Aberdeen Maternity Hospital has launched a somewhat unusual appeal – they want octopuses to comfort the tiny premature babies in the Neonatal Unit.
Obviously, they don’t want real live octopuses, instead they’re after the cuddly crochet version!
So, why octopuses? Well, apparently, the tentacles remind the baby of clinging to the umbilical cord in the womb, and this makes them feel safe and secure.
The hospital cares for approximately 1,000 premature babies every year, so that requires lots of octopuses for cuddling. Having the octopus close to hand can also prevent the babies from trying to pull out their tubes.
Nurse manager Nicole Bauwens told The Evening Express: “These octopuses are a fantastic way of soothing the babies. The octopus becomes part of the family and the babies have a special bond with them.
“The staff at the Neonatal Unit are besotted with the interaction the babies have with these octopuses – it really is heartwarming.”
Premature babies Rohan Williams and Alasdair Geddes are among the first babies to have been given an octopus to hold in their incubators.
Rohan’s mum Lauren said she had noticed a difference in her son since he was given his octopus named Olly.
She said: “Rohan has benefited greatly since his little octopus Olly joined him in the Neonatal Unit. It has brought him great comfort. The octopus is also a great way of measuring his progress in growth.”
Alasdair’s mum Fiona said the crochet creation helped soothe her tot: “Alasdair likes to grab hold of the tentacles. He seems to find it comforting and it gives him security in the incubator.”
The hospital are getting a helping hand from charity group Octopus for a Preemie. The group have set up a Facebook page for those who wanted to help create and distribute the crochet creatures.
The Scottish coordinator of the group, Maxine Lawson, says she’s excited that the hospital are using the octopuses.
“I got hooked and have crocheted about a dozen of them in my spare time now," she explained. “The idea has just exploded because people want to help these incredibly vulnerable babies."
Maxine, who has her own crafts company, All Kinds of Love and Stuff, says she checks each octopus carefully to ensure it is safe for hospital use.
She said: “There are strict guidelines for these octopuses and all donations are inspected by Octopus for a Preemie UK before being distributed.
“These babies are so tiny, and we can’t have any holes for their little fingers to get trapped in; but they also can’t be too big for the incubator.
“They need to be 100 percent cotton. We have to be really careful about the stuffing and they need to be able to be washed at 60c minimum, to prevent infection.”
But if an octopus isn’t exactly up to standard, it doesn’t go to waste. “Those that don’t meet the strict guidelines for premature babies will be donated to Angel Babies Charity instead”, she said.
If you would like to get involved, check out Octopus for a Preemie. Octopus donations can be sent to All Kinds of Luv’n’Stuff, Unit 8, The Coachworks, Poplar Road, Glenrothes, Fife, KY7 4AB.