04.What to look for
Portable cots can be dangerous. Here's how to keep your child safe.
- 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.
- There should be no 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.
- 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.
At present manufacturers don't have to make their portable cots to meet the Australian Standard. However, for safety's sake our advice is to check that the portable cot you buy complies with the voluntary Australian/New Zealand Standard (AS/NZS 2195:1999).
- The cot should be easy to assemble and fold up (all the ones in this test are), not be too heavy and have a carry bag. Some models fold such that the wheels protrude from the carry bag, so it's easier for you to wheel the bag around.
- The mesh sides should provide good ventilation and allow you to easily see the baby.
- A pocket on the outside — out of reach of the baby — is handy for storage. An insect net for the top will keep out larger insects, but smaller ones like mosquitoes may still get in through the side mesh.
- Some cots have a removable fitted sheet, which can be taken out for washing.
- Accessories like a bassinette or change table can be useful, but they also have risks. See What to buy and the profiles for more details.
Why not use a portable cot all the time?
Portable cots are often cheaper than regular ones, plus you can move them around easily and take them with you when you’re out and about. So why not skip buying a regular cot and just stick with the portable?
Well, you probably could if you were determined, but it’s better to use a regular cot on a daily basis. There are several reasons for this.
Firstly, regular cots are sturdier and more durable than portable cots. They can also accommodate larger babies, so you’ll get more use out of them. An average two-year-old will be slightly larger than the recommended size for most portable cots, whereas a regular cot — especially one with a bed-conversion kit — can be used till they’re three or four.
Also, they’re higher off the ground than a portable cot, so you don’t have to bend so far to pick the baby up.
See our test of regular cots for more information and product recommendations.