When the neonatal staff at Poole Hospital in Dorset, England heard about groundbreaking research showing that snuggling crocheted octopuses might make their preemies feel safer and fare better, they were naturally intrigued.
According to the Poole Hospital website, the idea originated in Denmark, where researchers found that preemies who cuddled up with these cute octopus lovies in their incubators had more regular heartbeats, better breathing, and higher levels of oxygen in their blood. Not only that, but these babies were also less likely to pull out their monitors and tubes.
And here’s why: The tentacles of the octopus apparently remind these babies of their mom’s umbilical cords, and the soft knit bodies of the cuddly creatures are said remind them of the womb.
Poole Hospital decided to give it a go, and has started a project where they will be gifting these crocheted octopuses to their littlest patients. Each preemie family will receive a special gift-wrapped octopus, along with an instruction card explaining what the project is and the octopuses’ proper use and care.
“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,” Daniel Lockyer, a neonatal services matron at the hospital, shared on its website. “It’s incredible that something so simple can comfort a baby and help them feel better.”
And the parents of their preemie patients are seeing what a difference the octopuses are making for their sweet babies. Kat Smith, who gave birth to 28 week old twins this past November, says that her babies have found great comfort in the knitted cuties.
“It’s a very scary time. You can’t comprehend just how small and fragile they are. The staff have been absolutely phenomenal,” Smith told her local paper, Bournemouth Echo.
Smith said her babies quickly fell in love with their gifted octopuses, and that she sees the positive effects they have on her babies. “One of the nurses brought in the octopus and explained about the idea,” Smith shared, “The girls absolutely love them. 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. They really are beautiful.”
Additionally, Smith feels confident that these octopuses have contributed to her babies’ good health. “My miracle girls are now two weeks old and though they have a few conditions associated with premature birth, they are doing really well,” Smith tells Bournemouth Echo.
The hospital says it is in need of more crocheted octopuses and is accepting donations. The hospital has a crochet pattern in mind for their babies (found here), and specifies that the dolls must be 100% cotton with tentacles no longer than 22 cm. The hospital will sterilize each octopus before giving them to their babies.
The hope is to have cuddly octopuses for each and every one of their preemies — and so far the donations seem to be pouring in.
“We’re very grateful for all donations of crochet octopi and we’re sure the families who use our service will be too,” the hospital states on its website, adding that crocheted octopuses can be delivered to the reception area of the maternity unit at the hospital.