GREENVILLE, S.C. – For families experiencing the tragic loss of a newborn, the grieving process can often be overshadowed by the necessary medical procedures after a stillbirth. A device called CuddleCot, now available at Greenville Health System (GHS), aims to give some of this healing time back to families by extending the amount of time a stillborn baby can be present in a hospital room.
The CuddleCot is a cooling device that can be laid in a bassinet and circulates cool water under a baby’s body. The circulation can preserve a stillborn baby’s body for up to five days, allowing parents and family members additional time to grieve the baby through holding him or her, taking photos and measurements and accepting visits from loved ones. By extending the time families have with the baby, families are able to honor the life of the child and say goodbye at their own pace, which alleviates some of the suddenness that makes this grief particularly difficult.
The CuddleCot is being brought to GHS through the generosity of Natalie Watkins, an Upstate mother who lost her first child through stillbirth in 2008. While the Watkins family was surrounded by a strong external support system of family and friends during their grieving process, the reality of a hospital stay without a newborn to celebrate carried a heavy emotional toll. Watkins was inspired to give back to other families experiencing this loss after learning of the need for a CuddleCot from the Rev. Amber Blackwell, a chaplain at Greenville Memorial Hospital.
“We wanted to do something for other families because it’s so critical to have support around you at that time,” said Watkins. “This is the only time you’ll have with your baby, so there can be lots of ‘what-if’s’ if that time is rushed. The CuddleCot extends that precious time.”
The CuddleCot is a welcome addition to the GHS bereavement program, which also provides families with a memory box created by the Bryan Neonatal Intensive Care Unit’s March of Dimes Family Support Team. The boxes are filled with hand and foot prints made with ink on paper, 3D molds of hands and feet when possible, baby’s measurements, photographs, a butterfly charm and other items desired by the families. GHS also provides counseling both during the hospital stay and after through community support groups.
“We are so grateful to Natalie for raising money for a CuddleCot,” said Blackwell. “Nothing can ever prepare you for the pain the loss of an infant. Knowing that we are able to give these parents a chance to spend more time with their babies at the bedside is such a blessing, beyond anything anyone can understand unless you have been there yourself.”
A CuddleCot costs approximately $3,000 per unit. Watkins was able to purchase the first CuddleCot by soliciting donations from family and friends through social media and through a GoFundMe page for her 501©3 organization, Born in Heaven, and hopes to be able to provide additional units so more families can be served.