May 10, 2021

Maori News & Indigenous Views

Maori SIDS, TAHA, offer clarity on SUDI

3 min read

A recent article in the NZ Herald noted that parents are receiving conflicting messages about sleeping with newborn babies. Maori SIDS, TAHA (Well Pacific Mother and Child Service) and Change for Our Children feel it important that parents and whanau are clear about safe sleeping messages to reduce the risk of Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy (SUDI) and the risk of suffocation.

We are working hard to improve the consistency of messages for parents about safe sleeping Says Kodi Hapi, Maori SIDS. Maori SIDS supports bed sharing for breastfeeding and cuddles, and encourages parents to place baby in a wahakura, peepi-pod, bassinet or cot for sleeping until baby is six months old.

A 2008 survey on SUDI prevention knowledge shows there is work to be done to improve uptake of SUDI prevention messages for Maori mothers. More than half of Maori mothers surveyed had smoked in pregnancy and 21% of them were sharing a bed with their infant. In addition, only 25% of Maori mothers surveyed mentioned smoking as a risk factor for SUDI. Kodi Hapi notes, this suggests that prevention messages are not being delivered in a way that meets the needs of wh?nau, which is further complicated by inconsistencies. Wh?nau do not simply ignore the messages as suggested in the NZ Herald, the issues are more complex than that.

In relation to recent inquests into the deaths of infants who died while sleeping with siblings, Catherine Poutasi of TAHA comments, research suggests that co-sleeping either with parents or siblings increases the risk of SUDI. The key message that needs to get across to mothers and families is that babies exposed to smoking, especially during pregnancy, are more vulnerable.

The reason for this is that their breathing systems have been weakened by the smoking which makes it easier for them to suffocate, says Stephanie Cowan of Change for our Children. Sleeping on their backs and in their own protected spaces, such as in a wahakura, peepi-pod or cot, gives more vulnerable babies the best chance to survive the time of increased risk. They need such care every time and place they sleep for the first six months because it is not possible to know which sleep is the critical one in terms of SUDI.

It is essential that such babies are:

  • always placed for sleep flat on their backs (not propped)
  • always close to a sleeping parent (in the same room but in own baby bed)
  • always breathing smokefree air
  • always breastfed

It is important that for the first six months, parents adhere to the safe sleeping recommendations of face-up, face clear, smokefree and in own bed if more vulnerable every time and place their baby sleeps. Ms Cowan recommends that pregnant women who smoke seek support from their midwife, wh?nau or a smoking cessation service, as soon as possible.

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