Auckland hospital trials crochet 'octopals' to help soothe premature infants

Nicole Bremner
Source: 1News

Auckland's Middlemore Hospital is trialling a new therapeutic aid to comfort premature babies in their incubators.

The tiny crocheted octopuses, known as Octopals, are used overseas to help prevent tiny babies from dislodging life-saving tubes by enticing them to grip the tentacles instead.

Since October, the hospital has handed out about 50 Octopals to babies in its Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

"The wold of neonatology can be harsh sometimes. Our babies go through a lot of procedures, and something nice in the cot is a good feeling - a soft feeling," Middlemore Hospital's clinical nurse specialist Moira Malarkey told 1 NEWS.

Parents are encouraged to hold the Octopals beforehand "in the hope that there's some of mum's scent or smell on the Octopal that baby can have when mum's not present".

The hospital has strict protocols in place for their use, including ensuring they're only used in certain temperatures and where babies are under constant supervision.

They also go through a rigorous sanitisation process before they arrive sealed at the wards.

The carefully crafted creations are the handiwork of Cambridge-based Dawn Harpur, who was inspired by their presence in Europe and Britain.

Dozens of volunteers have since joined her group Octopus for a Preemie NZ, which works to special quality standards to ensure they are not a choking hazard.

After dedicating countless hours to the project, she says the reaction from parents has "brought her to tears on numerous occasions".

New parents Madhau Raj Khangarot and Bhagyashree Rathore say the Octopal for their baby girl, who was born 10 weeks early, "works like magic".

The hospital says other parents agree and are continuing the trial.