Safe sleeping practices for babies reduce risk of infant death

5 December 2014

It is never too early for parents and parents-to-be to learn about safe sleeping practices for babies, says the Health Quality & Safety Commission.

Friday 5 December is National Safe Sleep Day, an annual awareness-raising event organised by Whakawhetu – National SUDI Prevention for Maori.

Although New Zealand rates for SUDI (sudden unexpected death in infancy) are improving, they are among the highest in the industrialised world, with rates for Māori disproportionately high compared with non-Māori.

Latest Commission mortality reviews show that in 2012 there were 42 SUDI cases for children aged from birth to one year.

Bed sharing or unsafe sleeping practices are associated with many SUDI cases, and infants below two months are the largest single group at risk of suffocation.

‘Teaching about safe sleeping needs to start and be reinforced in pregnancy and when babies are very young – this is an important message for the maternity sector,’ says Dr Sue Belgrave, chair of the Commission’s Perinatal and Maternal Mortality Review Committee.

Dr Felicity Dumble, chair of the Child and Youth Mortality Review Committee, says that while the number of SUDI cases has reduced over time, every sleep needs to be a safe sleep.

‘That includes when your baby is away from home, as is often the case during summer. If you are using a portable or unfamiliar cot, be sure to check it is up to standard and not faulty.’

Other safe sleeping advice includes:

  • putting babies to sleep on their backs so they can breathe unobstructed, and making sure there is no bedding nearby that might cover their faces. Avoid using pillows or loose blankets, remove any cords from bedding, and ensure there are no gaps in their bed in which they might become wedged
  • make sure babies sleep in a smokefree environment and the room is not too hot, so they will not overheat
  • babies are safest when sleeping in their own cot or bassinet, in the same room as their parents for the first six months of their lives
  • ensure the person looking after a baby is sober and alert to their needs.


For media inquiries, contact Commission Communications Coordinator Guy Somerset, (04) 913 1745, 021 813 591,

Last updated: Thursday, July 11, 2019

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