Key points to remember
- every year, too many New Zealand babies die suddenly during sleep
- many of these deaths can be prevented
How can you help protect your baby from dying suddenly in their sleep?
- making sure baby is in their own bed for every sleep (and close to parents/caregivers at night)
- making sure baby is on their back for every sleep
- keeping baby smokefree from the start
- breastfeeding your baby
- immunising your baby on time
The information in this page describes the best ways to protect your baby from dying suddenly in their sleep. It aligns with the Child and Youth Mortality Review Committee publication, Special Report: Unintentional suffocation, foreign body inhalation and strangulation March 2013.
Make every sleep a safe sleep
Always follow these safe sleep routines for your baby and your baby's bed.
Make sure your baby is safe
- always sleeps on their back to keep their airways clear
- is in their own bassinet, cot or other baby bed – free from adults or children who might accidentally suffocate them
- has a parent/caregiver who is alert to their needs and free from alcohol or drugs
Make sure your baby's bed is safe
Your baby's bed:
- has a firm and flat mattress – to keep baby's airways open
has no gaps between the frame and the mattress – that could trap or wedge baby
has nothing in the bed that might cover baby's face or lift their head – no pillows, toys, loose bedding or bumper pads
is close to their parents/caregivers at night for the first 6 months of life
Your lead maternity carer (LMC) will check baby's sleep space for safety at their scheduled first home visit after baby's birth. They'll enter the information in the 'First week assessment' page of your 'My health book'. Click on the image to the right.
Make sure your baby is healthy and strong
Your baby is:
- smokefree in pregnancy and after birth – protecting their lungs and airways
- exclusively breastfed to around 6 months of age and continues to be breastfed to 12 months of age
- immunised on time
If you choose to sleep in bed with your baby, put them in their own baby bed beside you – for example, a pepi pod® (below left) or wahakura (below right). This will help reduce the risk of your baby suffocating while they are asleep.
- information about using a wahakura at the Whakawhetu National SUDI Prevention for Māori website
- information about using a pepi pod® at www.pepipod.co.nz
It is never safe to put your baby to sleep in an adult bed, on a couch or on a chair.
Car seats or capsules protect your baby when travelling in the car. Don’t use them as a cot or bassinet.
If you need financial assistance so that baby can have their own bed, you may be eligible for help from Work and Income. For more information visit the Work and Income website or call 0800 559 009.
Protect your baby's head shape
When your baby is sleeping, turn their head so that sometimes they face left and sometimes they face right.
Tummy time while baby is awake will help protect their head shape and make their arms strong.
- back for sleep
- front for play
- upright for cuddles and hugs
For more information, see:
- speak to your midwife, Well Child Tamariki Ora nurse, doctor or practice nurse
- ring PlunketLine on 0800 933 922
- check pages 122 - 123 from your 'My health book' ('Protect your baby from sudden unexpected death in infancy')
Reproduced from the pamphlet Keep your baby safe during sleep (Ministry of Health, Health Promotion Agency, The Child and Youth Mortality Review Committee, Well Child Tamariki Ora Programme, and The Office of the Chief Coroner of New Zealand), revised March 2015.
Our thanks to Change for our Children for permission to reproduce the photo of the pepi-pod®.
© Paediatric Society of New Zealand and Starship Foundation 2005 – 2015
Printed on 02 July 2015. Content is regularly updated so please refer to www.kidshealth.org.nz for the most up-to-date version