Miriam Rutherford-van Gisbergen
Miriam, the Inventor, Developer, Educator and Director of Safe T Sleep® is driven by her devotion to enhance child safety and to build positive, trusting parent education and reduce Parental and caregivers anxiety.
Her innovative invention, the Sleepwrap®, sold through her company, Safe T Sleep (NZ) Ltd is a practical, unique babywrap that has given babies, aged newborn-2years old, a safer sleep and significant peace of mind for parents, grandparents and caregivers.
"Empowering parents and caregivers with positive, nurturing, gentle ways to settle their sleeping babies more safely, prevent injuries and give peace of mind to deserving parents, caregivers and grandparents is a wonderful privilege" says Miriam Rutherford-van Gisbergen.
An early pioneer of positive parenting education, Miriam has advised, supported and worked with parents and child health professionals for over 30years. Her commitment to empower parents with full information regarding sleeptime safety awareness and settling skills for babies, newborn to two years, and assisting parents and surgeons with PWS (flat head) concerns has been, and is currently still the driving force behind the success of her business.
For over five years Hospital Cranio-facial plastic surgeons invited Miriam to work with them. Along with the Safe T Sleep Sleepwrap Miriam has helped parents to prevent or correct their baby’s positional plagiocephaly (PWS), commonly known as flat/deformed head. This is caused by sleeping on the same head spot. The younger the baby, the softer the head. Globally, 20-30% of flat/deformed heads, never return to an acceptable shape. Over a period of three years, 94% of babies referred to Miriam via a local hospital cranio-facial plastic surgery department in New Zealand were corrected, avoiding cumbersome and uncomfortable helmet therapy, and in two cases prevented surgery. Babies are still being admitted to have a helmet fitted in hospitals in New Zealand, Australia and other ‘developed’ countries. https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0223/2655/files/PWS_Paper.pdf?741
“As a young nurse, I also encountered children with head injuries, broken wrists, arms and legs from climbing and falling from their cots", says Miriam. "During this time, I cared for a severely brain-damaged 10 ½month old baby, whose permanent disability was the result of a fall from a cot. My first child, a wriggly, adventurous baby boy, confirmed to me the importance of safety before, during and after sleep. My friend's and I began to experiment with a variety of 'wraps'. My design was kept simple to ensure optimum comfort, security and freedom of movement to allow for normal physical development at each stage of development. The result was a cosy, swaddling wrap that allowed natural, flexible and free limb and hip movement and it also assisted my son to settle to sleep much better, he obviously loved the feeling of being ‘held".
The hard work of establishing Miriam's company had just begun. Miriam's experience from nursing, parenting, community work, designing her own home, counselling, tertiary tutoring and research gave a good foundation for her to start her own business, although, "there were some steep and exciting learning curves along the way", she laughs. "A wonderful combination of strong faith, family, supportive staff, some amazing key friends, mentors - in particular my patent and trademark solicitor - encouragement from medical professionals and support from my three fabulous children took me through the ensuing challenges that I could turn this into a viable business", says Miriam.
Extensive research followed by professional hospital clinical trials, including scientific fabric and laundry testing, resulted in the safe, approved Safe T Sleep Sleepwrap. Observational hospital clinical trials clearly showed the Sleepwrap helped to maintain safe sleeping positions, thereby helping to prevent accidental suffocation risks and head moulding (flat head) and it also helped improve babies sleep patterns plus give parents and caregivers extra time to attend to a baby in the standing and climbing stage of development.
The initial trials ran over a six month period, it involved 300 babies parents and 15 clinicians from different fields and it had overwhelming positive results and feedback from parents and child health professionals. Subsequently hospital clinical trials proved the efficacy of the product. https://www.safetsleep.com/pages/about-us
Now since its conception in 1976 and delivery onto the world market in 1992, hundreds of thousands of babies have slept safely with the Safe T Sleep Sleepwrap & little HEADwedge. Not one reported fatality, cot accident or injury in all this time.
Occupational and Physio Therapists report the Sleepwrap allows babies to move freely according to their age and stage of development, reducing only the movements that may cause discomfort or place them at risk. The Sleepwrap also helps parents to comply with three important official safe sleep guidelines: * Sleep a YOUNG baby on the back (turning their head gently at each sleep). * Keep baby's face and head clear (to prevent accidental suffocation and prevent overheating.) https://smartstart.services.govt.nz/stage/birth-to-1-year-old#card178
For many decades at least one third of Miriam's time has been dedicated to community service and education. Miriam regularly presented medical papers and seminars to International and local medical conferences and ethnic organisations. Her continued, tireless workshop facilitation and networking with Parent groups, Baby Child Health Organisations in the past, Plunket family centres, paediatricians, doctors, cranio facial surgeons, occupational therapists, physiotherapists and antenatal professionals in New Zealand and abroad demonstrates her dedication to the safety of babies and children.
Over the years Safe T Sleep helps support not-for-profit organisations, like multiple birth groups, special needs parents and children and many lower socio-economic individuals, including teenage mums, resulting in a myriad of product donations going out each year. https://www.safetsleep.com/pages/we-support
Miriam and her daughter Mieke have an efficient, customer service orientated, hands-on business approach which includes helping parents, educational workshops, coordinating national and off-shore manufacturing, national and international dispatch, quality control, national and international marketing, national product knowledge training and merchandising, ongoing product development and a commitment to community and professional liaison/education.
The roles often pose some interesting challenges as Safe T Sleep International goes forward. Safe T Sleep products have also been sold in Australia since 1995 and globally via the website. Presently Safe T Sleep are in negotiations with potential UK, European and Australian Distributors.
“The global potential of this wonderful product is just starting to be realised; I always thought Safe T Sleep may be a 30-40 year ‘overnight’ success”, Miriam says with a laugh. “All good things take time, faith and perseverance” she says.
Miriam Rutherford-van Gisbergen and grandchildren
A positive parenting pioneer, safe sleep campaigner and developer of Safe T Sleep products