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It’s not just premature babies you’ll find in the neonatal unit at Frimley Park Hospital.

The ward is now home to a colourful band of knitted octopuses which are soothing newborns who arrived early.

The octopuses are donated by the group ‘Octopus for a Preemie UK’ and the neonatal ward introduced them in May this year.

“The parents and the babies simply love them,” said neonatal sister Natalie Smith.

“They provide a real comfort to the baby as the tentacles mimic the umbilical cord in the womb.

“Babies enjoy holding onto them and the octopuses also reduce the risk of babies pulling on their tubes.

“It’s a really lovely addition to the unit.”

The crocheted creatures, which come in a variety of colours, have been lovingly handmade by a team of local crafters.

Their co-ordinator, Susan Morris, delivers a fresh batch every month. At last week’s delivery she said: “We deliver around 30 octopuses at a time. Every baby born before 35 weeks who is admitted to the unit receives one and each octopus has been quality controlled to ensure there are no holes or loose eyes.”

Staff on the ward have noticed a real calming effect on the babies.

“One baby girl on the unit is so fond of her knitted companion she actually wriggles around the cot until she finds it,” said clinical matron, Jennifer Lomas.

“Recently she had a turn for the worse but fortunately got better soon after. Her mum said ‘I know she’s back to normal because she’s holding her octopus again.’ That’s how important they are to the families here.”