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Raising awareness and prevention of SUDI


Between 40-50 babies die each year from SUDI (Sudden Unexplained Death of an Infant), and most are preventable!

“All Babies’ need their parents help to ensure they are slept comfortably and safely as they are unable do this for themselves.”, says Liz Pearce, Parent Education & Operations Manager at Parents Centre New Zealand. “They have huge physical differences from adults making them vulnerable to incorrect sleep positions; The differences include largely proportioned heads, limited neck strength, being nose-only breathers, larger tongues, smaller faces and loose jaw joints”.

National Safe Sleep Day - Te Rā Mokopuna on 7th December aims to raise awareness about SUDI to all parents throughout Aotearoa. SUDI is a term which refers to the unexpected death of an infant through unintentional suffocation and previously unidentified illnesses in the babies affected. Current data says approximately 40-50 babies are lost every year as a result of SUDI. By implementing the right steps, the risk factors can be significantly reduced.

SUDI is preventable and Parents Centre New Zealand work hard to provide education and support to parents, through our Pregnancy & Childbirth (Antenatal) programme and beyond, encouraging them to follow safe sleep guidelines in order to reduce the risk of SUDI.

By following these 6 principles, a baby’s life can be protected:

Face Up: For all sleeps baby must be slept on its back. Their wake-up reflex is strongest in this position. Since babies have been slept on their back the rates of SUDI has dropped dramatically.
Face Clear: Baby must be free of all loose coverings, including bibs, pillows, loose swaddling, loose sheets, bumpers, soft surfaces, teddies and toys.
Smoke free: Smoking in pregnancy reduces oxygen to the baby, impacting on its development in many areas. The baby becomes used to low oxygen and once born, is less likely to trigger its wake reflex in low oxygen, alarm situations. Once born it is equally important that baby continues to live smoke-free.
Breastfed: A breastfed baby has a stronger immune system, will get sick less often, and has strengthened vital systems.
Close by with own space: Sleeping baby close to caregivers and in their own space protects babies from SUDI. It allows baby to be close enough to alert you of their need and for you to respond. It also ensures they have their own safe space specific to their needs as a baby.
Handled gently: Gentle handling protects babies from brain damage at a critical stage. Never shake a baby. Even a single shake can cause bleeding in and around the brain.
Babies who are most vulnerable to SUDI are those where the 6 principles above have not been followed, they’re under the age of 12 months, babies born before 36 weeks, birth weight less than 2,500grams, influence of drink/drugs.


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