Previous studies found the introduction of wahakura in 2005 saw a 29 percent drop in sudden unexpected deaths between 2009 and 2015.

And now two of the researchers behind their introduction have looked at why they've been such a success.

Previous attempts to lower the rate of sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI, formerly known as 'cot death') had worked for other ethnic groups, but not Māori.

"Maori were rejecting the 'stop bedsharing' SUDI prevention message and the SUDI disparity between Māori and non-Māori had become entrenched," researchers David Tipene-Leach and Sally Abel wrote in a new article, published in the Australian Journal of Primary Health.

Rates of SUDI fell 60 percent in the early 1990s following a campaign warning parents:

  • not to put their babies to sleep facing downwards
  • not to share their bed with their infant
  • not to smoke.

But rates among Māori remained high, leading to a "persistent five-fold disparity between Maori and non-Maori rates".

"The statistics were about four per 1000 nationally - which was around one to two per 1000 for non-Māori, and around about eight for Māori," Dr Tipene-Leach told Newshub. 

By 2005, he and others were convinced bassinets were the answer - and decided flax-woven Māori bassinets were the "culturally resonant" answer.

Read the full article here - Newshub: How traditional Māori woven bassinets have saved hundreds of lives