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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Safe sleeping for babies

Kia whakamoe ora mō ngā pēpi

Every year, too many New Zealand pēpi (babies) die suddenly during sleep. Learn how to make every sleep a safe sleep for your baby and how to reduce the risk of sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI).

Safe sleeping using P.E.P.E.

You can use this printable card to help you remember P.E.P.E.


Place your pēpi baby in their own baby bed for every sleep, including when visiting friends and whānau (family). Have their bed in the same room as you for at least the first six months.

Your pēpi baby can sleep in a cot, bassinet, wahakura (woven flax bassinet) or Pēpi-Pod. Work and Income may be able to help you pay for a baby bed if you need it.

If you choose to sleep in bed with your pēpi baby , put them in their own baby bed beside you - for example, a Pēpi-pod or wahakura. This will help reduce the risk of your pēpi baby suffocating while they are asleep. To find out more about a Pēpi-pod or wahakura, ask your midwife.

It's never safe to put your pēpi baby to sleep in an adult bed, on a couch or on a chair.

The person looking after your pēpi baby needs to be sober and drug-free.


Eliminate smoking in pregnancy and protect your pēpi baby with a smokefree whānau family , whare (home) and waka (car).

For help to stop smoking, see How to become smokefree or the Te Hā – Waitaha page on becoming smokefree during pregnancy.


Position your pēpi baby flat on their back to sleep with their face clear of bedding. When your pēpi baby sleeps on their back, they are better able to keep their airway clear and open.


Encourage and support exclusive breastfeeding and handling your pēpi baby gently.

Your breast milk makes a big difference to the health of your pēpi baby . Breast milk helps protect your pēpi baby from some illnesses, as a pēpi baby and later in their life.

Ask your midwife if you would like some more support with your breastfeeding.

Safe sleeping when you take your baby out

Car seats or capsules protect your pēpi baby when travelling in the car. Do not use them as a cot or bassinet. Car seats and capsules are not safe for your pēpi baby to sleep in when you are at home or at your destination.

If you are out somewhere, make sure your pēpi baby has a safe place to sleep. Take your wahakura, Pēpi-pod, Portacot or bassinet with you, and use it on a flat surface.

Protecting your baby's head shape

When your pēpi baby is sleeping, turn their head so that sometimes they face left and sometimes they face right.

Tummy time, while your pēpi baby is awake, will help protect their head shape and make their arms strong.


For more information, see Flat head in babies (plagiocephaly).

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Content shared between HealthInfo Canterbury, KidsHealth and Health Navigator NZ as part of a National Health Content Hub collaborative. Last reviewed November 2021.

If you or your family have experienced the sudden death of a pēpi baby , see the following page for information about organisations that can offer you support:

Sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI)

Page reference: 49660

Review key: HIUCB-33560