SOFT, twirling tentacles of octopuses and jelly fish are helping to keep premature babies feel safer in intensive care nurseries.
Crocheters and knitters across western Victoria have started to join the now-global movement to create the toys for supporting tiny babies through their early days.
Ballarat crafter Wendy Abraham has become the contact point and key collector for the region, volunteering to help after reading about the project on social media.
“The tentacles seem a bit like an umbilical cord and they allow babies to grab on, rather than pulling on all their tubes,” Ms Abraham said. “Babies with the octopus have shown to be calmer and grow happier and healthier.”
Ms Abraham has stressed it was important people wanting to help did not just make them and take them to the hospital.
There are strict regulations to follow in pattern, yarn (must be 100 per cent cotton) and preparation (Ms Abraham must launder all octopuses before they are packaged for distribution). The attention to detail was important due to special conditions in nurseries.
And once delivered, each octopus and jelly fish belongs to their baby to take home.
The project originated in Denmark and has been taken up in 17 countries, with Australia catching on this year.
An Octopus for Preemies group launched in Victoria four months ago with toys in use at the Box Hill, Mercy and Monash hospitals in Melbourne.
St John of God Ballarat introduced the toys to its special care nurseries about six weeks ago.
Ms Abraham has one keen crocheter, who delivers batches of the yarn creatures from Stawell when she is in Ballarat shopping.
The group was keen to expand its reach and Ms Abraham said the crocheted jelly fish were particularly quick and easy to produce. People wanting to get involved can join “Octopus for a preemie - Victoria” on Facebook for the pattern and instructions. Sew Darn Special in Rubicon Street, Sebastopol, is also collecting finished octopuses and jelly fish.