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Hawkes Bay DHB to provide woven bassinets (wahakura)

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

An initiative to continue to reduce the risk of Māori babies dying from Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy (SUDI) is being launched by Hawke’s Bay District Health Board (HBDHB) this week to coincide with national Safe Sleep Awareness Week (28 November to 2 December). 

Traditional woven flax bassinets called ‘wahakura’ are being made by local woman Riwa Wawatai and her team of weavers for HBDHB in an effort to try and curb SUDI rates. 

HBDHB Community Safe Sleep Coordinator Rawinia Edwards said while the wahakura would be available for any ethnicity group over time, feedback from whanau in Hawke’s Bay was that traditional woven bassinets were more preferred compared to the widely available plastic pepi-pods. 

"The wahakura, which is made out of harakeke (native flax), provide a safe sleeping space for babies aged up to six months whose parents prefer the return to a traditional Māori way of sleeping babies near to them," says Mrs Edwards. "Pepi-pods will continue to save many lives and be provided in Hawke’s Bay to high risk babies, but because wahakura are naturally woven, these are seen as more preferable for our Māori people and therefore more likely to be widely used by them," she said. 

"For example, we have seen in other communities, where the wahakura has been adopted as the preferred safe sleep device option, a significant drop in SUDI rates." 

Weavers will initially provide HBDHB with 25 wahakura each month. Mrs Edwards says babies fitting high risk criteria for safe sleep devices are referred to HBDHB by lead maternity carers. 

Meanwhile, HBDHB has plenty of Safe Sleep Week activities planned. Educators will be at Iron Maori on Safe Sleep Day, Friday 2 December, while all new babies born during Safe Sleep Week will go in the draw to win a wahakura filled with lots of goodies. 

Childhood centres are taking part in HBDHB competitions and educational booths are being set up within hospital, health centre or community settings. "Face Up, Face Clear, Smokefree and breastfed are the key safe sleep principles and we will be widely promoting this message throughout Safe Sleep Week," says Mrs Edwards.

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