Strange as it may sound at first, a crocheted toy in the shape of an octopus is providing tremendous comfort and security to premature babies. So much so that the Poole Hospital in England is offering the soft toy to each of the littlest patients in its care.
As it turns out, octopus soft toy isn’t a new thing. According to the hospital, the idea for the toy originated from Denmark where researchers found that the octopus was effective in comforting and calming down preemies. With the cuddle toy, preemies were less likely to pull out their tubes and monitors. The babies were also reported to breath better, their heartbeats became more regular, and they received higher levels of oxygen in their blood.
How does this happen? It seems the act of grasping the thin tentacles of the octopus reminds the babies of mom’s umbilical cord and what it was like inside the womb, making them feel safe. Cute and utterly ingenious at the same time, right?
“When we heard about the difference a cuddly octopus can make to our tiny babies we were impressed and, after research, eager to introduce them to our little patients. It’s incredible that something so simple can comfort a baby and help them feel better,” said Daniel Lockyer, neonatal services matron at Poole Hospital.l.
The hospital’s goal is for every preemie baby to have one to snuggle and take home afterward. One grateful mom is Kat Smith, who gave birth at Poole Hospital to Jasmine and Amber, twins born at 28 weeks and four days. “It’s a very scary time. You can’t comprehend just how small and fragile they are,” she told local paper Bournemouth Echo.
Offered the crocheted octopuses, her daughters took to their new friends immediately. “One of the nurses brought in the octopus and explained about the idea. The girls absolutely love them. When they are asleep they hold onto the tentacles tightly,” she told Daily Echo, a local paper. “My miracle girls are now two weeks old, and though they have a few conditions associated with premature birth, they are doing really well.”
Any crafter can replicate the octopus toy (you can find a pattern here). Poole Hospital requires octopuses donated to them to be made with 100% cotton so they can “be washed at a high temperature for infection control.” For the baby’s safety, the tentacles should have a max length of 22 cm when stretched.
The Department of Health has been advocating its “Unang Yakap” initiative, which encourages skin-to-skin bonding and early breastfeeding for all newborns, especially preemies and babies with low birth weight. The practice has been proven to be essential and even life-saving for mom and child.