James Ihaka

James Ihaka is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

Closing the gaps: Baby safety message getting through

Shayle Pilcher and her son Floyd in a wahakura (woven bassinet) made by his dad Paul.
Shayle Pilcher and her son Floyd in a wahakura (woven bassinet) made by his dad Paul.

Shayle Pilcher admits to having slept in the same bed with at least one of her babies - by accident and through sheer exhaustion.

The Kaeo mother of three girls and a baby boy named Floyd says that in the past she had been so tired that while breastfeeding she occasionally got her baby into bed with her before she dozed off.

"The only reason I have ever shared a bed is for breastfeeding or I've been too tired to get into a chair but there have been times where I've dozed off with baby and woken up thinking 's***!"'

Ms Pilcher, who is in her early 30s, thinks messages about bed-sharing and other behaviours that could harm infants are hitting the mark as new figures show Maori infant mortality rates have plummeted to their lowest levels.

The rate is just above five deaths per 1000 infants born, which is marginally ahead of that of non-Maori.

Miss Pilcher learned through Plunket visits and workshops about the importance of not sharing a bed and making her home totally smoke-free to provide a safe environment.

Her husband Paul helped weave a wahakura - a woven bassinet - for their niece's newborn baby.

"I've been educated and know the reason for not smoking is that the baby gets used to having a lack of oxygen and then, if for some reason they are getting suffocated, they won't cry out. It's sort of normal for them and their chances of cot death are higher.

"We had always wrapped our babies from birth and always slept them on their sides because I thought it would be more comfortable for their pukus [stomachs]. But with Floyd I have listened to people better and slept him on his back."

She recommends keeping objects in a baby's cot to a bare minimum with no more than an undersheet and a blanket where they sleep.

"Some people were also saying 'lay off the alcohol' but if you do want to, or feel the need to, surely you can find someone else to look after your baby."

- NZ Herald

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