Local invention keeps our babies safe

Baby Porourangi Hall sleeps in his Wahakura Mum Lateesha Lerm,and Dad Taka Hall.

Baby Porourangi Hall sleeps in his wahakura watched by Mum Lateesha Lerm and Dad Taka Hall.

Porourangi Hall is one of many local babies sleeping safe thanks to the wahakura, a Māori safe-sleeping device developed in Tairāwhiti. 

Sudden Unexplained Death in Infants (SUDI) rates in Tairāwhiti are among the highest in New Zealand. 

According to the Ministry of Health the national average for SUDI is 0.7 per 1000 births but for Tairāwhiti the rate currently sits at 2.2 per 1000 births. These deaths tragically happen within Māori whanau, an inequity the Mokopuna Ora SUDI Prevention Programme was established to address. 

The wahakura is a woven flax basket that creates a safe distance between baby and their parents in bed. Since the introduction of the wahakura throughout New Zealand, SUDI has dropped by nearly 30%. 

Mum to Porourangi, Lateesha Lerm says “It’s easy to take everywhere instead of a big bassinet. It’s so nice to be able to sleep with your baby and check on him. I think it’s cool for us to have it because our people make them and it’s part of our culture.”

 “Safe sleep is important to me so I am not rolling over on the baby. Especially at the start when you are overtired, you just want to put the baby in the bed with you,” says the mother of four. 

Mokopuna Ora SUDI Prevention & Safe Sleep Coordinator Kaniwa Kupenga-Tamarama says the wahakura are an important tool to reduce SUDI and can be passed on to future generations. 

“I want to see the wahakura wananga (weaving workshops) flourish and have everyone in our community know what a wahakura is and how they keep our pēpi sleeping safely. The key ways to prevent SUDI include not smoking, breastfeeding, placing baby in a safe sleep space and positioning baby flat on their back to sleep,” says Kaniwa. 

Four-day courses for whānau to weave wahakura are run throughout Tairāwhiti by Tūranga Health, Hauiti Hauora and Ngāti Porou Hauora. 

It’s National Safe Sleep Day on Friday 6 December, 2019

Further information about Safe Sleep Day are on the SUDI National Coordination website or on the Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/MokopunaOra/ 

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