Going out visiting? Baby staying with your Mum for the day? Going on holidays with baby in tow? There are plenty of times when a portable cot can come in handy.
They're light enough to carry and can fit in the car boot when folded. All-in-all they're a handy addition to your baby arsenal, but no substitute for a regular cot for everyday use because they're not as durable.
Mandatory safety requirements for portable cots took effect in March 2009 - based on some of the clauses from standard AS/NZS 2195:1999. The standard includes requirements for ensuring the folding mechanism is secure, that there are no gaps that could trap a child’s head, that the mattress is safe and the cot has adequate warnings about safe use. The full standard also incorporates many voluntary tests that cover entrapment hazards, sharp edges and points and strength of construction.
A 2010 version of the standard has been created, however it is yet to be made mandatory. The most important addition to the new standard is a test that observes for adequate breathable zones (in case the baby manages to roll face first against the edge). CHOICE believes this is an important aspect, so we've included a breathability assessment in our latest testing. This mainly involves checking that every wall of the cot is made from a mesh material that allows for air flow through the cot.
CHOICE would like to see portable cots comply with the full voluntary standard, in particular the 2010 version which makes reference to breathability of materials.
Here's what to look for
- The portable cot should provide good ventilation. Each side should be predominantly of a mesh material.
- Don't use a portable cot if your child weighs more than 15kg.
- Don't put additional mattresses in the cot.
- Inside surfaces should be free of bumps, ledges and protruding parts so children can’t hit their heads, get their clothing snagged or use them as a foothold to climb out of the cot.
- Look for possible entrapment areas, where children can trap limbs, heads or fingers.
- There should be no sharp edges or points where a child could injure itself.
- The mattress should be firm enough and fit snugly without gaps on any side. Don't put an additional mattress in the cot.
- Remove all toys from the cot when the child is sleeping.
- The rails should have two locking mechanisms to prevent accidental collapse and closure. Check these before placing your child in the cot.
- The cot floor shouldn’t sag. Press down on the base to check this.
Some useful features are:
- The cot should be easy to assemble and fold away. Some come with a carry bag and others fold such that the wheels protrude from the carry bag so you can wheel the bag around.
- Pockets on the outside - out of reach of the baby - are handy for storage. However, check that the pocket doesn't prevent airflow.
- An insect net for the top will keep out larger insects.
- Accessories like a bassinette or change table can come in handy, but bear in mind that also come with their own risks.
- Toys and musical entertainment units are a fun feature for your child.
For more information regarding safety, how we test, what to buy and test results, check out our article on Portable cots.