Hospitals around the world are trying out a new and unusual technique to help premature babies survive. The staff are giving the preemies adorable crocheted toy octopuses for them to cuddle with and hold onto.
The idea originated from Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark, but it wasn’t until Poole Hospital in the U.K. tested it out for themselves that the idea started to catch on.
“It’s incredible that something so simple can comfort a baby and help them feel better,” Daniel Lockyer, head nurse of neonatal services, said in a press release.
In 2013, a group of volunteers started “The Octo Project” and began to crochet the colorful octopus stuffed animals for preemies. The octopuses were then donated to families with preemies at hospitals around Denmark, and the babies’ progressions was observed. According to The Octo Project, the octopus tentacles remind the baby of their mother’s umbilical cord and gives them the familiar feeling of being in their mother’s womb, feeling safe.
Staff at the Danish hospitals found that the octopuses were extremely beneficial. The stuffed toys helped the babies breathe easier and positively affected their heartbeat and the levels of oxygen in their blood.
After the hospital announced their plan, they asked the public for help. In a short time they received over 200 stuffed octopuses.
These octopuses are ready for their hot wash and dry before being inspected for size, tentacle length, and holes. At…
Kat Smith, who gave birth to twin girls at 28 weeks, was among the first to benefit from the program at Poole Hospital. “The girls absolutely love them,” Smith told Bournemouth Echo. “When they are asleep they hold onto the tentacles tightly. Normally they would be in the womb and would play with the umbilical cord, so the octopuses make them feel grounded and safe.”
Although there hasn’t been any official research done on the relationship between a preemie snuggling with a stuffed octopus and a preemie without an octopus, Smith fully believes the cute little creatures helped her twins.
“Parents are already telling us their babies seem calmer with an octopi friend to keep them company, so we’re looking forward to continuing with the project in the future,” Lockyer said of the program.
For those who worry if it’s safe to give a preemie a stuffed toy, the hospital sterilizes each toy before giving it to a child and doctors have also found that the toy, in some cases, actually prevents the babies from pulling at any tubes or wires that they might be attached to.
If you would like to contribute there is a Facebook group dedicated to informing people of the proper yarn to use, the correct size the octopus must be, and how to donate the stuffed creatures.