Sudden Unexpected Death of an Infant (SUDI)

SUDI can be a frightening topic for new parents to think about. Sadly, each year in New Zealand 40 to 50 babies die suddenly while they are sleeping. Most of these can be prevented. It is important to understand the facts and know what you can do to help protect your baby.

How can I help to protect my baby from SUDI?

All human babies, in all cultures and at all times, need these six conditions to protect their lives as they pass through the critical first 6 months:

  • My baby is smoke-free.

  • If not smoke-free, my baby always sleeps in ‘a baby bed’.

  • My baby lies flat, level and on their back.

  • My baby sleeps with a clear face and head.

  • My baby sleeps in the same room as me when I am also asleep.

  • My baby is breastfed.

These are essential principles of protection for all babies. Experts talk about avoiding the ‘triple risk’, when 3 risks come together to cause sudden infant death: a vulnerable baby, at a vulnerable age, in a vulnerable setting. You can read more about protecting your baby.

What if I want my baby to sleep in my bed?

If you want to sleep in the same bed or sleeping space as your baby, you will need to set it up to be ‘baby safe’, which means:

‘lying on the back + face stays clear + smoke-free’

More vulnerable babies need their own baby bed. It can be harder to control safety when you or others share a bed with a baby. People move, bedding shifts, tiredness varies. Babies are at different ages and stages of risk, and some babies have less ‘fight’ in them than others.

Talk with Plunket about what ‘baby safe’ means for your particular baby when they sleep.

Vulnerable babies

Risks may be built into the baby, the situation or the setting. The babies who will need the extra protection of their own baby bed every time and place they sleep, include:

  • babies of mothers who smoked during pregnancy (baby will have a damaged ‘wake up’ response)

  • babies in situations where people have been using alcohol or drugs, smoking, or are particularly tired (adults will have slowed reactions, and be less aware of babies)

  • babies with a carer who is very large or on medication (may have less awareness)

  • babies born prematurely, or with low birth weight (will have weakened ‘wake-up’ responses)

  • babies who are put down to sleep on a couch, on an adult bed, in a makeshift setting or away from home

Raising Children video 

This video story on the Raising Children site looks at SUDI risk factors and has tips on safe sleeping practices. 




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