I have recently become aware of a new strategy that is spreading throughout neonatal units in a number of countries. People have been crocheting and knitting octopuses (octopi?) for premature babies in these units. (See the “Octopus for a Preemie” Facebook page.)
According to a press release from Poole Hospital, Dorset, in the UK, the idea originates from a hospital in Denmark. Research has found that cuddling an octopus comforts and calms the babies. Babies often grab hold of their umbilical cords in the womb and it is thought the octopus tentacles remind them of this feeling. The babies have better breathing, more regular heart beats, and higher oxygen levels in their blood. They are also less likely to try to pull out their monitors and tubes.
The Poole Hospital press release contains this quote:
Daniel Lockyer, neonatal services matron, 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 of crochet octopi and we’re sure the families who use our service will be too.”
I first came across this amazing work when I visited a site called “My Nomad Home: Octopus for a Preemie”. This lady wrote about a Danish group called Spruttegruppen which encourages people to crochet octopuses for premature babies. She has a pattern available on her site in both a US version and a UK version.
I didn’t want knitters to feel left out of this wonderful cause so I have also found another site, Prawelewe Art Studio, which has downloadable patterns for knitted octopi as well as crocheted ones. These patterns are available in both English and Polish.
This is a really worthwhile initiative which seems to be gaining momentum worldwide. Let’s all get on board and do what we can to help these precious tiny babies to find comfort and thrive.