Introducing the Pēpi-Pod® Sleep Space Program - University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Introducing the Pēpi-Pod® Sleep Space Program

What is a Pēpi-Pod® sleep space program?

The Pēpi-Pod® sleep space program is one approach being applied in many regions of New Zealand and in Queensland, Australia, to enable more vulnerable babies to have a safe space for sleeping every time and place they sleep. It is a program of ‘portable sleep space (PSS) plus safety education‘ that began as an emergency response during the Christchurch earthquakes of 2011 and Houston USA Floods during 2017. It is now offered to families of babies at increased risk of accidental suffocation. Places of heightened risk for babies include in, or on, an adult bed, on a couch, in makeshift situations or when sleeping away from home.

Who are they for?

PSSs are not for all babies. They are a public health response to the higher risk of sudden infant death for babies who are more vulnerable due to an increased risk of suffocation. Exposure to smoking, especially in pregnancy, being born before 37 weeks or weighing less than 2500 grams, or in family environments where use of alcohol and drugs are prevalent are associated with an increased risk. These babies have a predisposing vulnerability to hypoxic challenges.

Where have they come from?

The PSS is a ‘sister’ to the Wahakura, a sleep space hand woven from flax that has been promoted in Māori communities since 2006. The PSS was developed as a low-cost option to complement Wahakura and enable larger scale supply. In Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities a variety of sleep spaces have been used for infants including the coolamon and reed baskets. The concept of a portable sleep space is therefore not a new concept in these cultures and communities.

What is involved in providing this program?

PSS are not free baby beds for poor families. They are a central component of a comprehensive service that needs to be embedded into a SUDI prevention strategy and regional infant health plan. A Pēpi-Pod® service needs a project action group, coordinator, PSSs and bedding packs, referral processes and criteria, agencies and distributors authorised to distribute, a thorough recipient briefing, follow-up of and feedback from users, and systems for recording, monitoring and communicating. While regions need to find their own funding solutions, leadership group, coordinator and distribution agencies, Change for our Children and USC Pēpi-Pod® Program team (Australia) can support, with education methodology, process systems, data management and program tools.

Where else are services operating?

In Queensland a network of nongovernment and government agencies have partnered with the USC Pepi-Pod® Program team and ‘Change for our Children’ to trial the Program during 2013-2016. The program has been continued in Queensland during 2017-2019 through the support of the Rural Doctors Association of Queensland Foundation and Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability.

How can my service become involved?

Please contact the Pēpi-Pod® Program team with your enquiry at:

If your service provides maternal and child health care to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families your service may be able to participate in the Queensland Pēpi-Pod® sleep space program with funding support provided through the Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability.

If you provide maternal and child health care to non-Indigenous families who may benefit from the sleep space, your service may able to participate if they support the purchase of Pēpi-Pods® for service use and undertake the Pēpi-Pod® Program Orientation Workshop for staff members.

For further information about these service options, please contact the Pēpi-Pod® Program team with your enquiry.

Queensland Program Lead

Professor Jeanine Young
School of Nursing, Midwifery and Paramedicine

Change for Our Children Ltd New Zealand

Stephanie Cowan
Director, Change for our Children,
Christchurch, New Zealand