Whanganui community midwives are busy distributing 18 beautifully made babies quilts gifted to expectant mothers by Cotton On Quilters' Whanganui group.

Whanganui District Health Board (WDHB) maternity services quality co-ordinator Angela Adam says the midwives identify women who know that woollen blankets are best for babies, but have indicated that cost is a barrier.

Mrs Adam says that after finding second-hand woollen blankets and flannelette sheets, the quilters place three layers - a top, batting and backing - which they sew together to create a warm quilt.

"The WDHB's maternity service and midwives are very grateful to the Cotton On Quilters and other groups and individuals who make blankets for our babies," Mrs Adam says.

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"The message we're keen to spread is that babies' blankets need to be woollen. We need people to move away from acrylic and polar fleece blankets."

Early last year, Whanganui midwives attracted national and international media exposure with their warning about the dangers of wrapping babies in plastic-based polar fleece blankets that don't breathe.

"We know polar fleece blankets are made from items such as recycled bags and plastic bottles and that this can lead to babies overheating, sweating, then getting too cold because their sweat won't evaporate," Mrs Adam says.

"Because we know that overheating and getting too cold can contribute to Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy [SUDI] in infancy, my midwifery colleagues and I are urging parents not to use them.

"I don't think the general public realise exactly what polar fleece blankets are made of and how they can cause babies to overheat. It's concerning that babies wrapped in polar fleece have no air circulating around their bodies."

While there's no confirmation that polar fleece blankets contribute to SUDI from overheating, Mrs Adam says babies look like "little beetroots" when they're wrapped up in polar fleece.

"It's worrying that a polar fleece blanket can be bunched up, water poured inside it and there's no leakage due to it being non-breathable.

"Raising awareness about how dangerous polar fleece blankets can be is now an integral part of the Whanganui midwives' efforts to encourage safe sleeping."

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