Research backs flax bassinets for safer sleeping

  • 10/01/2017

Latest research shows wahakura, or flax bassinets, are as safe as their regular counterparts.

With Māori babies being five times more likely than non-Māori to die from sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI), wahakura is one culturally appropriate solution which now has new paperwork to back it up.

The traditional flax bassinets made a comeback around 10 years ago in response to the rising rates of Māori sudden infant deaths.

They're an alternative to direct bed sharing, which is popular among Māori, but it's only now that research has been completed by the University of Otago and Otago Polytechnic into their safety.

"We had comprehensive questions and the video footage and look at the behaviour overnight, and what we found was there was no different from sleeping in the wahakura or when the baby was sleeping the bassinet," says Otago Polytechnic Associate Professor Sally Baddock.

Smoking and then sharing beds with infants can increase the risk for babies, so new mum Arnia Appleby gave up smoking when she fell pregnant and makes sure she uses her wahakura in bed.

"My baby wakes up at about 3am and gets into mum and dad's bed, but we won't put him in bed unless he's in his wahakura," she told Newshub.

The Ministry of Health is currently developing a national Safe Sleep programme and this research will add weight to the benefits of the Māori bassinets.

"It now provides evidence to health professionals and gives families the confidence that they can use them if they wish," Assoc Prof Baddock says.