- Take a tape measure with you when you’re shopping for a cot.
- Standards certified The cot should be certified to AS/NZS 2172, preferably the current 2003 version; most parts of this standard are actually mandatory. Our tests show that some cots with this label might still fail some safety criteria, perhaps due to manufacturing variations, but standards certification is the benchmark. Most cots are certified when first produced, but might then be manufactured for several years without ever being re-certified, which means manufacturing variations can subtly change the cot over time. Choice tests frequently pick up such problems. We think manufacturers should get their cots re-certified at least every two years as does the peak industry body, the Infant and Nursery Products Association of Australia.
- Sturdy and durable All components should be permanently fixed or require the use of a tool to take apart.
- 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 fits 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.
- 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.
- No hazardous protrusions Nothing should stick out or point up that could hit a child’s head or snag on their clothing.
- Finish All the components of the cot should be blunted, smooth and gently contoured.
- No footholds There shouldn’t be any component or structure in the cot that could be used by the child as a ledge for climbing out.
- Dropside clearance When you open the dropside, it should be at least 50mm off the floor to clear your feet.
- Junior bed conversion If the cot converts to a junior bed, you’ll get much longer use from it.
- Teething strips These are 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.
- Castors/brakes Castor wheels make the cot easier to move around, but there should be lockable brakes on at least two wheels.
Cots and the environment
Is it a good idea to reuse an old or secondhand cot? Not always. In Australia, cots have been subject to a mandatory standard only since 1998, and our tests show that not every cot sold since then meets the standard. So before accepting a used cot, check that it’s safe (see What to look for) and always buy a new, correctly fitting mattress for it, as the old mattress may create a SIDS risk if it’s too soft (see Safe sleeping below), or it could just be dirty.
If you’re buying a new cot, there are ways to reduce its environmental impact, and possibly save money too. A cot that converts to a junior bed is one way. When your baby has outgrown the cot, you simply remove the sides to transform it to a small bed. Some cots need the addition of bed rails at the sides, for strength, which is fine as long as the mattress is firm and fits snugly against the rails and bed ends so there are no gaps (which are suffocation hazards).
By converting the cot to a bed, you’ll get a few more years’ use from it. Look also for claims of sustainable manufacture. In this test, the Grotime, Kingparrot, Mother's Choice, and Sunbury claim to be made from plantation timber.
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 causes 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. But 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.
See sidsandkids.org for more information.