Group of S'pore ladies makes toy octopuses for premature babies in S'pore & gifts them to parents

They pay for the material out of their own pockets, and work with hospitals too.

Tanya Ong | April 04, 2018, 06:16 PM

Most babies are born between a 37 and 40-week gestation period.

Premature babies, however, are born after less than 37 weeks.

As a result of premature birth, these babies sometimes have underdeveloped organs, which can lead to a range of complications and infections, all of which can in turn endanger their already-very-fragile lives.

They are also thrust into an unfamiliar environment that they are not ready for. As a result, many of these babies cry more often and are harder to soothe.

Given this distressing set of circumstances, coming to the rescue is none other than an eight-tentacled friend -- a crotchet octopus toy that supports both infant and parents.

S'porean founder inspired by Danish "Octopus for a Preemie" movement

Some of the octopuses made by Spruttegruppen, the original Danish movement.

These crotchet octopus toys, and their makers, were recently featured in a Channel NewsAsia article that tells the story of how one Singaporean, Michelle Neo, started it all.

Neo, a civil servant whose hobby is crocheting, started making crotchet octopus toys when one of her friends had given birth to a premature baby, affectionately referred to as a "preemie".

Inspired by the “Octopus for a Preemie” movement, where volunteers in Denmark buy yarn and make crocheted octopus toys for premature babies for free, Neo decided to make this a reality in Singapore too, doing the same on her own.


Why octopus toys, you might ask?

Photo via Handmade with LÖVÉ Octopus - for Preemies Facebook page

She explains that it's because the octopus's tentacles resemble an umbilical cord, and they soothe the baby as it reminds them of their time in their mother's womb. It also allows the baby to rest with the toy instead of tugging at their feeding tubes.

Other than helping the baby, Neo shares that it also supports their parents mentally.

These are some examples of the ones made by the volunteers here:

From Handmade with LOVE Octopus Facebook

From Handmade with LOVE Octopus Facebook

Very soon, as word spread that Neo was doing this for free, she was overwhelmed by requests for these from parents with premature babies. However, as she was working alone, she could only manage to make about one octopus per day.

Friends come together to create a group

Thankfully, Neo got by with a little help from her friends.

Six other ladies joined her in her efforts, and they started a Facebook page called Handmade with LOVE Octopus - for Preemies.

Even though her friends had no prior experience with crocheting, they picked up the skill by watching online videos as well as guidance from Neo.

And since they all have full-time jobs (apart from being moms themselves), they work on the octopuses using any pockets of free time available in order to ensure that there is a steady supply of toys for preemies in need.

Tie-ups with hospitals

Currently, the volunteers are busy with Project 2, a second batch-order from one of two hospitals they currently have tie-ups with.

They shared with Mothership that the hospital did not set a target for them, but based on what was donated previously, they are hoping to complete about 80 in this batch.

Recently, they also collaborated with infant clothing retailer Tiny Babies to include a crochet octopus in care packages the company offers to babies warded in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

These are some of the care packages that were given out:

Photo from NICU Facebook

Photo from NICU Facebook

Apart from these collaborations and tie-ups they have with hospitals, the group also tries to make extra toys on the side too, so there will be octopuses available for any preemie parents who might reach out to them.

Overwhelmed by offers to volunteer, help

Thanks to media reports on the ladies' work, the group has in recent days found themselves overwhelmed by support from kind souls who, upon hearing about this initiative, contacted them offering to help with the project.

In a Facebook post on Sunday afternoon, they said they have enough people to complete the octopuses needed on hand for their project, but did say they would take on more volunteers when they start receiving more requests and when more hospitals opt to collaborate with them in their efforts.


Additionally, they also put down some conditions they had for volunteers thinking of helping out:

  1.  There is a high standard to meet as the toys will be given to premature babies with extremely sensitive and delicate skin.
  2. The group does not profit from this initiative. Hence, volunteers must be willing to purchase all materials out of their own pocket.
  3. As their toys are given out for free, they hope that people will not learn the skill and technique of making the octopuses from them and then attempt to profit from making them later on.

Here's their Facebook post:

Even though the group does not need more volunteers at the moment, they do accept donations of Smartpac packages for postage.

They also request anyone who is interested to help or support their project in any way to drop them a Facebook message on their page for more details.

Top photo from Handmade with LOVE Octopus - for Preemies and NICU Facebook.