Crocheted comfort in the NICU

Aulden Mack was admitted to the Grey Nuns Community Hospital weighing only four pounds, three ounces. To make his stay more comfortable, the nurses gave him a little, crocheted octopus.

This stuffed animal given to Aulden is a product of a volunteer-run organization called Octopus for a Preemie. The program was founded in Denmark in 2013 and has since spread to other countries including the UK, United States and Canada.

The purpose of these stuffed octopuses is to help babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care unit (NICU) feel calmer, have more regular heartbeats and even breathe a bit better. Their tentacles remind babies of the umbilical cord and stops them from pulling at any leads or tubes they may have. 

A collection of some of the octopuses waiting to be handed out

“The idea behind them is that they’re not a toy and they don't replace families doing skin to skin,” says Clinical Nurse Educator Chris Jacknisky.

“They don't replace any of that sort of stuff. It is more for sick babies who perhaps cannot do skin to skin, because of things like chest tubes and lines that have just been recently put in.”

The donated octopuses are held to a strict standard, with given measurements for the body and tentacles. They also must be filled with a hypoallergenic polyester filling. Before each octopus is brought to the hospital, it goes through an inspection before it is washed, dried and packaged.

Janelle Knutson, a registered nurse at the Grey Nuns, has crocheted about 30 octopuses so far for the NICU. “It makes me feel awesome,” says Janelle. “It’s something I can do to help, and it’s for a good cause.”

Sydney Mack watches over Aulden as he cuddles with his Octopus

Parents can easily see how these octopuses are affecting their baby’s care.

"He really likes it,” says Aulden’s mom Sydney Mack. “There was one day the nurse had to do something with him and she literally had to pry it out of his hands because he didn't want to let go."

If you are interested in learning more about Octopus for a Preemie Canada, visit their Facebook page. If you would like more information on the Danish project, visit their website.

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