What is SUDI?

Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy (SUDI) is an umbrella term that describes the death of an infant which was not anticipated as a significant possibility 24 hours before the death, or where there was a similarly unexpected collapse leading to or precipitating the events which led to the death. SUDI captures both unexplained and explained causes of death during a baby’s first year of life that is unexpected.  It is made up of three components which are, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), Unintentional Suffocation, and Other Deaths.

SIDS – Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. This is where no identifiable cause of death can be found following autopsy, clinical history, and scene examination. These babies usually die in their sleep.

Unintentional suffocation - the second component of SUDI is unintentional suffocation where baby is in a position that causes asphyxiation in their sleeping environment. Examples of this are wedging or overlay. These incidents are explained.

Other deaths - the third component of SUDI is medical deaths such as heart disease, meningitis, pneumonia or infectious diseases.  Conditions at time of death remained undiagnosed until the coronial process identified the cause.   These incidents are explained.   

Prevention Messages

As health professionals it is very important that we understand what SUDI is. However when dealing with whānau it is important to stress the point of safe sleep so that they understand how to protect their baby. At Whakawhetu we have created resources that centre around four key messages: P.E.P.E.  If we can get families following these messages we will see the rate of SUDI drop from 60 babies a year to 6.

PLACE baby in his or her own baby bed, face clear of bedding

  • Placing baby in a baby bed, face clear of bedding, helps protect baby from SUDI
  • Make sure there are no pillows or toys in the baby bed
  • Make sure that the bedding does not cover baby’s face
  • Make sure the mattress is firm and there are no gaps between mattress and the sides of the baby bed

ELIMINATE smoking in pregnancy, and protect baby with a smoke free whanau, whare and waka

  • Eliminating smoking helps protect baby from SUDI
  • Being smoke free helps baby’s breathing

POSITION baby flat on his or her back to sleep, face up towards the heavens

  • Positioning baby on his or her back to sleep, helps protect baby from SUDI
  • Babies are 14 times safer sleeping on their backs than on their tummies
  • If baby sleeps on his or her tummy, their airway can get blocked
  • Do not use pillows or anything that can flex the neck. This can block the airway too

ENCOURAGE and support mum, so baby is breastfed

  • Breastfeeding your baby will help to protect him or her from SUDI
  • Breast milk provides nutrients and antibodies to protect baby
  • Breast milk is free, always the right temperature and is readily available
  • Breastfeeding strengthens the bond between mother and baby