Aberdeen has launched Scotland’s first appeal for crocheted octopuses to soothe premature babies.
About 1,000 babies who have been born too soon are cared for at Aberdeen Maternity Hospital’s Neonatal Unit each year.
Nurse manager Nicole Bauwens said the soft tentacles of the knitted creatures mimic the umbilical cord foetuses hold onto in the womb and makes them feel safe.
She said: “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.”
Tiny Rohan Williams and Alasdair Geddes are among the first babies to be given an octopus to hold in their incubators.
Rohan’s mum Lauren said she had noticed a huge difference since her son was given his cuddly creature 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 animal was a bit like a security blanket for her baby boy.
She said: “Alasdair likes to grab hold of the tentacles.
“He seems to find it comforting and it gives him security in the incubator.”
Charity group Octopus for a Preemie has set up a Facebook page for people who want to get involved with crocheting and delivering the octopuses.
Scottish co-ordinator Maxine Lawson, 55, of Glenrothes, said the UK-wide group was set up in February and has already gone from 250 to 7,500 members in the last month. She said: “It’s really exciting to get our first Scottish hospital on board because this is very, very new and to have Aberdeen on board first is fantastic.
“I got hooked and have crocheted about a dozen of them in my spare time now.
“The idea has just exploded because people want to help these incredibly vulnerable babies.”
Maxine said the project was in its very early stages but was enthusiastic about helping the idea to spread.
She said: “It’s been shown these octopuses have a huge effect on the babies because it reminds them of being back in the womb and that calms them down from the trauma of being born too early.
“If they can hold on to the tentacles the babies are less likely to tug at any tubes they need to have in them, too, and the nurses say they are much calmer when the octopuses are around.
“In Aberdeen, we’re hoping to get enough people to help us regularly provide 80 octopuses a month and we’re hoping to hit that target this month.
“The aim is to have local people crocheting, collecting, checking and distributing the octopuses but we don’t have much in place yet and we’re looking for more people to get involved.”
Maxine, who has her own crocheting and craft company All Kinds of Love and Stuff, said she had to check each octopus carefully before sending them to babies in need.
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% 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 every octopus we get donated will be used and those that don’t meet the strict guidelines for premature babies will be donated to Angel Babies Charity instead.”
Find out to how to knit your own below.
Octopuses can be sent to All Kinds of Luv’n’Stuff, Unit 8, The Coachworks, Poplar Road, Glenrothes, Fife, KY7 4AB.