Mum Michelle Carey, maternity manager Judy Ross, baby Carey Jarvis and a hand-knitted octopus

Mum Michelle Carey, maternity manager Judy Ross, baby Carey Jarvis and a hand-knitted octopus

A generous team of CWA ladies is helping provide comfort to premature babies in the Special Care Nursery at Queensland’s Gold Coast Private Hospital, using their craft to produce cuddly critters to calm tiny bubs.

After years of producing hand-made teddies for patients, the women have started crocheting octopuses for the newborns, based on a successful global Danish scheme – The Octo Project.

The tentacles of the crocheted octopus are designed to mimic the feeling of an umbilical cord, reminding the baby of being inside their mother’s womb. It’s believed the knitted goods help soothe the child – stabilising their heart rate and improving oxygen flow and circulation.

Gold Coast Private maternity manager Judy Ross said the octopuses have brought great comfort to babies and their families.

“We’ve certainly noticed the difference an octopus makes to our premature babies who become more settled and visibly calmer when the cuddly toy is with them,” she said.

“An incubator can be a lonely place for a newborn so an octopus gives them a form of physical contact that they find very comforting.

“Having tentacles for their little fingers to latch on to means we’ve seen a reduction in babies’ cords and feeding tubes being tugged and pulled at, which is another great benefit.

“It’s also comforting for the families of the babies, who get immense pleasure seeing their little ones with a friend to snuggle up to.”

The project has inspired Gold Coast Private Hospital staff to launch their own drive, collecting hundreds of balls of wool and cotton to give to the CWA ladies to help continue the knitting project.

CWA Mermaid Beach member Joan Parker said her team of ladies have knitted hundreds of teddies, drip bags and turbans for Gold Coast Private patients and were thrilled when the hospital contacted them about adding octopuses to their ‘bag of tricks’.

“We did some research into the concept and were amazed when we discovered that an experiment had been conducted many years ago overseas – one twin was given an octopus, and the other wasn’t. The twin with the octopus thrived,” she said.

“We couldn’t believe octopuses weren’t being given to all premature babies in Australia. It’s just such a lovely notion and we’re so happy we can help.

“I believe there is something magical about the octopus – they have three hearts, so they have a lot of love to give and that in itself helps these tiny babies to grow stronger and survive.”

Baby Carey at Gold Coast Private Hospital with a 'special care octopus'

Baby Carey at Gold Coast Private Hospital with a ‘special care octopus’

Mrs Parker was one of 30 CWA Mermaid Beach ladies who attended a special ‘Christmas In July’ lunch at Gold Coast Private, held in their honour as a show of appreciation for their ongoing efforts.

The visit also provided the women with the chance to witness first-hand the difference their donations make.

The knitted goods are usually distributed by hospital volunteers, including June Habner, who said the donation brings joy, love and comfort to all ages.

“A child’s face will light up when I sit down at eye level and tell them that I have a teddy bear that needs lots of love and cuddles and a good home,” she said.

“A teddy bear is also a welcome gift for elderly patients, who may be on their own and feel alone in hospital, with family away.”