides and was ready to go home when he reached four-and-a-half pounds.

Campbell says he also leaves the hospital feeling better. "I've had two heart attacks, and when I'm quietly cuddling a child it brings my blood pressure down and I'm much calmer. I told one of the nurses that maybe [cuddling] should be part of heart attack rehabilitation!"

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Author:O'Neil, John
Publication:NEA Today
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2003
Words:270
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