23 Dec 2009

Safe sleeping arrangements urged for babies

10:16 pm on 23 December 2009

Child health experts say parents must avoid using carseats and couches as beds for babies.

The fifth report of the Child and Youth Mortality Review Committee says 60 babies under one year of age die in New Zealand every year from Sudden Unexplained Death in Infancy, or SUDI.

It says this is a major improvement from the early 1990s when 200 babies a year died from SUDI.

But the report highlights an unacceptably high death toll from unintentional injury involving cars, poisoning and drowning.

It also says far too many babies are still dying because they're being put to sleep the wrong way.

Committee chair Nick Baker says more needs to be done to prevent deaths due to unsafe sleeping practices, especially for Maori and Pacific families.

"We've known since the early nineties that infants should sleep on their backs, that they need a firm surface to sleep on and there should be nothing that could impair their airway."

He also says babies should not be able to fall or get trapped between a mattress or a bed and a wall.

Dr Baker says a safe place to sleep is as important for infants as a safe seat in a car.

The committee says fencing laws for private pools have worked in preventing drownings, but a law change is needed to ensure fences are maintained.