'Pod' leads to drop in cot death cases

'Pod' leads to drop in cot death cases

Experts say a huge drop in the sudden deaths of high-risk babies is all down to one new innovation.

They say 25 babies are being saved every year by being placed in hand-woven or plastic pods on their parents' beds and even more lives could be saved.

Parents want to bond with their babies but up to half of sudden unexpected deaths in infancy are down to unintentional suffocation in bed. The sleeping pods offer a solution.

"[It] enables mothers to take their babies to bed with them and sleep with them, giving the advantages of bonding and breastfeeding, but it also is protecting the babies from accidental suffocation," says child health researcher Professor Ed Mitchell.

The kuia of Ngati Porou helped come up with the idea of the wahakura, which were a hit from the start.

"Partly because the baby can still sleep with Mum and Dad in their bed, in the bed with Mum and Dad, and also because the baby's safe, it's easy for breastfeeding," says Kathrine Clarke.

It's so easy they can hardly make them fast enough.

"Partly because it connects them to their culture, it's got a more organic feel about it," she says. "The smell, just the whole feel, was quite different."

The pepi pod and the wahakura cost around the same to make, but many young Maori families are opting for the wahakura, which would take a good weaver around two to three hours to make. But an expectant mother with the help of a weaver could make one in around a day – a day that could save a baby's life.

It's a 30 percent drop in five years, which Professor Ed Mitchell attributes solely to the programmes aimed only at the most vulnerable babies in disadvantaged Maori communities.

"Any baby that is being exposed to smoke during pregnancy is at risk. Those babies that are born small are at risk. I'd like to see this programme targeting all these groups."

Thanks to the current programme, sudden unexpected deaths have fallen by 25 a year. If it were expanded, Professor Mitchell says that figure could fall by another 25 to just 10.

3 News