These Crocheted Octopuses Are Changing the Lives of Preemies

Something as simple as a cuddle can have incredible health benefits

Feb 22, 2018
Baby Jasmine and her octopus doll

Baby Jasmine and her octopus doll (Poole Hospital)

Doctors at Poole Hospital in England have begun providing stuffed animals, or more specifically, crocheted octopus dolls, to premature babies. These babies, who reside in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) are typically just a few weeks old and weight about one kilogram.

The idea of treating preemies with cuddles originally comes from Denmark, where specialists found that cuddling crocheted octopus dolls had a calming effect on premature babies. Why an octopus though?

Research shows that the tentacles of a stuffed octopus can comfort babies because it reminds them of the umbilical cord, which makes them feel safe and secure.  The health benefits of feeling at ease, protected, and at peace is nothing new to scientists.

Specialists in Denmark reported that when premature babies cuddled their crocheted companions, the patients’ breathing improved, their heart rate regulated, and even oxygen levels in their blood increased, which are basic and critical components of healing and growing.  Furthermore, doctors reported that holding on to the arms of the octopus dolls stopped babies from pulling at their monitors and tubes. The hospital now aims to provide every premature baby with a new cuddly creature to hold.

In honor of World Prematurity Day, the hospital asked for donations, and now groups like Spruttegruppen have sprung up to provide a constant supply of crocheted octopi. The organization even helps others start local octopus-making chapters around the world by providing advice, patterns, and more!

Kat Smith, the mother of twins born prematurely noted, “The girls absolutely love them. When they are asleep they hold onto the tentacles tightly. Normally they would be in the wob and would play with the umbilical cord so the octopuses make them feel grounded and safe. They really are beautiful.”

She added that her two twins have been recovering phenomenally, and believes the crocheted octopus played a large role in that. “My miracle girls are now two weeks old and though they have a few conditions associated with premature birth, they are doing really well.”

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Hilla Benzaken is a dedicated optimist. Her happy place involves cooking, acting, gardening, and fighting for social justice. She writes about all things sustainability, innovation, and DIY.