15 Jun 2017

Govt urged to fund pēpi pods in traditional style

5:51 pm on 15 June 2017

A nationwide rollout of baby sleeping pods should not exclude the woven-flax wahakura style, a Māori health specialist says.

baby in sleeping pod

Photo: Whakawhetū

In a bid to reduce the number of babies suffocating in bed with their parents, the government is to fund pēpi pods, which allow for safe bed sharing.

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman has announced plastic pēpi pods would be rolled out nationally but could not confirm whether wahakura would be too.

Between 40 and 50 babies die each year in New Zealand from Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy (SUDI).

Māori babies make up 60 percent of SUDI deaths.

Eastern Institute of Technology professor David Tipene Leach, a leading Māori specialist on SUDI prevention, said wahakura must be funded.

"Those who are most at risk are ... the ones who are going to require the most Māori approach with a safe sleeping space," he said.

"I think with the wahakura, with its Māori-ness around it, it is the safe sleeping device that will do that."

Wahakura are woven from harakeke flax using traditional Māori customs.

Prof Leach said wahakura were about the same price as a platic pēpi pod, so the cost would not be a factor in not offering them.

"As far as him not being 1000 percent sure that wahakura are part of the mix ... he is probably just not yet sure exactly what is going to happen on the ground," he said.

"I am looking forward to the wahakura playing the appropriate role in this programme as it all rolls out."

The government's rollout, combined with a move to help pregnant women quit smoking, aims to reduce the rate of Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy by 86 percent by 2025, from 44 to six deaths per year.

Parents who want to bed share with their babies would need a referral from their GP to get a pēpi pod. Other criteria for getting the pods are yet to be confirmed.

Minister Coleman said there were many factors that needed to be worked through before the programme is launched in September.