The crocheted octopuses that help tiniest babies feel safe

Tara Russell

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BORN three months early, these ‘miracle’ twin girls are among the premature babies who face a battle for survival.

But alone in their incubators, this is the heartwarming moment little Jasmine and Amber Smith-Leach, born weighing just 2lb 2oz and 2lb 12oz, feel safe – thanks to a crocheted octopus.

Poole Hospital are now giving premature babies on the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) the unusual creatures for comfort.

Research has proven the tentacles of a crocheted octopus remind babies of the umbilical cord and being in their mother’s womb, making them feel safe.

And now to mark World Prematurity Day, Poole Hospital is appealing for people to crochet so every premature baby can enjoy the benefits.

Mum Kat Smith, 41, who was due to give birth on January 22 next year, went into labour on October 31 and the twins were born on November 3 at 28 weeks and four days.

Kat, a national account manager from Southbourne, said: “It’s a very scary time. You can’t comprehend just how small and fragile they are. The staff have been absolutely phenomenal.

“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. 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.

“My miracle girls are now two weeks old and though they have a few conditions associated with premature birth, they are doing really well.”

The unique idea comes from Denmark where it was found octopi calmed babies. Specialists said snuggling the tentacles even led to better breathing, more regular heartbeats and higher levels of oxygen in their blood. Babies cuddling an octopus were also less likely to try to pull out their monitors and tubes.

Daniel Lockyer, 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.”

The hospital hope to receive enough octopi so every premature baby can have one to cuddle and take home.

Each one is packed into a special gift bag complete with a card about the project and offered to parents.

They can be any colour and vary in size from small to large.

Cuddly octopi can be donated at the maternity unit reception and at the main hospital entrance.

For the pattern, go to http://mynomadhome.com/octopus-for-a-preemie-osmiorniczka-dla-wczesniaka/