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Wahakura protecting precious pēpi in the Bay of Plenty

22 December 2021

Fifteen safe sleeping wahakura for pēpi | baby will be woven ready to be gifted to Eastern Bay whānau thanks to funding support from the Whakatāne District Council.

Wahakura protecting precious pēpi in the Bay of Plenty
Pictured left to right: Merekaha Anapu with baby Waiheke, WDC Management & Minimisation Coordinator Sheree Kearney. Back row: SUDI Prevention Coordinators Leanne Emery (Ngati Ranginui Iwi Society), Crystle Hona (BOPDHB), Kelly Hohapata (Ngāti Awa Social and Health Services) with Whakatāne Hospital Clinical Midwife Manager Imogen Davis.

Sudden Unexpected Death in Infants (SUDI) is a leading cause of preventable death in New Zealand babies. Although the SUDI rates have reduced, they have not fallen equitably across the whole population. Māori babies are around seven times more likely and Pacific babies are nearly four times more likely to die from SUDI.

BOPDHB SUDI Prevention Co-ordinator Crystle Hona says making sure pēpi has their own safe space to sleep such as a wahakura, pēpi-pod, or a bassinet for young babies and a cot for older babies, every time they sleep, will help to reduce the number of SUDI cases in Aotearoa. “We are grateful for the support from Whakatāne District Council for our Wahakura initiative, for our Eastern Bay whānau.”

Wahakura are a traditionally woven harakeke (flax) cradle. A modern day adaption of the porakaraka, which in ancient times was designed to be suspended with a cord attached allowing caregivers to gently swing to settle baby.

In recent times, wahakura have become a labour of love. Wahakura wānanga are held at marae throughout the community where expert Kairaranga (weavers) share their expertise, with hapū māmā.

“It’s a valuable kaupapa, empowering whānau by acknowledging the significance of traditional knowledge. It helps whānau to connect with their taha Māori, their environment and prepare for their pēpi including education about safe sleeping practices,” says Crystle Hona.

Whakatāne District Council (WDC) Management & Minimisation Coordinator Sheree Kearney says it is proud to have partnered with the Wahakura Initiative. “There is nothing more important than giving pēpi the best start to life and the fact that we can help do it with this beautiful traditional and sustainable wahakura is very heartening.”

Crystle says the wahakura are provided to whānau with mattress and bedding. They are portable and lightweight, easy to take wherever whānau may be staying these holidays. 

“Wherever you go this summer, protect pēpi.  Follow these top safe-to- sleep tips from our SUDI Prevention Team: 

  • Ensure pēpi has their own safe-sleep space. Your wahakura, pēpi-pod are ideal for newborns as they are easily transportable
  • Take your safe-sleep space with you everywhere you go
  • Place your pēpi to sleep on their back free from any pillows
  • Ensure the environment your pēpi is in is smoke-free and alcohol-free
  • Ensure your pēpi has a responsible and safe carer
  • Be mindful of the weather make sure that your pēpi is not too hot or cold.

When going on a long trip:

  • Stop often to check your pēpi
  • Fun fact – your breastmilk changes according to the needs of your pēpi and reduces the risk of SUDI.
  • Always transfer your pēpi from their pram and carseat to a safe-sleep space.

Keep your pēpi safe. Enjoy your whānau and have a very Merry Christmas.”