Do crocheted octopi help babies in neonatal? Part Two.

As discussed in our last post, ‘The Tentacles for Tinies’ is a 2017 pilot study of the efficacy of using crocheted octopi in the neonatal unit of the Rotunda Hospital, Dublin, Ireland.

This week we will analyse the social and emotional findings of the study. In addition to measuring biological markers of the babies engaged in this study, the researchers surveyed impressions of the crocheted octopus project from parents of the subject babies. According to the report, 100% of parents surveyed said that they liked the project. More specifically, every surveyed parent reported

  • they perceived the project to be beneficial to their baby, and
  • the project helped them improve their involvement in their babies care.

Good-will, hope, confidence, encouragement are difficult to measure compared to heart-rate and blood pressure. It is, perhaps, unhelpful to seek validation of these positive qualities through quantification.

Other reports (not research studies) on the use of crocheted octopus reveal similar sentiments. For example, Poole Hospital in Dorset, England called for volunteers to crochet octopi to supply their babies in NICU. In response, an article in Modern Healthcare (20/2/17) says,

“We’ve been overwhelmed by the kind response to our appeal for crocheted octopi,” said Daniel Lockyer, matron of neonatal services. “Patients are already telling us that their babies seem calmer with an octopus friend to keep them company so we’re looking forward to continuing the project in the future.”

Similarly, TCA Regional News (5/1/19) reports from Thumbay Hospital Fujairah, UAE, that Mohammad Ali, father of a 33-week baby girl in the neonatal intensive care unit said,

“After being introduced to the crochet octopus last week, our baby seems to have become calmer and is responding well. I am thankful to the doctors and staff for this initiative.”

The perception of the babies as calmer is cited as anecdotal evidence which implies a degree of unreliability or untrustworthiness in the claims. Yet, is any other sort of reliable evidence possible under these circumstances? Is evidence of hope during hardship and peace during uncertainty even an appropriate request?

Returning to the social dimension of the study from Rotunda, Dublin highlights broader, immeasurable benefits. For example, some of the crochet volunteers had themselves experienced premature birth, birth complications or loss. Participating in the project, for these people, reportedly provided an unexpected positive therapeutic dimension. Similarly, staff at the hospital experienced community support in ways that were otherwise not possible.

The good in a human activity is not reliably measurable through a medical or scientific method. Accounting for the social aspects of the crocheted octopus project in a respectful and comprehensive fashion is complicated but worthwhile.

If you want to be involved in our Octopus Crochet project comment below or email for more information. Don’t know how to crochet? No problem. We’ll give you everything you need and support your every stitch.

Do crocheted octopi help babies in neonatal?

‘The Tentacles for Tinies’ is a 2017 pilot study of the efficacy of using crocheted octopi in the neonatal unit of the Rotunda Hospital, Dublin, Ireland.

Our analysis of the study shows that the findings are written up into two broad categories, biological findings and social findings. Today’s post will discuss the biological findings. Next week we will share our analysis of the social findings.

The biological findings were derived from measuring a range of each baby’s physical indicators both with and without interaction with an octopus. The study concludes that overall, the biological indicators such as heart-rate, did not significantly change between the two states (i.e. with and without an octopus companion).

It could be, on first reading of the physical results, easy to dismiss the presence of a crocheted octopus as having any physical benefit to the babies. This, however, is not an accurate conclusion. Firstly, the babies did not show any deterioration in physical indicators such as decreased oxygen absorption. No ill effect is a positive conclusion we can draw from the results.

Physical indicators from the babies were measured after only fifteen minutes of holding the octopus. Fifteen minutes, as a length of time, compared to the weeks, days and hours that babies are cared for in a neonatal environment, is a relatively short time. If you have ever been a patient in hospital you will remember that interventions, interruptions and monitoring at your bedside are more enduring than the experience of rest or recovery. Being in hospital is a busy and social experience. It is plausible to suggest that fifteen minutes cannot give any real picture of the physical benefit of an octopus companion.

Maybe, though, there are significant positive effects of the crocheted octopus which we do not have the tools to measure. There are some things in life that cannot and should not be measured. Our analysis of the social findings of the pilot study point in this direction.

If you are interested in having Part Two of this post sent directly to your inbox, or if you want to join our crusade in creative resistance, use the email subscription option below.

What’s the point?

There’s a lot of stuff out there. We’ve reached peak stuff. In the city where Monica lives, people have so much stuff they have started to leave the excess on the kerb. Almost every second house has furniture, kitchenware, whitegoods, manchester, electricals or toys stacked on the kerb with a handwritten sign ‘For Free’.

But it is not for free. Something, someone, somewhere picked up the tab for all this stuff. Materials mined from our earth, animals displaced or species made extinct, waterways polluted with the waste from production, good air turned toxic. Our living breathing biosphere pays for all this stuff.

The point is not to stop making stuff.

  • The point is to make the stuff that we need. NEED.
  • The point is to reclaim those skills that we’re losing. SKILLS
  • The point is to relearn the real-world knowledge that we’ve forgotten. REAL WORLD

Dianne’s new weekly face-to-face classes, ‘Crochet an Octopus for a Premmie’ are about need and skills in the real world.

Prematurely born babies need additional physical comfort and a sense of tactile security to grow strong. The design of Dianne’s umbilical octopus toy fills this need.

Over the past few weeks, dozens of women have walked into Dianne’s studio never before having picked up a crochet hook. You won’t believe what they haev achieved. They are reclaiming the skills of their grandmothers and great-grandmothers. They are making something that we need. They are mending our broken world through the humble craft of crochet. Will you join us?

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