If you choose to share your bed with your baby, keep them safe by giving them their own safe space, such as a wahakura or pepi-pod.
Some parents or caregivers choose to share their bed with their baby for cultural or other reasons. There are several benefits associated with this including helping the baby settle and sleep better, providing a sense of warmth and security and promoting bonding and breastfeeding.
Other parents choose to have their baby in their room but in a bassinet or cot next to their bed. Either way, it’s recommended your baby sleeps in the same room as the person looking after them at night for the first 6 months.
If you do choose to share your bed with your baby, you need to give them their own safe space on your bed. This can be done by using a wahakura, pepi-pod or similar safe-sleep device.
Using a safe-sleep device when sharing a bed helps reduce the risk of accidental suffocation or sudden unexplained death in infancy (SUDI). Babies are most at risk of SUDI when they are under 12 months of age, and the rate of SUDI is higher in Māori infants than non-Māori infants.
Here are our top tips for how to share a bed safely with your baby and to reduce the risk of SUDI.
Use a wahakura
A wahakura is a small, flax-woven bed that can be fitted with a mattress that allows parents to have their baby in their bed but contained in a safe space. This helps protect against accidental suffocation caused by a parent or caregiver rolling onto their baby, or the baby being smothered by blankets. Wahakura were piloted in Gisborne in 2006 and Hawke’s Bay in 2007 and later rolled out around other parts of the country.
Use a pepi-pod
Pepi-pods are made from polypropylene plastic that can be fitted with a mattress and bedding. Like the wahakura, they are placed on the parent’s bed but provide a buffer of protection against accidental suffocation.
Put baby to sleep on their back
Put your baby to sleep on their back with their feet right at the foot of their sleeping place. This helps to keep their airways clear and stop them burrowing under the blankets. Always put your baby back to sleep in their sleeping place (i.e. wahakura or pepe-pod) after feeding so you don’t fall asleep on them.
Having a smoke-free home and car keeps your baby free from second-hand cigarette smoke, which is very harmful to them. Also, ensure the person looking after your baby is free from drugs and alcohol so they can be alert to your baby’s needs.
Breastfeed your baby
If possible, breastfeed only for the first 6 months. It’s advisable to keep breastfeeding until your baby is a year old if you can because breastfeeding helps protect your baby against SUDI.
Uncovered head and face
Make sure your baby’s head and face are free from things that may suffocate them like a pillow, bumper pad or hat. Don’t put any stuffed toys or playthings in your baby’s sleeping place that they could suffocate or choke on, including teething necklaces.
Your baby needs to be kept at a comfortable temperature so they don’t overheat. Make sure your baby doesn’t have too many clothes or blankets on. Having your baby in one more layer of clothing than you would wear is a good guide.
Firm and well-fitting mattress
Having a firm, flat mattress helps keep your baby’s airways open and stops them rolling. Make sure there are no gaps between your baby’s mattress and the side of the wahakura or pepi-pod.
National Safe Sleep Device Quality Specification Guidelines Ministry of Health NZ
Keeping baby safe in bed: the first 6 weeks Ministry of Health NZ