Fewer babies dying in sleep despite recent incident – MoH

Fewer babies dying in sleep despite recent incident – MoH

Parents are heeding safe-sleep advice and fewer babies are dying in their sleep, the Ministry of Health says.

The statement came after the sentencing on Thursday of a 27-year-old Hastings mother after her baby girl died while sleeping with her and a sibling in the same bed.

The mother woke on the morning of October 22, 2013 to discover her daughter was unresponsive, and her two-year-old son's arm was over the baby's face. They were all sharing a queen-sized bed.

The baby was born prematurely and a family safety plan was prepared but police found a pepi-pod given to the family by health authorities unused in the bedroom.

The cause of death was determined as sudden unexpected death in infancy, SUDI.

The Ministry of Health says overall the number of babies dying suddenly in their sleep is falling.

Figures just released from the Health Quality Safety Commission for 2014 show 40 babies died in 2014 from SUDI. On average, there were 47 deaths per year in the five years to 2014.

During the past five years, there have been 42 fewer SUDI deaths among Maori families and 34 fewer deaths among non-Maori babies, compared to the five years to 2009.

A Child and Youth Mortality Review Committee report released earlier this year said almost half of SUDI deaths are due to accidental suffocation.

"The reduction in the toll is thought to be thanks to the concerted efforts of health professionals and communities in sharing advice about how to keep babies safe while sleeping and making sure that every baby has a safe place to sleep," says Dr Pat Tuohy, the ministry's chief adviser for child and youth health.

This year the government boosted efforts to reduce SUDI deaths with an additional $800,000 given to District Health Boards to reduce SUDI and address associated risk factors.

About 60 percent of New Zealand families have infant sleep arrangements checked for safety and safe sleep information is provided in the first seven weeks of life.

The issue of safe sleeping arrangements for babies was also highlighted on Friday by the national Maori SUDI prevention organisation, Whakawhetu, as it marked safe sleep day.

Maori have developed the wahakura, a woven flax pod that keeps babies safe when they are in bed with adults.