New research supports campaigner's call for wahakura roll-out

New research supports a Christchurch-based campaigner's fight to reduce preventable baby deaths with the use of the Māori-designed pēpi pod or wahakura.

 Anna Hamilton has been behind a call to support the harakeke bassinet since last year when she set up an OurActionStation petition to push the Government to support the pēpi pod.

 “I feel really strongly that babies are precious and we must treasure and keep them safe, as they are our future,” Hamilton says. 

Evidence released this month shows there are no significant differences in risk for infants sleeping in wahakura compared to bassinets and that the pods give other benefits, including an increase in sustained breastfeeding, while also being culturally appropriate.

Anna is asking people who are concerned about the high death rate of infants to sign the petition and contact the Minister for Health Jonathan Coleman to support the roll-out of the pēpi pods in Aotearoa. 

The wahakura is a world-leading innovation and could potentially save the lives of 50 New Zealand babies a year - the number currently dying from Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy (SUDI).

The wahakura were the subject of a Government policy turnaround last year as health officials did not agree with their use. Although the Ministry of Health is now developing a national Safe Sleep programme that incorporates pēpi pods, not all babies will have access to them. 

“It's super that we now have the science to back us up and this will hopefully make our case for the government rolling out a nationwide scheme,” Hamilton says. “There’s also something special about the wahakura as they weave a story.”

She is urging the Minister to fully support the $150 pēpi pod for every newborn child as part of the Safe Sleep programme. “It is possible New Zealand could reduce the death rate to almost zero with the pods,” she adds. 

Professor Ed Mitchell, NZ's leading expert on cot death, said that while he is delighted by the results of the new research, he would like to see the programme expanded to benefit all babies. “We now need to ensure that Ministry of Health deliver a comprehensive programme, not something that has been watered down.”