3 Aug 2016

Ministry to fund pēpi pods

5:14 pm on 3 August 2016

The Ministry of Health has changed its mind and will now pay for a safe-sleep programme for newborn babies.

baby in flax sleeping pod

Photo: Whakawhetū

Last month it said it had decided against funding the programme, which promotes the use of two types of sleeping devices - wahakura and pēpi-pods.

Wahakura are woven from flax while pēpi pods are made from plastic. Babies are placed in them before sharing a bed. Advocates say they reduce the danger of co-sleeping as 50 babies a year die in their sleep, many accidentally suffocated by their parents while sharing a bed.

An advocate for the programme, paediatrics professor Ed Mitchell, said he was thrilled by the change of policy.

He said new research he presented to the Health Minister, Jonathan Coleman, makes a convincing argument that the use of wahakura and pēpi pods has reduced the incidence of sudden unexpected death in infancy, especially among Māori and in the regions.

"It's quite unique really that the reduction occurred within the Māori group, which is where the programme was largely targeted, and in the regions with the greatest distribution of pēpi pods. So these were the most active parts and that's where the mortality was decreasing."

Prof Mitchell said funding figures had not yet been confirmed, but he expected the programme to cost $1.5 million a year.

He said a pepi-pod cost $100 and included both bedding and a mattress.

Professor Mitchell said the cost of wahakura was too difficult to assess as they were often made on the goodwill of weavers.

The ministry had said there was not enough evidence to justify funding the flax or plastic baskets or pods, despite there being no recorded cases of Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy when they were used.

Prof Mitchell's research team published new research and met with Mr Coleman and his senior health advisor last week.

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