When you have a premature baby, the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) or SCBU (Special Care Baby Unit) where your baby is being looked after, do their absolute best to make those babies feel loved in the way they would if they were at home with their parents.
I know this because when my son was born at 30.5 weeks, the midwives asked me for small items of my clothing to put on the side of his crib, and even a photo of our faces to stick on the side. I visited him every day for six weeks, all day, for about 12 hours, but I would then go home to recover from my c-section and sleep, so it was comforting to know I was leaving a little piece of me behind with him.
If only there had been an “Octopus” around back then.
The concept of using an octopus-shaped comforting soft toy for newborns originated in Denmark in 2013, and became knowns as The Octo Project, after volunteer crocheters made “Octos” for babies in neonatal wards to help them relax and settle to sleep. Midwives began to notice that newborns had improved breathing, steadier heartbeats and higher levels of oxygens in their blood.
Soon, Octos went global, and are now distributed, in the form of a comfort toy called Octopus, for purchase by parents of all babies in Australia (not just ones who’ve been in hospital) by European toy manufacturer Nattou.
Midwife Cat Law, who is ‘Your Pocket Midwife‘ on Instagram, and who works in a SCN (special care nursery), explained to Mamamia exactly the role octopus toys play for newborns.
“Babies will develop that grasp reflex in the womb from about 11 weeks, and it can last until they’re about six months old. That reflex continues until about six months of age,” Cat explains.
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Both immersed in science and adorable…the @nattouaus Octopus that is…not me. Although I do love science. Due to an amazing volunteer organisation called “octopus for premmies”, there has been widespread use of handmade crocheted octopus in hospital settings. They have been used for settling preterm babies while separated from their mothers. That grasp reflex which is developed from around 11 weeks of conception and lasts until about 6 months of age, can play havoc when there is medical equipment around. I’ve seen babies being able to grab onto the crocheted tentacles, instead of monitor leads or tubes, which is beneficial for both babies and nursing staff. To see @nattouaus, creating a toy for settling a newborn baby using the same philosophy is so exciting! The tentacles of this cuddly little critter are said to remind a baby of their mothers’ umbilical cord. They are also perfect for carrying a mother’s scent for those nights she’s not able to be around. She can simply place the toy down her top for a few hours to add an additional settling element. Always remember to observe SIDS safe sleeping guides with the use of this toy.