Hutt Valley launch initiative to tackle SUDI

By Moana Makapelu Lee
  • Wellington

A marae in Lower Hutt has partnered with Hutt Valley DHB on an initiative to prevent babies dying in the region due to sudden unexplained death in infancy. SUDI experts say more than half of the 40 babies that lose their lives to SUDI per year are Māori.

SUDI prevention experts say babies that sleep with parents or have parents that smoke are more at risk of SUDI.

General Manager for Hāpai Te Hauora’s SUDI Prevention Coordination Service Fay Selby-Law says, "Pēpi are being born every day and that for Māori pēpi there's nearly seven-fold chance over non-Māori pēpi for a SUDI, so we really want to be clear about our messages."

MOE ORA, a programme run by Kōkiri Marae and Hutt Valley DHB, is educating families on better practices to help prevent SUDI. They're also providing 300 wahakura (woven bassinets) to babies at risk and specialist quit smoking support services for whānau.

Selby-Law says, "We want every sleep to be a safe sleep so māmā and pāpā can sleep with their baby but baby needs to have its safe place.”

“Next to that, is that, of course, every baby needs to be in a smoke-free environment - so that's right from the beginning, so when mum's pregnant if she's able to stop smoking all the better."

Hutt Valley DHB’s Māori Health director Kerry Dougall says it’s important Māori reclaim traditional Māori practices around nurturing methods, particularly when it comes to breastfeeding.

"Breastfeeding has a big impact on SUDI as well, but it also builds that attachment between the mum and baby."

Smokefree figures show smoking was a leading cause that accounted for 86% of SUDI cases between 2006 and 2010. More than 37% of Māori smoke during pregnancy.

Teresa Olsen of Kōkiri Marae Health and Social Services says, "The more mums, in particular, young mums that take up smoking, the more at risk their pēpē are and that's why this programme, sitting with our hapū mamas smoking cessation programme, is really important."

In the last 13 years, more than 29 babies in Hutt Valley died of SUDI, an issue affecting the nation.  

Selby- Law says, "We're losing probably on average more than 44 babies a year and of those nearly 30 are Māori so it's really significant for us, that means a lot of whānau go through a really pōuri time."

The Ministry of Health provides $5.1mil per year to support SUDI prevention activities and has a goal to reduce SUDI numbers to 0.1 per 1000 live deaths by 2025.