TORONTO -- Cuddling tiny infants is literally what the doctor ordered.

A “significant” number of infants who were cuddled ended up having shorter hospital stays, according to a small study conducted by staff at a Toronto hospital.

Dr. Michael Sgro, chief of pediatrics at St. Michael’s Hospital, led the study which involved 23 babies born with symptoms of drug withdrawal. But he said the cuddling benefit would affect all babies.

“(It) gets them home, gets them into a natural environment, which is good for them, reduces the cost to the health-care system, and it allows them to be more comfortable,” he told CTV News on Wednesday.

While most hospitals have a round-the-clock care team for newborns and infants, St. Michael's Hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit actually includes a team of 28 “cuddlers.”

Members of the cuddle team at the downtown Toronto hospital volunteer once a week to cuddle infants. According to the hospital website, the program started at the end of 2015.

One of these volunteer “cuddlers” is Anne Malcangi, who called her work “so rewarding.” She told CTV News that “the power of cuddling and touch help (infants) get better so much quicker.”

Parent Kari Peddle, who’s stayed at the hospital since her daughter Faera was born eight weeks early, praises their work.

“They're a solid snuggle backup,” she told CTV News, describing how they’d been “swooping in and holding our little one tightly and making sure she gets the extra care she needs.”

For years, health-care providers have anecdotally seen the importance of human touch when it comes to caring for newborns but this new research appears to back it up.

Sgro hopes this study will prompt more Canadian hospitals to implement similar programs.

Similar programs have seen some success stateside, including UNC-Rex Birth Centre in Raleigh, N.C. Nicole Ross, a registered nurse and the newborn screening co-ordinator there, told WRAL that "it decreases pain, it decreases the baby's stress and it helps promote healing."

She added that "it helps with brain development, and it helps decrease their length of stay."