The wahakura vs the bassinet

By Peata Melbourne

A health organisation that incorporates Māori values into public health, Hāpai Te Hauora, welcome new evidence that shows wahakura as a safe alternative to a bassinet. The researchers from Otago University and Otago Polytechnic found those using wahakura also had twice the level of breastfeeding.

"We did videos overnight of the baby sleeping in the wahakura and compared that with babies sleeping in the bassinet, so we've got some objective evidence to help understand what happens when babies sleep in either device and that showed us that there was no difference in terms of at-risk behaviours" says lead researcher and Associate Professor, Sally Buddock of Otago Polytechnic.

Hāpai Te Hauora is looking at ways to incorporate the use of wahakura throughout marae and say the new evidence is good news for everyone proving that they are a safe and advantageous sleeping device for infants. 

"We support their findings and Hāpai Te Hauora would like to see them utilised by marae and other health initiatives," says Rangi McLean of Hāpai Te Hauora.

Māori have greater rates of sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI), so researchers recruited 200 predominantly Māori pregnant women from deprived areas of New Zealand and provided the women with either a wahakura or bassinet 

The researchers, led by Associate Professor Sally Baddock of Otago Polytechnic and Professor Barry Taylor and Dr David Tipene-Leach of the University of Otago, concluded there were no significant differences in risk behaviours in wahakura compared to bassinets.

"The study was motivated by the concern that Māori and other indigenous populations have greater rates of sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI). This is likely due to the high prevalence of bed-sharing where there has been smoking in pregnancy - a combination that is a major contributor to risk," says Professor Taylor, Head of the Dunedin School of Medicine. 

"These findings will give comfort to health workers who will be able to confidently promote a device that encourages a form of bed-sharing that increases safety for infants," Dr Tipene-Leach says

So far there has been no direct evidence about their safety despite being used by many. The research team behind the evidence hope their findings will add weight in giving objective evidence and initiatives using wahakura will gain more support.