Knitted toy octopuses, donated for premature babies to cuddle, catch on

Photo: Jana Opočenská

The idea reportedly originated in Denmark: knitted toy octopuses for babies born prematurely. Babies in neonatal intensive care play with the octopuses the way they would with the umbilical cord if they were still in the womb. Observed health benefits included improved breathing, regular heartbeat and stronger oxygen levels.

Photo: Jana Opočenská
If the sight of a tiny baby happily clutching a toy knitted octopus in neonatal intensive care at the Teaching Hospital in Olomouc doesn’t melt your heart, nothing will. The image and the idea have proven to be a big hit, receiving more than ten thousand likes and 1,000 shares and counting online. The hospital asked the public for the dotation of knitted or crocheted octopuses after they proved popular and effective at similar facilities around the world. Jaroslava Kubešová Marková, a nurse at the Teaching Hospital in Olomouc gave Czech Radio a brief tour of neonatal intensive care, stopping at an incubator with Lukaš, a baby born at 29 weeks:

“He’s awake just now and playing with the baby octopus. The toy’s tentacles are important, serving as a replacement for the umbilical cord he would be playing with if he were still in the womb.”

Pavlína is a mum whose own son was also born prematurely and is in intensive care at the Olomouc hospital. She says she will later save her son’s crocheted octopus as a memento.

“I’ll save it for him so he’ll have something to remember, from being born early and from his time in intensive care.”

Photo: Jana Opočenská
She herself got on board after seeing the toy’s calming effect, becoming one of dozens of volunteers who have now begun making toy octopuses for others in their spare time. She has already produced and donated nine. Over the last week alone, the hospital in Olomouc received more than 230 from all over the Czech Republic, some in person, some by mail. The head physician at the neonatal facility at Olomouc Teaching Hospital, Lumír Kantor, says the idea is a good one.

“It was spontaneous, and it caught on in the Czech Republic thanks to the association Nedoklubko. It is a purposeful act. The toys are suitable and the babies like them. Anyone who knits toys for children shows they are thinking of them and that is worth something too.”