Cuddle mum Diane Haydon with baby Harvey Morrison. Picture: Jamie Hanson
Cuddle mum Diane Haydon with baby Harvey Morrison. Picture: Jamie Hanson

Cuddle mums provide vital service for newborns

IT'S the most coveted job in Queensland, with a waiting list a mile long, and believe it or not, it doesn't pay a cent.

The Mater Hospital's volunteer cuddle mum positions don't come with hefty paypackets, but job satisfaction is second to none.

As the name suggests, cuddle mums are employed to comfort babies in hospital whose parents can't be with them all day.

Retired teacher Dianne Haydon started volunteering at the Brisbane Mater eight years ago, and after a stint helping out with administration, she landed her dream gig as a cuddle mum.

"I'd been retired for about three years and I decided it was time I start giving something back to the community," Ms Haydon said.

"I had two grown-up sons. There were no grandbabies on the horizon and I thought, 'Oh, I'd love to be cuddling babies but I'll just do a volunteer role until little ones comes along.'

"I said I was prepared to do anything, but ultimately it would be delightful if I could cuddle a baby."

Diane Haydon is known as Brisbane's ICU grandma. Picture: Jamie Hanson
Diane Haydon is known as Brisbane's ICU grandma. Picture: Jamie Hanson

Ms Haydon estimated she had cuddled about 1200 babies in her time at the Mater, and while she now had four grandchildren of her own, she wouldn't dream of giving up her volunteer position.

"It's an amazing privilege to be able to take someone else's child and give them a cuddle and help a family at such an important time in their lives," she said.

"Some babies just don't get the cuddles they need, so we just fit into the roles wherever we can and help by feeding them and bathing them or changing them and giving them a cuddle."

Only a handful of volunteers are employed as cuddle mums who go through extensive training.

The hospital fields many calls from volunteers.

Ms Haydon joked that she and her colleagues should be called baby whisperers, and said her best advice for dealing with restless little ones was to keep calm.

"You can't afford to be upset every time you're in here and it's important to be calm and level headed," she said.

"Babies just love the contact and I just don't think they really grow properly without it."

Tiny Harvey Morrison is cuddled by Diane Haydon. Picture: Jamie Hanson
Tiny Harvey Morrison is cuddled by Diane Haydon. Picture: Jamie Hanson

Ms Haydon started as a cuddle mum in the baby nursery which is now at the Lady Cilento Hospital, and now works at the Mater Mothers' Hospital in the special care nursery.

"The nursery was for babies who were ill and could be there for some months and that was heart wrenching," she said.

"Most of the ones here (at the special care nursery) are premmie babies who need to develop a bit more, so we do see some for quite a while if they're born at 24 or 25 weeks.

"Some are here for more than 100 days."

New mum Clare Broad is one of the many parents at the Mater Mothers' Hospital who are grateful for cuddle mums like Ms Haydon.

Her baby Harvey arrived on January 31, seven weeks early, meaning he needs to spend another three weeks in the special care nursery before he can go home.

"It's really nice to have (cuddle mums) when you're not able to make it," she said.



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