In New Zealand, Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy (SUDI) is one of the leading causes of death among infants who are one to 12 months old. It claims the lives of around 45 infants each year.
SUDI is the sudden death of an infant which remains unexplained after a thorough case investigation, including performance of a complete autopsy, examination of the death scene and review of the clinical history.
Although research has not yet uncovered the cause of SUDI, it has identified risk factors associated to when and how babies are sleeping and ways parents can help reduce the risk of SUDI happening to their child.
The six key points that highlight ways parents can help reduce the risk of sudden unexpected infant death are:
1. Sleep your baby on their back from birth
Sleeping your baby on their back from birth, not on their stomach or side, helps reduce the risk of Sudden Unexpected Deaths in Infancy (SUDI). The chance of babies dying suddenly and unexpectedly is greater if they sleep on their stomachs or sides. Put your baby on the back to sleep from birth on a firm, flat surface.
2. Sleep your baby with their head & face uncovered
Your baby’s face and head needs to stay uncovered while they’re sleeping as this reduces the risk of SUDI. Keep your baby’s head uncovered while they are indoors, no head coverings including bonnets, beanies, hoods and hats.
When laying your baby down to sleep, put your baby’s feet at the bottom of their cot/wahakura/pepi-pod so they can’t slip down under their blankets.
3. Keep your baby smoke free before & after they’re born
Cigarette smoke harms babies before and after their birth. This includes smoke from tobacco and marijuana. Parents who smoke during pregnancy and after the baby is born increase the risk of sudden infant death for their baby.
4. Provide a safe sleeping environment night & day
To be able to sleep safely, babies need a safe cot, safe mattress, safe bedding and a safe sleeping place night and day. See wahakura/pepi-pod.
5. Room-sharing with your baby
Its recommended that parents sleep their baby in their own safe sleeping place in the same room as an adult care-giver for the first 6 to 12 months. Room-sharing with a baby reduces the risk of SUDI.
6. Breastfeeding your baby if you can
Breastfeeding has been shown to reduce infant illness and death worldwide.