National Safe Sleep Day this Friday

Northland has one of the highest rates of sudden death in infancy (SUDI) in the country but some simple safe sleep messages have resulted in a noticeable drop in recent years.

National Safe Sleep Day on Friday December 5 aims to further promote the Whakawhetu National SUDI Prevention P.E.P.E messages: 
  • Place Baby in their own baby bed
  • Eliminate smoking in pregnancy and protect baby with a smoke-free whanau, whare and waka (car)
  • Position baby flat on their back to sleep
  • Encourage and support mum to breastfeed.

Unintentional suffocation in the place where they sleep is the most common cause of death for infants under the age of 12 months. Every year 60 Kiwi families lose their babies in this way and many of these deaths could have been prevented with the P.E.P.E. messages.

Safe sleep is all about encouraging local community groups to bring the safe sleep messages to their families in fun and entertaining ways. A morning tea will be held at Whangarei Hospital in ward 11 on Friday, along with guest speakers.

Northland DHB lactation consultant and SUDI (sudden unexpected death in infancy) prevention co-ordinator Angela Yendell says her Harmony Teen Antenatal Classes will also be talking about breast feeding and safe sleep this week.

“Safe sleep is a simple message and a positive one,” says Ms Yendell. “If we can get families to have some fun and learn how to protect their babies, then everyone wins.”

New Zealand, statistics show in 2012 and 2013 all cause post-neonatal mortality declined to 1.65/1000 live births from 2.17/1000 (for 2001-2011).

Ms Yendell believes this is from the focus on safe sleeping, particularly with the recognition that more than 50 per cent of SUDI is associated with bed sharing.

Possibly the most innovative strategy in New Zealand to reduce mortality has been the wahakura and pepi-pod. A pepi-pod is a simple storage box that converts to a baby bed when fitted with a cover, a fitted mattress and a full set of bedding. The wahakura is a woven bed, hand-made from flax with an open weave so as to be naturally ventilated, allowing air flow to regulate the temperature around the baby. These beds help reduce the rate of SUDI by providing a safe space when babies sleep in or on an adult bed, a couch or away from home.

In the DHBs supplying the pepi-pods there has been a 28 per cent reduction in the number of post natal deaths in 2012-2013 from the 2001-2011 period, compared with seven per cent reduction in DHBs without pepi-pod programmes.

Teams of Northland DHB nurses, lactation consultants and midwives across Northland have been pushing the messages and offering the pepi-pods or wahakura to SCBU mothers and high-risk families.

“Even if the women and their whanau don’t get the pepi-pod, they are getting more safe sleep messages than they ever had in the past, via midwives, nurses and the lactation team,” says Ms Yendell.

Ms Yendell says that Maori infants are at greatest risk. Around 3.5 babies, seven of them Maori for every one non-Maori, die per 1000 live births in Northland.

The risk profile for a SUDI include mothers living in a high-deprivation community, Maori, under 25 years of age, who smoke during and after pregnancy, who deliver premature babies, who share beds and have who already lost a baby to SUDI.

However, Ms Yendell says the recent decrease in mortality statistics for SUDI is encouraging.

“I love it when I hear people talking about safe sleep options. In our postnatal coffee group they talk about the best way for their babies to be sleeping so the conversation is happening among their peers now, rather than the health professionals preaching.

“It makes my heart warm. It’s something I’m really passionate about. A couple of our teen mums have lost a baby so it’s close to my heart.

“Safe sleep is a conversation every health professional needs to be having with whanau.”

Further details are on the Safe Sleep Day website –

Kaitaia mother Lael Perry practices safe sleep with daughter Jordan in her pepi-pod.

Services A - Z


In order to view this object you need Flash Player 9+ support!

Get Adobe Flash player