Crocheted Octopi Become Survival Tools for Premature Babies


Birth is a disorienting time for everyone involved, especially for prematurely born children. Babies are considered premature if they are born before having the chance to develop in the womb for a full thirty-seven to forty weeks. These babies, whose systems tend to be too vulnerable after insufficient in-womb development time, may not survive the overwhelming outside world. If they do survive their first year of life, they are also at a higher risk for other health problems. One hospital, however, has implemented a method for combating the mortality rate for premature babies: crocheted octopi.

One success story concerns twins Amber and Jasmine Smith-Leach. Last November at Poole Hospital in Dorset, England, mother Kat Smith gave birth to her twin daughters after gestation period of just twenty-eight weeks and four days. Originally due to give birth on January 22, 2017, Smith went into labor on October 31, 2016 and gave birth on November 3, 2016. She feared for the lives of her new baby girls after seeing how tiny and fragile they were. At this same hospital, however, a program called “Tentacles for Tinies” had been in effect. Modeled after a program in Denmark, where they found that octopi had a calming effect on babies at all stages of growth, Poole Hospital gifted a crocheted octopus (donated by volunteer crafters) to each new child and an information card about the program to parents.

Crocheted octopi are capable of comforting new babies primarily because of its shape and texture. The tentacles of the octopus may remind an infant of the umbilical cord baby would have shared with its mother, and the soft round body is reminiscent of the womb’s shape. Because this octopus causes the baby to think of familiar and safe surroundings, babies were recorded to have more regular heartbeats, better breathing, and higher oxygen levels in their blood. Additionally, they were less likely to tug at (and potentially remove) life-preserving wires and tubes. Because Smith’s baby girls were likely to benefit from these hand-crafted survival tools, staff members at Poole decided to include them in the program.  Although Amber and Jasmine are still struggling through other common health conditions associated with premature birth, they are doing miraculously well.

On a final note about these marine snuggle-buddies, Lockyer concluded, “It’s incredible that something so simple can comfort a baby and help them feel better. We’re very grateful for all donations of crochet octopi and we’re sure the families who use our service will be, too.” Despite this optimism, some medical professionals doubt that this program is effective for all premature babies. Although these reservations are valid, there’s no doubt about how these crafted creatures have comforted and supported these little ones through their first days of life.

If you are an avid crochet artist and you think this idea might be useful for new additions to the world in your area, you can find the pattern here: Crocheted Octopus Pattern