May 15, 2021

Maori News & Indigenous Views

Maori focus for Safe Sleep Day

2 min read

The national Maori SUDI (Sudden Unexplained Death of an Infant) prevention organisation Whakawhetu says that Maori are the priority for Safe Sleep Day, 5 December.

Oct8_SafeSleepDay_1Safe Sleep Day is a national campaign focused on promoting safe sleep practices for babies, so that every sleep is a safe sleep.

Maori rates of SUDI are astronomically high, making up more than 60% of New Zealands SUDI deaths every year, says Whakawhetus National Manager Kathrine Clarke, and there are a couple of major factors which contribute to this profile.

Firstly, smoking rates for Maori women are high. Supporting Maori women to quit during pregnancy must be a priority. It not only improves their overall well-being, but more importantly ensures that the development of the babys breathing response is not compromised. This reduces the SUDI risk significantly.

Secondly, Maori women like many other cultures very much value the closeness and comfort that bedsharing brings but there are dangers in the shared bed, especially for babies whose mothers smoked in pregnancy. These infants have a five times increased risk of SUDI.

Implementing safe sleep practice such as the safe-sleeping device wahakura is recommended for these families.

Whakawhetus Academic Lead Dr David Tipene-Leach, is a widely-published national expert on Maori SUDI. Dr Tipene-Leach believes that there are also other fundamental risk factors at play.

Clearly SUDI is disproportionately higher for Maori and this cannot be easily addressed through public education campaigns alone. A whole of systems approach is required.

Research shows that SUDI is becoming increasingly confined to environments of poverty and deprivation. In other words, communities with high Maori populations are the most likely to be impacted by SUDI. Strategies are required to challenge existing frameworks that relegate Maori to poverty and other forms of exclusion.

This year, Whakawhetu will have a presence at Ironmaori in Napier on Safe Sleep Day 5 December. Kathrine Clarke says,

This is a place Maori leadership is evident. One of our key strategies is the promotion of the wahakura for safe sleeping. The wahakura is a sleeping pod woven from flax that means whanau can safely co-sleep with their baby.

Our other message at Ironmaori is about smoke-free pregnancies and homes. If we can support Maori mums to quit smoking, that will contribute hugely to reducing our rates of SUDI. We are committed to the governments goal of a smoke-free New Zealand by 2025.

Research is telling us that young Maori parents are increasingly using the internet and social media to find and share information about parenting. Moving forward we need to inhabit the digital space to reach whanau with our messages about SUDI.


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