Kat Smith, a 41-year-old mother from Dorset, England, gave birth prematurely to beautiful twin girls in early November 2016 — approximately three months before they were due. Jasmine and Amber Smith-Leach were born at low birth rates, 2 lbs. 2 oz. and 2 lbs. 12 oz., respectively, and were fighting for their lives at Poole Hospital.
Miraculously, a crochet octopus toy helped provide comfort to the twins. When the girls were asleep, they held onto the tentacles tightly. By two weeks old, mom said that although the twins had a few conditions associated with premature birth, they were doing really well.
“Normally they would be in the womb and would play with the umbilical cord so the octopuses make them feel grounded and safe,” Smith said in an interview with the Bournemouth Daily Echo.
Administrators at Poole Hospital say the crochet octopi are linked to better health and wellbeing for preemies. The idea stems from Denmark, where specialists discovered that crochet octopi can help comfort and calm babies. Cuddling the tentacles specifically produces higher levels of oxygen in the blood, promotes regular heartbeats and better breathing in preemies. Babies are also less likely to pull out their tubes.
“When we heard about the difference a cuddly octopus can make to our tiny babies we were impressed,” explained Daniel Lockyer, a neonatal services matron at Poole hospital.
In November 2016, Poole administrators created a program called “tentacles for tinies,” where they asked volunteers to help make the crochet octopi — enough so each baby in the neonatal intensive care unit could have to cuddle and take home with once better. The octopi are crocheted in various colours and sizes and offered to parents in gift packs.
The hospital received such an overwhelming response from the community — more than 200 crochet octopi were delivered — that they no longer need donations for the remainder of the year. They’re hopeful that the toys will help comfort many more premature babies back to health, as they did for Jasmine and Amber.
“It’s incredible that something so simple can comfort a baby and help them feel better,” Lockyer said.
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