Premature babies in the NICU often pull out their breathing and feeding tubes, but an innovative and simple solution is helping the tiny preemies.
About four million babies are born in the U.S. every year and one in ten -- about 400,000 -- will need neonatal intensive care.
Baby Anthony was born at 25 weeks, a micro-preemie weighing only 1 pound 2 ounces. Now, he's up to 2 pounds 7 ounces, thanks to good care in the NICU, and a special friend.
"Now, Anthony has something to grab on to," said father Anthony Flores.
"Yeah, he wants to always pull the tubes out. So him being able to grab on the tentacles is just you know comforting to him," said mother Marissa Flores.
"The natural instinct is for the baby to grasp something, and so when they're grasping it, it makes them feel like they're holding onto the umbilical cord .... Instead of grabbing hold of their breathing tube and pulling, they can grab hold of the tentacle of the octopus and just kind of hold onto that," said nurse Keri Spillman, a NICU clinical supervisor at Medical City Alliance.
Octopus for a Preemie started in Denmark and is spreading across the United States. Volunteers crochet the developmental tools to exact specifications to prevent choking and strangulation. A mother sleeps with the octopus first.
"I love it. I held him for the first time after 24 days yesterday and so he was able to you know smell my scent," Marissa Flores said.
"So they can smell their mom, they feel the tentacle, they feel at peace and it helps them calm down. Because our babies are continuously monitored until the moment they go home, that's why it's okay for us to leave the octopus in the bed with the child, but we do not recommend they're left in the bed once the child goes home," Spillman said.
The Flores family plans to keep it as a reminder and a keepsake for Anthony.
"It's his little friend, you know," Marissa Flores said.
Octopus for a Preemies is a growing trend worldwide. Parents should never allow their babies to handle the crocheted octopus without supervision.
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