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Babies relatively safe in wahakura: study

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 9/01/2017

The research was motivated by the concern that Maori and other indigenous populations © Facebook/Wahakura The research was motivated by the concern that Maori and other indigenous populations Infants sleeping in wahakura are relatively safe when compared with being in bassinets, an Otago study has found.

The researchers conclude that wahakura (woven flax baskets) can be promoted as an alternative to infant-adult bed sharing.

They say there were no significant differences in risk behaviours in wahakura compared with bassinets and there other advantages, including an increase in sustained breastfeeing.

The study, published in the scientific journal Pediatrics, was led by Professor Barry Taylor and Dr David Tipene-Leach of the University of Otago, and Associate Professor Sally Baddock of Otago Polytechnic.

Prof Taylor says the research was motivated by the concern that Maori 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," he said.

Both bed-sharing and smoking had proved difficult to change and the wahakura was developed as a culturally appropriate alternative to direct bed-sharing.

But while many people used wahakura, there had been no direct evidence about their safety.

Researchers recruited 200 predominantly Maori women and provided them with either a wahakura or a bassinet during pregnancy.

They later compared the risks and benefits of infants sleeping in either device.

They investigated breastfeeding, infant sleep position, the amount of infant head covering during sleep, the amount of bed-sharing (without the device), and maternal sleep and fatigue.

When the groups were compared at one, three and six months, there were no differences in infant-adult direct bed-sharing.

However, at six months, the wahakura group reported twice the level of full breastfeeding (23 per cent versus 11 per cent).

Maternal sleep and fatigue were not significantly different between groups.

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