Operation "Octopi NICUs"

Carrollton Baptist Church is organizing a program to provide a special toy octopus for premature and sick babies in the NICUs (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) in the area.  

The original idea seems to have originated in Denmark a few years ago, and has spread to NICUs and special care nurseries across the globe.  Even though it has clearly been determined that skin-to-skin contact with the mother, and other close familiy members, is of immense value in helping the baby to experience fewer and/or less severe complications, there is some evidence that placing this toy next to the baby when he or she is in the isolette also helps the little patient show fewer signs of stress and to be more physically stable.  They are also to be less likely to pull on lines and tubes attached to their little bodies. 

The tiny patients will often grab a tentacle of the octopus and hold on to it, sometimes when sleeping.  It is believed that this reminds the babies of the umbilical cord with which they were familiar while in their mother's womb, providing comfort in the new and strange environment.  It is important not to confuse the use of an octupus in a special care nursery with putting a toy into the bed of a baby at home. The octupus is considered a therapeutic intervention and is used with babies whose vital signs are monitored with medical equipment, and who are under the watchful eyes of the babies' nurses and parents  The "Safe Sleep" program advocated by many hospitals encourages parents to have ONLY the baby in its bed at home.  There is no one watching a sleeping baby 24/7 in the home environment, there is no monitoring equipment, all of which is necessary for safety when an object is in the bed near the baby.  Therefore, nothing, including toys, blankets, pillows, etc. should be in the bed with the baby at home.

CBC will be hosting octopi-making sessions.  These will be posted under the "Crochet Sessions" tab.  Feel free to start making the toys now if you are an experienced crocheter.  The sessions will be open to anyone, newbie or experienced.   There will be at least one experienced crocheter to assist at each session.  Additional volunteer "coaches" will be welcome.

The form page contains additional instructions for delivery of the toys to Carrollton Baptist Church or other drop off points in the area. If you own a business and want to volunteer it as a drop off point, please let us know. 


We plan to give the names of those who participate in this project to the NICUs which want to have them.  If you would like, we will let them know how many toys you made.  As a safety precaution, we must have the creator's name before accepting ANY octopus toy.  In answer to a common question about how the toys are cleaned for use in the NICU, all toys will be cleaned according to directions given by the hospital, then placed in individual plastic bags.

There are certain specifications required for the toy to be given to a baby, and a couple of recommendations as additional precautions.

1.  The crochet yarn must be 100%, NON-mercerized, cotton.  Click on "Approved Yarns" for a list of yarns which hold up well and do not bleed colors when washed.

2.  The tentacles must not exceed 22 cms., or about 8 1/2 inches, in length.

3.   There can be no attached buttons. Eyes, mouths, etc. must be embroidered with 100% cotton embroidery thread or approved yarn.   No long stitches should be used.  Instead, when embroidering the eyes or mouths, make the stitches equal to one crochet stitch.  ( - - - - -  for a line instead of _______).  You do not have to put a face on your octopus OR you can be creative with the design.  Just remember the stitches need to be small, flat, and knotted well INSIDE the octopus head/body.


4.  The crochet should be tight, with stitches close together to minimize fibers from working through.  If you are going to stuff your octopus with fiber, but without lining the octopus head/body, it is better to use a smaller crochet hook (2.5 to 2.75).   To further minimize loose fibers, you can make a little pouch of 100% cotton muslin before stuffing it with the filling material, and then hand sew it closed. This step is NOT in the instructions, but does make the toy even safer than simply making certain the stitches are tight. It is especially useful when 3.0 to 3.5 crochet hooks are used. 


5.  When making your octopus, do so in this order:  crochet the head and tentacles, embroider the face if you want your toy to have a face, crochet the bottom piece of the octopus, insert a 100% cotton muslin pouch inside the head, stuff with poly-fil (put a LOT of stuffing inside to make it VERY firm, not "squishy"), sew the pouch bottom closed, complete the octopus by slip attaching the bottom according to patter instructions.  

Please you wash your hands or use hand sanitizer before starting or returning to your project.  

Below is a link for directions on how to make this special toy.


Here is a link to a video which might be helpful for beginner crocheters:


A video on making a smaller octopus (for the very, very tiny babies) can be found by clicking on the following link:


If you have any questions, please contact Sandy at 237-7355. 

Thank you for your interest in helping the tiniest citizens in the Hampton Roads and possibly other communities in Virginia.