Special baby bed linked to fall in infant deaths

By Rebecca Malcolm

Areas taking part in a programme where special baby beds are handed out to at-risk families are seeing a reduction in the number of infants dying - but Lakes District Health Board says it is too early to know what the impact is locally.

Studies show that infant mortality rates for those under 1 have dropped in the five regions using the pepi pods - a portable, baby-sized bed which enables babies aged up to 6 months to have their own space and be close beside a caring adult at all times, yet safe from suffocation.

The drop comes as research this week showed that bed sharing between adults and young babies multiplies the child's risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome five times, even if the parent is a non-smoker and hasn't consumed drugs or alcohol.

Infant deaths dropped from 12 in 2010, to 11 in 2011 and seven last year. However these figures include all deaths of those under 1 and not just those related to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

Pepi pods have been handed out to vulnerable Rotorua babies as part of an initiative between the Rotorua Child Health Trust and Lakes District Health Board.

Earlier this year the trust, chaired by community paediatrician Dr Johan Morreau, funded another 100 bed pods. So far about 40 of the pepi pods have been handed out.

Spokeswoman Shan Tapsell said the pepi pods weren't for all babies. "They are a public health solution to the increased risk of sudden infant death for certain babies in certain conditions."

She said the babies who benefited most were those with a weakened drive to breathe due to smoking in pregnancy, being premature, a low birth weight, formula-fed or some other reason.

Those babies had a weakened "wake-up response" compared with other babies and are slow to detect danger when oxygen levels reduce, she said.

The health board's safe sleeping co-ordinator and midwife Gwen Baars has championed the pepi pods.

"All people in all cultures need to know these messages to help protect babies [from sudden unexpected death in infancy]. The idea of the pepi pods is to have settled babies, more aware parents and the spread of safe sleep information across the community. We want every sleep to be a safe and smokefree sleep."

- Rotorua Daily Post

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