Cuddle Cot provides bereaved families more time with babies after loss

By Selma Al-Samarrai

A new device at St. Joseph’s Health Centre is being offered to families coping with a stillbirth or neonatal loss.

At least seven families have used the Cuddle Cot since its arrival to St. Joseph’s Family Birthing Centre (FBC) earlier this year. It is a bassinet attached to a cooling mechanism that’s designed to preserve the baby’s body to allow families to spend a bit more time with them.

“When we lose adults, depending on how long they’ve been in this world, we have experiences, memories and mementos with them that help us remain connected to them even when they’re gone,” explained Luisa Guerrera, patient care manager at the FBC.

“But when babies pass away, they have such a short life that families don’t have the benefit of that time and experience, and that’s where the Cuddle Cot offers some comfort.”

The Cuddle Cot provides families the opportunity to spend time with their baby, take photographs, invite visitors and loved ones to meet them and say their goodbyes, all while the cooling mechanism is preserving the body’s integrity.

“When we can support families to spend more time with their baby and to build a community of witness, we’re punctuating the existence of their baby in the world,” explained Guerrera.

Depending on the family’s preference, most will spend up to 24 hours with their baby in the Cuddle Cot.

Lindsey Peacocke is a registered nurse and full time lactation consultant for the Women and Children’s Program at St. Joseph’s. On multiple occasions, she has visited mothers and families who were spending time with their babies in the Cuddle Cot.

“In my experience watching families with the Cuddle Cot, I find that it’s a lot more approachable for families and a lot less medical. They’re comfortable taking the baby out of it, taking photos of the baby in it and inviting visitors to come see the baby,” explained Peacocke.

Peacocke meets with new mothers in her role as lactation consultant because she finds that breast care generally is not attended to after a stillbirth or neonatal loss. Her role involves talking to the mothers about breast care, donating milk and associated concerns.

“The Cuddle Cot was born out of good-quality bereavement care. It keeps families together for an extended time while also preserving the integrity of the newborn,” explained Guerrera, who added that the Clinical Engineering team at St. Joseph’s has been instrumental in providing support with the Cuddle Cot as FBC staff learn to use it.

The Cuddle Cot was funded by the St. Joseph’s Health Centre Foundation.

Selma Al-Samarrai works in communications at Unity Health.