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1500 Pēpi-pods to reduce infant death in Waikato

The free distribution of 1500 Pēpi-pod infant beds in the Waikato region is considered a “world-first” scale of investment in safe sleeping for the vulnerable young.

From tomorrow (4 May), about 20 distributors across the Waikato will begin providing Pēpi-pods to families that present one or more risk factors for Sudden Unexplained Death of an Infant (SUDI).

At-risk infants are those with a weakened drive to breathe. This is generally due to smoking exposure during pregnancy, premature birth, or formula feeding.

The Pēpi-pod comes in the form of a portable baby sized bed and includes a cover, fitted mattress, sheets and a merino blanket.

It offers babies aged 0-6 months a safe space when they sleep in or on an adult bed, on couches or in other places that run a high risk of accidental suffocation.

The concept was developed by ‘Change for our Children’s’ founding director Stephanie Cowan in response to the risk associated with bed sharing.

Bed sharing often stems from parents’ desire to be close to their babies, and is a practice that is particularly common in Maori communities.

Waikato District Health Board’s Māori Health Unit Te Puna Oranga secured funding for the Waikato Pēpi-pod rollout through Healthy Eating Healthy Action (HEHA) and breastfeeding funds after being inspired by the initial Christchurch Pēpi-pod distribution following the earthquakes last year.

Currently in New Zealand we have approximately 60 babies per year dying from SUDI,” said Waikato Hospital midwife Alys Brown.

“Eighty per cent of these babies are Maori and 80 per cent have been exposed to smoking during pregnancy.

“A baby’s own infant bed gives them physical protection, but parents must also provide the safe care: on the back, face clear, breastfed and smokefree. It’s a package deal.”

The distribution of Pēpi-pods is being treated as an opportunity to educate vulnerable whanau about protecting babies.

Eligible families will receive a Pepi-pod package that includes information on breastfeeding and Smokefree practises.

“If whanau understand these issues, and take steps to protect their babies, SUDI rates will drop naturally,” said Mrs Brown.

“In exchange for the Pepi-pod package, families are asked to help spread education about protecting babies as they sleep, to others in their networks. The intention is to create a sustainable learning process,” said Te Puna Oranga general manager Ditre Tamatea.

Mrs Cowan said the magnitude of the Waikato Pēpi-pod rollout shows a commitment to reducing sudden infant death that she believes is unmatched anywhere in the world.

“The region is showing spectacular health leadership. The magnitude of this rollout is a truly momentous thing,” she said.

Mr Tamatea said the roll out of Pepi-pods and safe sleeping messages to at risk whānau was part of a wider initiative called ‘Project Aroha’ which would focus on creating resilience amongst young whānau across a number of health priority areas.

ENDS

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