We all intuitively understand the importance of touch, and rightly so. Studies from all over the world have proven again and again that daily contact is essential for the healthy cognitive development of babies. Hugs and physical contact in the first period of life create a sense of security, are important for the parent-baby relationship, assist in creating a positive self-image for the baby, and enable healthy development.
The First Hug association aims to care for every abandoned and lonely baby in the hospitals of Israel. We are committed to filling the void created by the absence of a mother and father, and provide the emotional and cognitive needs that are so crucial for a baby's proper development.
About the association
Every year, hundreds of babies are abandoned in NICU departments for preterm babies and newborns in hospitals in Israel. These babies are usually condemned to long hospitalizations, without a caring touch, and without the devoted care of a mother and father. The medical staff assigned to such highly populated nurseries care for the babies’ health and physical needs, but due to the enormous daily workload, cannot care for the babies’ emotional needs. This is why First Hug was born.
The First Hug Association was established in 2004 by Michelle Koriat. Michelle came across an online post regarding abandoned babies and decided that she could not remain indifferent to this phenomenon. She studied the problem extensively and realized that she had the means to deal with this issue quickly and efficiently. Michelle believed that simply by establishing a structured and professional association, she would be able to fulfill her vision – caring for each and every abandoned and lonely baby in Israel.
Currently, the First Hug Association has an array of approximately 500 volunteers who care for the lonely and abandoned babies in all the hospitals in which the association operates. The First Hug volunteers come and care for the babies each and every day, filling the void created by the absence of a mother. With grace and kindness, they provide the abandoned babies with the soft touch, caresses, warmth, and love that they need in the first months of their lives.
The volunteers receive professional training and guidance from the association’s social workers. These social workers, who are extremely experienced and knowledgeable in the field of baby and child welfare, are the link between the professional staff at the hospitals and the First Hug volunteers. They support both the volunteers and the hospital staff through counseling, direction, and using creative thinking, in order to provide assistance, support, and resources for the hospitalized babies and infants. Donations to the association are used for maintaining and developing this support system.
The hugged babies
Every year, hundreds of babies are left all alone in the NICU departments for preterm babies and newborns in hospitals in Israel. Many of the abandoned babies suffer from congenital defects and complex medical problems, and they come from all social groups and classes.
Like all babies, they too need a warm hug, touch, caresses, love, and the basic things that babies receive during the first months of their lives. In the absence of a mother and a father, and due to the inability of the medical staff to care for all the emotional needs of these babies, the First Hug volunteers fill this crucial void.
Each baby is cared for by a small, select group of volunteers, who accompany the baby throughout its entire hospitalization period. This way, we ensure that the baby is not exposed to too many people, and much like a family, can recognize its main caregivers. The First Hug volunteers spend every day with the baby, giving warmth, love and human touch, playing, singing songs and reading stories. They also try to create a homely environment for the baby with mobiles, picture books, and toys.
After the hospitalization period, which can last between a few weeks and many months, the baby continues its life with an adoptive family, a foster family, or in a rehabilitation facility, in accordance with their condition.