Marcus Tuwairua (33) and Hana Park (31), of Waitati, sing
to their 9-week-old son Rokomai Aniwaniwa Tuwairua at Te
Hou Ora Whanau Services in Dunedin this week. Photo by
Babies are suffocating and need their own safe sleeping
space, University of Auckland School of Population health
programme manager Keith Gell says.
Mr Gell, of Auckland, said about 65 babies younger than 1
died in New Zealand each year from sudden unexpected death in
SUDI, also known as SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) and
cot death, is defined as the sudden and unexplained death of
an infant during sleep, including deaths from unintentional
About 60% of the deaths are Maori babies.
Bed-sharing and poverty were contributing factor to the
deaths and the babies of mothers under the age of 25 were
most at risk.
Figures recently released by the Health Ministry show that
between 2006 and 2010 one baby died from SUDI per 1667 births
in Southland. . In Otago, one baby died from SUDI from 3334
Although the rates were lower in Otago and Southland than
most of New Zealand, the ''safe sleep'' message needed
promotion, Mr Gell said.
''One baby death is too many.''
Northland had the highest rate of 2.3 deaths per 1000 births.
An intervention measure 20 years ago of promoting babies
sleeping on their backs had saved 3000 babies' lives, he
To reduce the death rate further, babies needed to sleep in
their own beds and be in a smoke-free environment.
Mothers who smoked during pregnancy posed a greater risk,
because babies became accustomed to being deprived of oxygen,
which slowed their reaction time in a compromised position.
''The baby gets used to not having oxygen in the womb, so
when they're born and they get in a position of compromise -
a blanket might cover them, or they roll up against a parent
- they don't react to it and cry because they are used to not
having oxygen and they slowly go to sleep and never wake
About half of Maori women smoked during pregnancy, compared
with about 20% European women, he said.
Te Hou Ora Whanau Services manager Terri-Lee Nyman said she
would be in Wall Street mall between 10am and 3pm today
to promote ''Safe Sleep Day'' which highlights the importance
of a baby sleeping in its own cot or bed.
A smoke-free pregnancy and environment would be promoted and
information on ways to change habits would be available, she
''We want to promote that whanau have opportunities to seek
help if they want to give up smoking, drinking and
These six conditions help protect babies from sudden
unexpected death in infancy (SUDI).
- A smoke-free pregnancy and household.
- On their back for sleeping.
- Breast-feeding your baby.
- When asleep, a clear face and head free from hazards that
can lead to suffocation.
- Sleeping with baby in your room for the first 6
- Ensuring your baby sleeps in its own bed.