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HealthInfo Canterbury

Safe sleeping for babies

Kia whakamoe ora mō ngā pēpi

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). SUDI is a leading cause of preventable death in New Zealand babies.

SUDI is an umbrella term that describes when a baby dies unexpectedly within the first year of its life. This used to be known as cot death or sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

The main known risk factors for SUDI are:

Safe sleep using P.E.P.E.

P.E.P.E. stands for place, eliminate, position, encourage. By following these steps, you can reduce the risk of SUDI for your baby.


Place your baby in their own baby bed in the same room as their parent or caregiver.

Wahakura and Pēpi‑Pods (portable safe sleep spaces) are available if you need to share a bed with your baby.

In Canterbury, the Te Puawaitanga ki Ōtautahi Trust provide wahakura (woven flax bassinet) to Māori pēpi (babies) who need them.

Pēpi (babies) who whakapapa (have ancestry) to Ngāi Tahu can get a Pēpi Pack, which includes a wahakura. Whānau can apply through the Ngāi Tahu website before your baby is born, so the wahakura is there when it's first needed.

Anyone can attend a free wānanga (lesson) where you weave your own wahakura for your baby or for someone who is pregnant through the Te Puawaitanga ki Ōtautahi Trust.

Pēpi‑Pods (plastic bassinets) are available for any at risk babies for free through:


Eliminate smoking in pregnancy, and protect your baby with a smokefree environment. The combination of bed-sharing and maternal smoking in pregnancy is dangerous for your baby. It will put them at 32 times higher risk of SUDI compared to pēpi (babies) not exposed to bed sharing or smoking in pregnancy.

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


Position your baby flat on their back to sleep in a bassinet, wahakura (woven flax bassinet), Pēpi‑Pod, or baby sleep space on a flat surface. Babies are 14 times safer sleeping on their backs than sleeping on their tummies.


Encourage and support breastfeeding and handling your baby gently.

  HealthInfo recommends the following pages

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed July 2019.

If you or your family have experienced the sudden death of a 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