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Wahakura / Pepi-pod

The wahakura (pepi-pod) - the safe bed-sharing project

Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy (SUDI) can be a frightening topic for new parents to think about. Sadly, each year in New Zealand 60 to 70 babies die suddenly when they sleep. Most of these can be prevented.

One way to lower SUDI risk is through the use of a wahakura. A wahakura is a woven flax bassinet for infants up to 5-6 months of age. A pepi-pod is a plastic version of the wahakura made from polypropylene.

This return to a traditional Māori way of sleeping babies creates a safe sleeping space for your baby, protects your baby from SUDI and prevents accidental suffocation. It also promotes breast-feeding and bonding with your baby.

Wahakura and pepi-pods help to prevent vulnerable babies from accidental suffocation when sleeping in or on an adult beds, couches or makeshift beds.

Safe sleeping rules for the wahakura/pepi-pod

Always sleep your baby on their back - this gives protection from SUDI.

  • Sleep on a firm mattress - babies can turn face down in a soft mattress and suffocate.
  • Don’t use a pillow - pillows may cause your baby’s head to come forward and block the airway, they can also turn over into the soft pillow and suffocate.
  • Keep your baby’s face clear of blankets - place your baby to sleep with their feet near the bottom end of the wahakura to make it harder for your baby to move downwards in their sleep and end up under the blankets.
  • There should be no gaps between the mattress and wahakura – your baby might roll into and become stuck in the gap. A very thin mattress (20-25mm) is best, with a cotton cover.
  • There should be no loose articles in the wahakura - blankets, pillows or soft toys can cause suffocation.
  • Never let your baby sleep with any adult who is exhausted, drunk or drugged - babies can be laid on and suffocated by these adults.

If you leave the wahakura behind

  • Never put your baby to sleep alone on an adult bed - the pillows and heavy blankets pose a suffocation risk without you there to watch and protect baby.
  • Never sleep with your baby on a sofa, or in a waterbed – the sleeping surface needs to be firm and flat otherwise babies suffocate in these places.
  • Never put your baby between you and the wall - babies can get squashed in and suffocate.
  • Babies should never sleep in a car seat - the head will drop forward and block the airway.
  • No loose strings nearby - strings or ties on clothing, cords for window blinds, mobiles that baby can reach are dangerous.
  • Never let other children sleep with your infant - children can also overlay and suffocate infants.

What about babies older than 6 months?

The wahakura/pepi-pod is designed for babies up to around 6 months. This is when the high risk of SUDI ends. ‘Community owned’ wahakura/pepi-pods will be retrieved by your health worker and given to another family for six months. Your own wahakura might serve all your children – or do the rounds inside the whanau. At six months old, your baby should move to another sleeping environment like a bassinet or cot.

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