Caring staff at baby care units say that they have found giving premature babies toy octopuses provides them with comfort. It is believed that the toys’ soft tentacles could remind them of the umbilical cord in the womb.

The idea first started in Denmark at Aarhus University Hospital, where medical teams said that the toys had a calming effect on babies, which led to improved breathing and heart rate patterns, meaning that when they were monitored, the newborns had higher levels of oxygen in their blood.

They said that when the little tots cuddled up to the toys, the tentacles meant that they were much less likely to grab onto the cables and tubes in their incubators. Now, the study has spread to more than a dozen special baby care units across Europe to see whether there really are positive effects as a result of introducing the octopus therapy. In the UK, Poole Hospital in Dorset is taking part.

Appeal for more octopuses

Neonatal services matron at Pool Daniel Lockyer said it was incredible that such a simple thing could lead to such benefits. Now the hospital has put up the pattern to make the crochet octopus online and is calling for supporters to create more of the toys. The hospital is hoping to get enough octopi so that every premature baby can have one to cuddle and then be able to take home their special toy.

One mum, 41 year old Kat Smith, whose twin girls were born at 28 weeks at Poole Hospital said that it had been an incredibly scary time, but the octopi had really helped her babies. She said her babies loved the octopuses and would hold on to their tentacles even while they were asleep. She added that the idea was beautiful and that her twins were now doing well.