Wahakura / Pepi-pod FAQs

What is a wahakura/pepi-pod?

A wahakura is a woven bassinet like structure intended as a safe sleeping space for an infant from birth to 6 months of age. A pepi-pod is a plastic version of the wahakura made from polypropylene. 

Why have a wahakura?

To decrease risk of Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy (SUDI). Risk of SUDI is doubled if the mother smokes in pregnancy but goes up by eight times if the mother who smoked in pregnancy bed-shares with her baby. A wahakura/pepi-pod removes much of the risk of a shared bed by providing a safe place to sleep.

Where do I get a wahakura?

A wahakura is easy to make if you have a weaver in the family. Instructions on how to make your own wahakura can be found here. In addition many infant health care (Tamariki Ora) providers will have wahakura/pepi-pods that you can borrow/hire for 6 months.

What is SUDI?

Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy (SUDI) is an umbrella term that describes the death of an infant which was not anticipated as a significant possibility 24 hours before the death, or where there was a similarly unexpected collapse leading to or precipitating the events which led to the death. When a baby between 1 month and 1 year dies in its sleep and no cause is found for the death, then it is labelled a SUDI – Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy.

What is the cause of SUDI?

Babies, like all other animals, have a natural drive to breathe. In a SUDI death, the baby stops breathing in its sleep for some unknown reason. There are a number of things that increase SUDI risk:

  • re-breathing its own air
  • smoking in pregnancy
  • overheating
  • blockage of the airways.

Any one of these may cause the baby to stop breathing - more likely if two or more of these things are happening at once. However, some babies do not seem to have any of these problems.

How does a wahakura/pepi-pod protect a baby from SUDI?

The wahakura/pepi-pod provides a safe sleeping environment. It will not allow blankets to cover a baby’s face, it keeps the parents a little distance away, there are no foreign objects in the wahakura/pepi-pod like soft toys or cot bumpers, and so fresh air can easily flow around a baby’s face. This means that baby has a good temperature.

Why do Māori babies die with SUDI at such a high rate?

SUDI risk is high where the mother smoked in pregnancy and bed-sharing occurs. This is a common occurrence for Māori mothers and babies.

Do I need a wahakura/pepi-pod if I didn’t smoke in pregnancy?

SUDI risk is reduced where there was no smoking in pregnancy. However, a wahakura/pepi-pod has other very positive effects, such as making breast feeding easier, which you may not want to miss out on.

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