Tips on shopping for a cot and how to ensure your baby is sleeping safely in their new bed.
When your baby reaches three or four months of age you may want to think about moving them out of their crib or moses basket and into their own cot.
As your baby will probably spend more time sleeping than awake during their first two years, it’s worth researching which is the best type of cot for you and them.
Choosing a cot
As well as considering the design and look, the cot you choose must conform to British safety standards (BSEN716). The reason for these safety standards is to reduce the number of accidental infant deaths each year due to strangulation or suffocation. The following guidelines have been developed to help when looking for a cot:
Depth: the distance between the top of the mattress and the top of the cot sides should be at least 50cm, to prevent your baby from climbing out when they become more mobile.
Cot bars should be vertical; if they are horizontal your baby could use them as a ladder to climb out. Also, the distance between the bars should be no more than 6.5cm apart so your baby can’t get stuck between the bars of the cot.
It is also recommended by some experts that a cot with bars on all four sides is better, as it allows air to circulate freely while your baby sleeps.
If your cot has a solid head and footboard with shapes cut out, check that your baby’s limbs cannot become caught in any of the spaces.
The Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths (FSID) recommends you buy a new cot mattress, or – if using a second-hand mattress – carefully check that it’s clean, dry and free from cracks or tears.
Your cot mattress should be firm, with no sagging and fit the cot snugly, with no gaps.
Mattresses tend to come in two sizes, standard and continental and should fit the equivalent sizes of cots commonly available in the UK.
The mattress needs to be kept as clean and hygienic as possible. You can either use one with a wipe-clean covering or a removable top panel that you can wash at a high temperature. Alternatively, you could use a mattress protector, which covers the mattress to stop it getting wet if the baby dribbles or their nappy leaks.
Choose a mattress that feels firm rather than soft, your baby needs support while he is sleeping. It should be no thinner than 10cm.
Check it conforms to safety standards – mattresses should carry the BSI number BS 1877-10:1997.
There are three main types of mattresses you can choose from: foam cot mattresses, spring-interior cot mattresses and coir cot mattresses. There are pros and cons to each of these. Do your research, test, touch and feel each type and decide what suits you and your family best.
Second hand cots
Although a great option for keeping down initial costs, you’ll need to make sure that it conforms to current safety standards, mentioned above. Furthermore:
If it is a very old, painted cot, it may need to be stripped down and repainted. Cots made before 1973 could have used leaded paint, which is toxic.
If there is a drop-side mechanism, check it works smoothly and remains in the ‘up’ position.
If there are any stickers or transfers on the inside of the cot, remove them, as they may peel off and present a choking hazard.
Check there is nothing sticking out of the top rail which may catch your baby’s clothes.
Unless you know the history of the mattress, and have checked it for cleanliness and size, and are happy with it, it is recommended that you buy a new one.
Check that there is nothing on the inside of the cot that your baby can use as a foothold to help him climb out of the cot.
Where to place the cot
Babies are less able to control their temperature so the cot shouldn’t be near a radiator or sunny window. Blind cords are also a risk as babies have been known to become entangled with these and strangled.
Inside the cot
It is recommended that the inside of your baby’s cot should be as clutter free as possible. Pillows and duvets aren’t safe for babies younger than one year due to the risk of suffocation. Duvets can also make the baby too hot. Cot bumpers can also trap heat in the cot and could be used to climb on when your baby becomes more mobile so these are not recommended.
Information supplied by the National Childbirth Trust.
NCT’s helpline offers practical and emotional support in all areas of pregnancy, birth and early parenthood: 0300 330 0700. Alternatively visit NTC.org.uk for information.