Poole Hospital in the UK has started asking people to send crocheted octopi for the smallest of their patients. Does this sound strange to you? Giving a crocheted octopus to a preemie is not a new idea, but it certainly isn't common one on our side of the pond.
But Denmark has been making these toys for premature infants for years.
The Danish Octo Project, Spruttegruppen, started up four years ago. They believe that the tentacles resemble the umbilical cord, and remind these tiny babies of their time in the womb.
Whether or not this is actually the case, preemies clinging to the tentacles are reported to be calmer, more comforted, and have better breathing and more regular heartbeats. Preemies with the crocheted octopus also had higher levels of oxygen in their blood and were less likely to pull out tubes or monitors.
It certainly seemed to help for the twins, Jasmine and Amber Smith-Leach, born just before 29 weeks. The girls weighed less than three pounds, each.
Daniel Lockyer, the neonatal services matron at Poole Hospital, said:
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. We’re very grateful for all donations and we’re sure the families who use our service will be too.
If you're interested in crocheting your own octopii for preemies, check first with your local hosptial to see if they're willing to accept volunteer-made donations (many do). Poole Hospital recommends that all octopi are crocheted from premium 100% cotton so that the toy can be sterilized in the wash before given to a preemie, and that the length of the tentacles not exceed 22cm for safety reasons.
Mynomadhome.com has a pattern for the crocheted octopus that she has made available for free, so long as these stuffies are donated or given away with love and not made to be sold.