Recently we have been referred questions concerning the use and safety of bumper pads in wahakura (flax woven bassinets). Hāpai Te Hauora holds the National Sudden Unexplained Death in Infants (SUDI) Prevention Coordination contract; the best evidence available to Hāpai tells us that wahakura are safest without bumper pads.
To ensure the wahakura is a safe space to sleep baby and that it provides protection specifically from SUDI our service advises the following points:
- Ensure that a firm mattress is fitted to the edge of the wahakura. This mattress provides protection from suffocation for baby should she/he turn over.
- There should be no loose items or articles in the wahakura- this includes toys, pillows and loose blankets as they can interfere with baby’s breathing. A pillow can potentially cause baby’s head to move forward and can block their airways.
- Baby’s face should be clear of blankets to allow for normal breathing and to prevent overheating.
"Bumpers pads are not recommended in a wahakura. They create a space for baby to wedge a head or face into and potentially can cause suffocation. This is well known in the cot and the bassinet and although we have not seen this in a wahakura - it is an unnecessary and potentially dangerous thing to do. Pillows are also not recommended in a wahakura. A pillow will cause a forward bend at the neck and this has been known in bassinet and cot situations to cut the free flow of breathing in the airway. This is it is an unnecessary and potentially dangerous thing to do" says Professor David Tipene-Leach.
As a recently revitalised practice currently gaining attention, it is reasonable that there is a lot of curiosity and questions relating to wahakura. The Manager of the SUDI Prevention Coordination Service, Fay Selby-Law says "Questions like this illustrate the ongoing interest and need for a national gathering to explore the skills, knowledge and insights of expert weavers, whānau, community members and health professionals alike.
Hāpai Te Hauora believe that a national gathering for wahakura needs to sit as a priority for the Government to ensure that every sleep is a safe sleep for baby. A hui which utilises the skills of our communities and explores the complexities of SUDI would enable us to inform our communities how we can continue to support the hauora of whānau and mokopuna".