Sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI) happens when babies die suddenly and unexpectedly in their sleep. It used to be called SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) or cot death.

Preventing SUDI

For some babies, the cause of death is never found. But the Ministry of Health tells us that, in baby’s first 6 months, most of these deaths are preventable. Most happen when babies are sleeping in an unsafe way.

Safe sleep routines

To help prevent SUDI, it is very important to follow safe sleep routines:

  • Baby should be put to bed on their back with their face clear, to help them breathe freely.
  • Baby should sleep in the same room as their parents (or whoever looks after them at night) for their first 6 months.
  • Baby should sleep in their own bassinet, cot or other baby bed (for example, a Pēpi-Pod® or wahakura), and away from sleeping adults or children who might accidentally suffocate them.
  • Baby should be put back in their own bed after feeding, and not kept in bed with their parents, who may fall back to sleep with them.
  • There should always be someone with baby who is alert to their needs and free from alcohol and drugs.
  • Baby should be kept at a comfortable temperature – one more layer of bedding or clothing than an adult would wear is enough (too many layers can make baby hot and upset). The temperature where baby is sleeping should be kept at around 20°C.

To check baby’s temperature, feel the back of their neck or their tummy (under the clothes). They should feel warm, but not hot or cold. They’ll be comfortable when their hands and feet are a bit colder than their body.

Choosing a good bed for baby

Baby’s bed should have:

  • a firm and flat mattress to keep baby’s airways open
  • no gaps between the bed frame and the mattress that could trap or wedge baby
  • gaps no wider than 50–95mm between the bars of their cot — closer to 50mm is best
  • nothing in it that might cover their face, lift their head or choke them
  • no pillows, toys, loose bedding or bumper pads.

If parents don’t have a baby bed, contact local midwives or Well Child Tamariki Ora providers. They may be able to help.

If parents are on a low income, they can apply for a Special Needs Grant from Work and Income to buy a bed:

Phone: 0800 559 009

Special Needs Grant | Work and Income(external link)

Car seats and capsules protect a baby when travelling in the car. Don’t use them as a cot or bassinet. They’re not safe for a baby to sleep in.

It’s never safe to put a young baby to sleep in an adult bed, on a couch or in an armchair.

Other ways to keep baby safe

Also, make sure that:

  • baby isn't wearing a necklace while they sleep (including amber beads and ‘teething’ necklaces)
  • baby’s feet are close to the end of the bed so they can’t burrow under the blankets
  • homes and cars are smokefree
  • baby sleeps in their own bed
  • baby’s immunisations are kept up-to-date.

Parents can also choose breastfeeding for baby.