Beautiful designs, patterns, colours, bedding and trims are important, of course, but what really counts is your baby's safety.
What to look for
- Look for a cot which has been certified to the Australian/New Zealand Standard (AS/NZS 2172:2003). The 2003 version of the standard is still currently the mandatory version. Our testing shows that some cots with this label might still fail some safety criteria, perhaps due to manufacturing variations, but standards certification is the benchmark.
- Cots should sturdy and durable. All components should be permanently fixed or require the use of a tool to take apart.
- If made of metal, they shouldn't be bent or rusty, and their joints should be close-fitting and securely and cleanly welded.
- Timber cots shouldn't have any nails and screws that are exposed above the surface. They also shouldn't have large knots, insect damage, cracks or splinters.
- There should be no sharp edges or points that could cause a cut or head injury.
- Take a tape measure with you when you’re shopping for a cot so you can check the dimensions, as explained in the following points. (Cots certified to the standard should meet all these requirements.)
- It should be deep enough to stop a child from falling out: the distance from the top of the mattress to the top of the lowest side when the dropside is closed should be at least 500mm when the base is set in the lowest position. The depth should be 300mm when it is in the upper position. The depth should also be at least 150mm when the dropside is down.
- The mattress should fit snugly around all sides. When you choose a mattress, make sure there is no more than a 40mm gap between the edge of the mattress and the adjacent cot side when the mattress is pushed to the opposite side. Gaps at the sides are a suffocation risk – your baby could roll face-first into them. Make sure that the mattress you buy corresponds to the cot manufacturer's size recommendations - it should fit snugly with no gaps.
- There are no head entrapment hazards: any large space or opening must be between 50mm and 95mm to stop your baby from either getting caught or falling out.
- No limb entrapment hazards: smaller openings should not be between 30mm and 50mm wide.
- No finger entrapment hazards: any space or opening should not be between 5mm and 12mm wide, so little fingers don’t get caught.
- The dropside should be secure and smooth to operate. The dropside on the cot should be impossible for a child to open but should be convenient for the child’s carer to operate. When you open the dropside, it should be at least 50mm off the floor to clear your feet.
- No knobs or protrusions that could catch a child's clothing. All the components of the cot should be blunt, smooth and gently contoured.
- No decorative transfers that can come off easily.
- No crossbars, trim or any other component or structure in the cot that could be used as a foothold for the child to climb out.
- No bumpers or anything else inside the cot that has strings or ties.
- No choking hazards such as small toys, small items, medication, string or elastic in the cot. Make sure there are no pillows, comforters or other soft products under infants while they sleep.
- Check that locking devices are easy to use for an adult but very difficult for a child. Check that the locking mechanism has a clear difference between locked and unlocked.
- Make sure the cot is placed at a reasonable distance from curtains, blinds, heaters and power points.
- Move children to a single bed once they start attempting to climb out of their cot.
- If the cot converts to a junior bed, you'll get much longer use from it. Some of these conversion kits need to be purchased as an optional extra.
- Teething strips Some cots have plastic strips on the wooden edges of the cot, such as the top of the dropside, so that neither the baby nor the cot is damaged if it's chewed on.
- Castor wheels make the cot easier to move around, but there should be lockable brakes on at least two wheels.
The number of SIDS cases, or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (also known as cot death), where a baby dies unexpectedly from no known cause, is on the decline. That's probably because some of the cases are now understood and well publicised. Here are some tips for making sure your baby sleeps safely:
- Put your baby on his or her back to sleep.
- Make sure your baby's face stays uncovered during sleep - there should be no loose bedding, quilts, pillows, soft toys and cot bumpers in the cot.
- Keep your baby smoke-free, before birth and after - babies exposed to tobacco smoke have an increased risk of SIDS.
- For the first six to 12 months, keep the cot in your room so you can easily check your baby is safe. Bur don't share your bed with your baby; there's a risk to the baby from slipping under the bedding, getting too hot, being trapped between a parent and a wall, or being rolled on.
For more information on how we test cots, including our latest test results see our Cots review.