Preemie babies at Poole Hospital in Dorset, England, have been cuddling with the unlikeliest of bedfellows—crocheted octopuses. Danish researchers have found that these huggable octopuses have a calming effect on infants, as the tentacles are said to remind them of their mothers' umbilical cords and help them to feel calm and safe.
Scientists were able to show that squeezing the tentacles led to improvements across a variety of metrics. Infants with the snuggly cephalopods showed better breathing, more regular heartbeats and higher levels of oxygen in their blood. The crocheted companions also made the babies less likely to pull on their monitors and tubes, which kept the hospital staff and parents calmer as well.
Kat Smith, who recently gave birth to twins Jasmine and Amber three months early, said her girls have become suckers for the creatures. “One of the nurses brought in the octopus and explained about the idea. The girls absolutely love them,” she told the Daily Echo in Bournemouth, England “When they are asleep they hold onto the tentacles tightly.”
After seeking donations of octopuses so that every baby in the unit could take one home, the hospital was overwhelmed by the response. It now happily reports that it has a year's supply ready and waiting. “We've been overwhelmed by the kind response to our appeal for crocheted octopi,” said Daniel Lockyer, matron of neonatal services. “Patients are already telling us that their babies seem calmer with an octopus friend to keep them company so we're looking forward to continuing the project in the future.”
But there are some naysayers to the trend. One Swedish hospital has nixed the crocheted companions saying cloth toys gather bacteria and pose an infection risk.