Keeping pēpi safe in their own bed

Every year too many babies die suddenly during sleep in Aotearoa New Zealand. Many of these deaths can be prevented. Learn how to keep your pēpi safe while they sleep from birth to 12 months.

Make every sleep is a safe sleep

Make sure pēpi is safe while sleeping

To keep your pēpi safe while sleeping, make sure:

  • they always sleep on their back to keep their airways clear

  • they are alone in their own bassinet, cot, wahakura, pēpi pod, or other baby bed

  • you put them back in their own bed after feeding – do not fall asleep with them

  • they have someone looking after them who is alert to their needs, and free from alcohol or drugs

  • they are in a room with a temperature of 20°C.

Clothing and bedding

Make sure their clothing and bedding keeps them at a comfortable temperature. One more layer of clothing than you would wear is enough. Too many layers can make your pēpi hot and upset them

Pēpi should feel warm, but not hot or cold. You can check by feeling the back of their neck or their tummy (under the clothes). Your pēpi will be comfortable when their hands and feet are a bit colder than their body.

Other ways to keep pēpi safe

You can help to keep your pēpi safe in bed by:

  • having a smokefree home and car
  • exclusively breastfeeding your baby to around 6 months of age and continuing to breastfeed them until 12 months of age or beyond
  • immunising your baby on time.

National Immunisation Schedule

Make sure that your baby’s bed is safe

Baby’s bed is safe when:

  • it has a firm and flat mattress to keep your baby’s airways open

  • there are no gaps between the bed frame and the mattress that could trap or wedge your pēpi

  • the gaps between the bars of baby’s cot are between 50 mm and 95 mm — try to get 1 with the gaps closer to 50 mm if you can

  • there is nothing in the bed that might cover your baby’s face, lift their head or choke them — such as pillows, toys, loose bedding, bumper pads, necklaces including amber beads and ‘teething’ necklaces

  • your pēpi has their feet close to the end of the bed so they cannot burrow under the blankets

  • your pēpi is in the same room as you or the person looking after them at night for the first 6 months.

It is never safe to put your pēpi to sleep in an adult bed, on a couch or on a chair.

If you choose to sleep in bed with your pēpi, put them in their own baby bed beside you, for example, a pēpi pod or wahakura. This may help to reduce the risk of your pēpi suffocating while they are asleep.

Car seats or capsules protect your pēpi when travelling. Car seats and capsules are not safe for your pēpi to sleep in when you are not travelling. Do not use them as a cot or bassinette.

From 5 to 6 months

Your pēpi may begin to roll over from their back to their front when they get to 5 to 6 months old. You do not need to try to stop this happening, as long as their cot is free of things that might suffocate them. For example, pillows, large soft toys and cot bumpers.

Make sure that your baby’s cot is put together correctly. The tops on the corner posts of wooden cots may need to be sawn off so that they cannot hang themselves by their clothing. The spaces between the bars of the cot must be between 50 mm and 95 mm. Try to make the spaces closer to 50 mm if you can. If you have a cot with adjustable levels, make sure that you lower it before your baby can pull themselves up (at about 9 to 10 months).

The cords for blinds and curtains are a danger. Put the cot away from the window so that your pēpi cannot reach them. 

If you do not have a baby bed

If you do not have a baby bed talk to your midwife or nurse. If you are on a low income, you may be able to get a Special Needs Grant from Work and Income to buy a bed. Visit their website or call them on 0800 559 009

Special Needs Grant — Work and Income (external link)

Related websites


This pamphlet contains key messages about making every sleep a safe sleep to prevent babies from dying suddenly in their sleep.

Te Tai Tokerau

Four online videos showing the safe sleep PEPE messages – Place, Eliminate, Position, Encourage.

Hāpai te Hauora

Hāpai is responsible for coordinating a national, integrated approach to SUDI prevention in Aotearoa.

Pepi-Pod Sleep Space Programme

A protected place for babies to sleep when they are in, or on, an adult bed, on a couch, in a makeshift setting, or away from home.

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