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Recommended reading Sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI) Stages: Birth to 2 months Stages: 3 to 6 months

Sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI), which used to be called ‘SIDS’ (sudden infant death syndrome) or ‘cot death’, is where babies die suddenly and unexpectedly in their sleep.

Preventing SUDI

The Ministry of Health website tells us that in baby’s first 6 months most of these deaths are preventable — if parents:

  • have baby sleep in the same room as them
  • keep smoke-free — or if they aren’t smoke-free, baby sleeps in their own bed
  • put baby to bed on their back, to keep their airways clear
  • ensure baby sleeps with their face clear
  • choose breast feeding for baby
  • ensure baby’s immunisations are kept up-to-date.

Following safe sleep routines

For some babies the cause of death is never found. But most deaths happen when babies are sleeping in an unsafe way. It is very important to follow safe sleep routines. This means that babies are:

  • in their own bassinet, cot or other baby bed (for example, a Pēpi-Pod® or wahakura), and away from adults or children who might accidentally suffocate them
  • put back in their own bed after feeding, and not kept in bed with mum and dad who may fall back to sleep with them (feeding in a chair rather than the bed can also protect mum’s back)
  • always with someone who is alert to their needs and free from alcohol and drugs
  • kept at a comfortable temperature — one more layer of bedding or clothing than an adult would wear is enough; too many layers can make baby hot and upset
  • in a room where the temperature is kept at around 20°C.

To check baby’s temperature, feel the back of their neck or their tummy (under the clothes). They should feel warm, but not hot or cold. They’ll feel comfortable when their hands and feet are a bit colder than their body.

Choosing a good bed for baby

Ensure baby’s bed has:

  • a firm and flat mattress to keep baby’s airways open
  • no gaps between the bed frame and the mattress that could trap or wedge baby
  • gaps no wider than 50–95 mm between the bars of their cot — closer to 50 mm is best
  • nothing in it that might cover their face, lift their head or choke them
  • no pillows, toys, loose bedding, bumper pads or necklaces (including amber beads and ‘teething’ necklaces).

Also, make sure to keep:

  • baby’s feet close to the end of the bed so they can’t burrow under the blankets
  • baby in the same room as parents (or whoever looks after them at night) for their first 6 months.

Sleeping with baby

It’s never safe to put a young baby to sleep in an adult bed, on a couch or an armchair. If parents do choose to sleep with them, it’s much safer for baby to be in their own baby bed beside them.

Bassinets for baby

Whānau can use a Pēpi-Pod® or wahakura to decrease the risk of baby suffocating while their parents are asleep.

Information about using a Pēpi-Pod® or wahakura is available online — see the Whakawhetū website and the Pēpi-Pod® Sleep Space Programme.

If parents don’t have a baby bed, contact local midwives or Well Child/Tamariki Ora providers. They may be able to help.

If parents are on a low income, they can apply for a Special Needs Grant from Work and Income to buy a bed. Follow the link, or call 0800 559 009.

Car seats and capsules protect a baby when travelling in the car. Don’t use them as a cot or bassinet. They’re not safe for a baby to sleep in.


Further information

  • For health advice, call Healthline on 0800 611 116

  • For parenting advice, call PlunketLine on 0800 933 922

  • Ministry of Health: Your child — Safe sleep (video, 4 min 32 sec)

  • National SUDI Prevention online training.  This online training is easy to access and will help all whānau supporters to best support those with young babies.  Preventing SUDI is important.  Go to the site and register online to access and complete the course  now-live


Tips for Whānau supporters

For more information, please visit the Whānau Supporters page.