The Fono

Health & Social Services

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Safe Sleep

Safe sleeping for baby is important because it helps prevent Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy (SUDI). Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy (SUDI for short) is the term used to describe a variety of sudden and unexpected deaths of infants - whether explained or unexplained - in the first year of life.

Every year, 60 babies die from SUDI in New Zealand and most of these are Maori. Ensuring every sleep is a safe sleep for baby is The Fono’s focus.

SUDI is the most common cause of death for babies under the age of 12 months and can occur when a baby's breathing is compromised through unsafe sleep practices.

Unsafe sleep practices, such as sleeping with baby in the same sleep space or putting baby to sleep on their front or side, may happen for a number of reasons – often whanau just don’t understand or are unaware of the risks.

Make sure that your baby is safe

To keep your baby safe while sleeping, make sure:

  • They always sleep on their back to keep their airways clear
  • They are in their own bassinet, cot or other baby bed (eg, pēpi-pod® or wahakura) – free from adults or children who might accidentally suffocate them 
  • They are put back in their own bed after feeding – don’t fall asleep with them (to protect your back, feed your baby in a chair rather than in your bed) 
  • They have someone looking after them who is alert to their needs and free from alcohol or drugs
  • They have clothing and bedding that keeps them at a comfortable temperature – one more layer of clothing than you would wear is enough; too many layers can make your baby hot and upset them 
  • They are in a room where the temperature is kept at 20°C. 
  • You can check that your baby is warm but not too hot by feeling the back of their neck or their tummy (under the clothes). Baby should feel warm, but not hot or cold. Your baby will be comfortable when their hands and feet are a bit colder than their body.

Make sure that your baby’s bed is safe

Baby’s bed is safe when:

  • It has a firm and flat mattress to keep your baby’s airways open
  • There are no gaps between the bed frame and the mattress that could trap or wedge your baby
  • The gaps between the bars of baby’s cot are between 50 mm and 95 mm – try to get one with the gaps closer to 50 mm if you can
  • There is nothing in the bed that might cover your baby’s face, lift their head or choke them – no pillows, toys, loose bedding, bumper pads or necklaces (including amber beads and ‘teething’ necklaces)
  • Baby has their feet close to the end of the bed so they can’t burrow under the blankets
  • Baby is in the same room as you or the person looking after them at night for their first 6 months of life
  • It is never safe to put your baby to sleep in an adult bed, on a couch or on a chair

If you choose to sleep in bed with your baby, put them in their own baby bed beside you – for example, a pēpi-pod® or wahakura. This will help to reduce the risk of your baby suffocating while they are asleep.

Car seats and capsules

  • Car seats or capsules protect your baby when travelling in the car. Don’t use them as a cot or bassinet.
  • Car seats and capsules are not safe for your baby to sleep in when you are at home or at your destination.

More help?

If you don’t have a baby bed, talk to us at The Fono. If you are on a low income, you may be able to get a Special Needs Grant from Work and Income to buy a bed.

Find out more

Healthy Babies Healthy Futures