Traditional flax bassinets are being reintroduced in the hope of reducing the number of Maori infants who die while sharing a bed with their parents.
Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy (SUDI) kills about 60 babies in New Zealand each year, of which about 40 are Maori.
A main cause of SUDI, defined as the sudden and unexplained death of infants aged under one year, is babies who share beds and whose mother smoked during pregnancy.
A new study, which is recruiting 240 pregnant Maori women to participate, will compare wahakura (woven flax bassinets) to portable cots.
"We're looking at whether this is a safer sleeping environment that might reduce the amount of bedsharing or looking around to make sure people don't condemn this form of bedsharing as unsafe," researcher David Tipene-Leach told NZ Newswire.
Half of the women in the study will be given portable cots and the other half wahakura.
Tests at one, three and six months will be carried out on the baby's breathing patterns, oxygen levels and temperature, and mother-child interactions and feeding will be assessed.
Data will then be compared to determine whether the wahakura, which are currently used by about 750 mothers, is as safe as the cot.
Dr Tipene-Leach says that if it can be shown that the wahakura, which costs about $200 and takes a full day to weave, is a safe option then the government may be approached for funding.
He says the wahakura allows a baby to sleep with its parents while giving protection to the infant.