wcdhb banner
News and Media Releases

Media Releases Archive

Introducing This Page

This section contains media releases released a little while ago. Please note that due to the long time when some of these were released images have been removed and some links might no longer work.

December 6, 2013

West Coast DHB promoting Safe Sleep Awareness Day

The West Coast District Health Board (West Coast DHB) is encouraging new parents to adopt safe sleeping practices for babies. Today is Safe Sleep Awareness Day, which aims to raise awareness of the importance of safe sleeping for babies to prevent Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy (SUDI).

New Zealand SUDI rates are the highest in the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development) with approximately 1.1 deaths per 1000 live births, that is, 50 -70 deaths every year. SUDI rates among Maori are disproportionately high compared to non-Maori.

West Coast DHB Director of Nursing and Midwifery Karyn Kelly says, "Making sure babies are always safe when they are sleeping; for every sleep, is just as important as putting them into car seats when travelling in cars. By ensuring babies sleep in their own bed reduces the risk of Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy.”

The most important things you can do to protect your baby while they sleep are:

  • P. Position: Lay baby flat on his or her back to sleep, face up towards the heavens.
  • E. Eliminate: Smoking in pregnancy and protect baby with a smoke free whanau, whare and waka.
  • P. Place: Baby in his or her own baby bed, face clear of bedding.
  • E. Encourage and support mum, so that baby is breastfed.

Paediatrician, and Child and Youth Mortality Review Committee chair Dr Nick Baker said, "The last 20 years have seen the dramatic reduction in the toll from SUDI in New Zealand fall from 200 to 60 deaths per annum.

"The reduction in mortality stems largely from the recognition that placing babies to sleep on their backs reduced the risk of death from SUDI.

"It can be calculated that approximately 3000 infants in New Zealand have survived who would have otherwise died over the past 20 years."

He said for some of our whanau having baby in bed with them is a common practice.

"We understand that a lot of families want to be close to their babies, want to hold them and protect them, for some it is simply done because the house is too cold and baby may be warmer next to parents.

"We understand, and for many of us this is a practice that has been done in our own family. But bed sharing with baby, is increasingly recognised as dangerous for our pepe," he said.

Research shows that 86% of deaths due to unintentional suffocation, occur when baby is not in their own baby bed. Sixty percent of deaths occur through "overlaying" - where the whole or part of someone else’s body makes it hard for the baby to breathe, covering the face, flexing the neck or applying pressure to the chest or abdomen.

Dr Baker said the safest place for a baby to sleep is a cot or bassinette on their own but for families who want to have baby in bed with them, a wahakura, Pepe-pod or Moses basket can help provide a protected sleep space.

Having their own sleeping space to protect babies from SUDI is especially important if the baby has been exposed to smoking during pregnancy, as smoke exposure reduces the babies "drive to breathe".

With less drive to breathe their airways are easily compromised during bedsharing, rolling on their tummies from a side position or from being smothered by bedding or wedged as they do not fight to live as well as other babies and quietly suffocate.

- Ends-

For more information please contact:

Louise McLean
PA to Director of Nursing & Midwifery and Acting GM Hospital Services
t: (03) 769 7887
Corporate Office | West Coast District Health Board | Grey Base Hospital, PO Box 387, Greymouth 7840

Back to the Media Releases Archive