Fifty infants have died from suffocation where they were sleeping over a seven year period, a report by child health experts has found.
The Child and Youth Mortality Review Committee says it's becoming clear a considerable proportion of deaths that might previously have been attributed to sudden unexpected death in infants (SUDI) have occurred because of unsafe sleeping situations.
The research found that of 79 cases of unintentional suffocation between 2002 and 2009, 50 involved infants who died where they were sleeping.
The overwhelming majority - 96% - of the deaths were of children under one and they were often caused by what the report calls overlay by another person.
It says Maori infants are eight times more likely to die from suffocation.
The committee is urging parents to pay closer attention to where and how young children are put down to sleep.
It advises that babies should be laid to sleep separately from others, on their backs and in a smoke-free place.