Positive Parenting and Safer Sleeping Pioneer
Safe T Sleep celebrating 25 Years of Parent Support and Safety Success.
Miriam van Gisbergen, inventor, educator and director of Safe T Sleep® International is driven by her devotion to giving peace of mind to parents by enhancing child safety and promoting positive, nurturing, trust-building parenting education. Her innovative invention, the Sleepwrap® and other quality and practical products, sold through her company Safe T Sleep International Ltd., have given hundreds of thousands of babies safe and more settled sleep; and their parents’ and caregivers well-deserved peace of mind.
An early pioneer of positive parenting education, Miriam has advised, supported and worked with parents and child health professionals for well over twenty five years. Her commitment to empower parents with full information and practical support regarding sleeptime safety awareness and nurturing settling skills for babies from newborn to two years of age, has been the driving force behind the success of her business.
“As a young nurse, I encountered children with broken wrists, arms and legs from climbing and falling from their cots,” says Miriam. “During this time, I also cared for a severely brain-damaged 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 friends and I began to experiment with a variety of ‘wraps’. My design was kept very simple to ensure comfort, security and freedom of movement to allow for normal physical development. The result was a cosy, swaddling wrap that allowed natural flexible and free limb and hip movement, which also unexpectedly assisted his settling to sleep”.
The hard work of establishing Miriam’s company Safe T Sleep International Ltd., had just begun. Miriam’s experience from nursing, parenting, designing her own home, community work , counselling, tutoring and research was a good foundation to start her own business, though “there are always some new steep and exciting learning curves along the way,” she laughs.
“A wonderful combination of strong faith, supportive staff, key amazing friends, mentors... in particular my patent and trademark solicitor, encouragement from medical professionals and help from my three children took me through the original challenges to turn this into a viable, vocational business. I am particularly blessed to have the support and help of my youngest child these past five years,” says Miriam.
Extensive research followed by, significantly, 'Independent' professional hospital clinical trials including scientific fabric and laundry testing resulted in a safe, approved Safe T Sleep Sleepwrap. Observational hospital trials, clearly showed the Sleepwrap® helped to prevent falls, suffocation, Cot/Crib Death/SIDS/SUDI risks and head moulding with improvements to babies’ sleep patterns.
The initial trials ran over a six month period, involving 300 babies, their parents and fifteen clinicians from different fields with overwhelming positive results and feedback from parents and child health professionals.
Subsequently the Independent hospital clinical trials proved the efficacy of the product.
Occupational Therapists reported the Sleepwrap allowed babies to move freely according to their age and stage of development only reducing movements that placed them at risk. It also reduces two of the major Cot/Crib Death/SIDS/SUDI risks to ‘help keep baby’s face and head clear’, and ‘help prevent young babies tummy sleeping’.
Cranio- facial plastic surgeons have involved Miriam and the Sleepwrap helping to prevent or correct positional plagiocephaly commonly known as flat/deformed head, often caused by sleeping on the same head spot. Globally, 20-30% of baby flat /deformed heads still NEVER return to an acceptable shape.
Over a period of four years babies were referred to Miriam via a local hospital cranio-facial plastic surgery department. In later years there are GP's and self-referrals with this problem. 94% have been corrected in a comfortable way avoiding cumbersome and uncomfortable helmet therapy and in two cases preventing surgery.
Miriam’s support to special needs, multiple birth groups, not-for-profit organisations, New Zealand Plunket and many lower socio-economic individuals, including teenage mums, has resulted in a myriad of product donations go out each year.
A growing awareness of the cost-cutting benefits using the Sleepwrap means babies from newborn to age two (or older when boating or special needs) can sleep safely anywhere on a mattress or bed reducing the need for expensive nursery furniture and bedding. “It's very convenient as, not only are you saving money, but also space... It’s literally a bed in a bag”, says Miriam.
Her continued hands-on business approach includes co-ordinating national and off-shore manufacturing, quality assurance and control, national and international marketing. Ongoing product development and commitment to community and professional liaison/education, pose some interesting challenges as Safe T Sleep International goes forward.
Safe T Sleep products are now being sold mainly in Australia, Europe, the United States and UK highlighting the demand for this product, globally.
Celebrating its twenty fifth year in business this month, Miriam has developed a new Cot-only model Sleepwrap to assist those on lower budgets and has co-designed and developed a safe, top quality, uniquely custom-designed Sleepingbag for newborn-2 year olds. The clever hidden fastening tab on the back allowing use in car seats, strollers and with the little leg piece of the Sleepwrap, which is used for very wriggly babies and those who need their mattress elevated when suffering from colic, colds or reflux. She is also launching the 2nd edition of her little, practical Baby Wisdom booklet aimed to assist new parents and grandparents.
Safe T Sleep International’s products have consistently reached up to twenty percent of all first-time babies born each year in New Zealand alone. The products often being used for at least one other child.
Since its launch in 1992 hundreds of thousands of babies have slept safely in a Safe T Sleep® Sleepwrap® without a single reported death or injury.
At least one third of Miriam’s time is dedicated to community service and education. Miriam regularly presents Medical Papers, seminars and workshops at National, International and local medical conferences and marae. Her continued, tireless networking with Baby Child Health and safety Organisations, Early Childhood Council, hospitals, nurses, midwives, paediatricians, doctors, occupational therapists, physiotherapists and ante-natal professionals in New Zealand and abroad, demonstrates her life-long dedication to the safety of babies and children.
Empowering parents and caregivers with positive, nurturing gentle ways to settle their babies and help give peace of mind, prevent injuries, assist in the development of lovely shaped heads and give a gift of a ‘life’ is a wonderful privilege!” says Miriam