Need to know
- 18 out of 26 currently available portable cots reviewed by our experts failed to meet key safety standards
- Most of the safety failures relate to soft or poorly fitting mattresses, which can increase the risk of sudden unexpected infant death
- CHOICE is calling on the government to strengthen our product safety laws so products like this don't make it to the shelves
A portable cot (also known as a travel cot or portacot) is a handy item to have in the first few years of your child's life. It's great for holidays and sleepovers, and a convenient option if you want a second, collapsible cot at the grandparents' or another carer's house.
But CHOICE experts recommend taking great caution when you're buying this product, as many popular brands pose serious safety risks to babies.
"In our expert labs, we regularly test a selection of portable cots currently available on the Australian market," says CHOICE testing expert Kim Gilmour.
"Our latest batch of reviews shows that almost 70% of these products fail key safety requirements, which is a really disappointing result. Unfortunately, this is something we are used to seeing with this particular baby product."
Our latest batch of reviews shows that almost 70% of these products fail key safety requirementsKim Gilmour, CHOICE testing expert
"We assess all models in our labs against the most current Australian safety standard for portable cots. But there are still many models failing to even meet the minimum mandatory requirements, such as mattress firmness."
It's important that you not only buy a safe portacot, but that you also use it safely. Follow our tips on this page below.
How we test portable cots for safety
CHOICE labs are accredited to test portable cots to Australian Standards. When we test portable costs, we give each product an overall score out of 100, called a CHOICE Expert Rating, which takes into account how easy it is to use and its performance.
The performance score rates safety factors such as:
- whether it has breathable zones on all four sides
- that it's sturdy and stable
- that there are no other factors that could cause a child injury, such as sharp protruding objects, or entrapment or strangulation hazards.
Accidents waiting to happen
Current mandatory standards for strollers and portable cots are based on documents written almost two decades ago, but since then we've learned a lot about what makes a product safe. Although newer standards were written for portable cots in 2010, they haven't become law. Instead, they're used as voluntary standards that manufacturers are encouraged to adhere to – but they're not obliged to.
Governments take 'reactive' approach
We've noticed our governments tend to wait until one of these products causes serious injury or death before making the new standard mandatory, even when the newer standard may contain crucial safety provisions. This reactive approach is also inherent in general product safety laws, which allow businesses to react to product safety problems after they happen, rather than trying to prevent them from occurring in the first place.
Ultimately, the result for both regulated and non-regulated products is that consumers have to wait until tragedy strikes for governments to take action and for businesses to take responsibility.
Consumers have to wait until tragedy strikes for governments to take action and for businesses to take responsibility
The tests we do in the CHOICE labs are based mainly on the most recent Australian Standard from 2010, which isn't mandatory for manufacturers to meet. It specifies that a child must be able to breathe through the textile materials and other materials used in the breathable zone around the mattress. We also test against the 1999 Standard, which is mandatory, and unfortunately we still find failures there too.
We recommend only those models that have a CHOICE Expert Rating of 70% or more. This means they've passed all our key safety tests, but may have some very minor failings, such as substandard information labels or possible pinch points for the person folding or unfolding the cot.
Worrying safety failures
But the number of cots failing our tests on key safety requirements is extremely concerning.
"Most of the safety failures we see relate to the portacot mattress either being not firm enough or not fitting snugly inside the portacot base," says Gilmour.
"Soft or poorly fitting mattresses can increase the risk of sudden unexpected infant death. We also see problematic cot designs that have 'puffy' covers that can also cause a risk.
Soft or poorly fitting mattresses can increase the risk of sudden unexpected infant deathKim Gilmour, CHOICE
"The good news is that although we haven't been able to recommend very many portable cots in the past, our latest review has revealed a few more products that do pass our safety tests, and which we can recommend to parents. Others have only minor safety issues.
"However, when choosing a portacot for your baby, you want to make sure you're making the safest choice possible, so we strongly recommend checking our reviews before you buy. You can also view a comprehensive list of all children's products that have failed our safety tests in the past on the CHOICE website.
"And if you've already purchased one of these unsafe cots, CHOICE recommends you return it to the retailer or manufacturer and ask for a full refund (you should note however that they may not oblige unless the cot has been officially recalled)."
'Manufacturers not taking safety seriously enough'
SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) charity Red Nose recommends that parents choose a mattress that meets these criteria and passes this test.
"Just about every other month, CHOICE discovers kids' products that do not pass key safety tests," says CHOICE's head of policy and government relations, Patrick Veyret.
"Portable cots are another example of manufacturers not taking safety seriously enough. This is why we continue to fight for a legal requirement that these products be made safer for our babies and children. It appears that until this happens, manufacturers will continue making dangerous products. CHOICE is supporting the ACCC's recent proposal to strengthen mandatory standards for portacot requirements."
Tips for buying a portacot and how to use it safely
"Price or brand is not an indicator of how safe these products are," says Gilmour. "We find that even some of the leading brands of portacots have issues that pose safety risks for babies.
"Our advice is to always check our reviews and do some research before you settle on which one to purchase."
Here are some tips on how to buy and use a portacot safely:
- Travel cots are designed to be used temporarily only – they are not suitable to use as a permanent sleep option.
- Before you buy, check the government's product safety website to see if there have been any product recalls or safety issues with particular brands or models.
- Only use the mattress or padded base supplied by the manufacturer – don't use other mattresses, as they can pose a suffocation risk or make the cot too shallow, letting a child to climb out too easily.
- The mattress should be firm and snug-fitting all around to avoid trapping the baby's head.
- Make sure there is breathable mesh material all around where it meets the top of the mattress area.
- Make sure there's nothing sticking out that could snag the baby's clothes or act as a foothold for the baby to climb out.
- Don't position the cot beside blind cords, power points, windows or other hazards.
- Never put pillows, cot bumpers or soft toys in the portacot – not only because they're a suffocation risk, but because they can also be used to climb out.
- Once the baby weighs more than 15kg, or can undo the folding latches, stop using the portacot.
The portable cots that failed our safety tests
- Aeromoov Instant Travel Cot ($399)
- Baby Bunting 4Baby Liteway Travel Cot EA11816 ($149)
- Baby Bunting 4Baby Clouds 2 in 1 Portacot EA12117 ($99)
- Baby Bunting 4Baby Vacation Portacot EA12116 ($49)
- Babyhood Uno 2 in 1 Portacot ($449)
- Chicco Lullaby Easy Portacot ($500)
- Childcare Matisse 4 in 1 Travel Cot ($180)
- Kmart Anko Travel Portacot 42-001-409 ($49)
- Kmart Anko 3 in 1 Portacot 42723370 ($95)
- Love N Care Playland Travel Cot ($150)
- Phil & Teds Traveller 2021 TR-V5-5/100 ($450)
- Star Kidz Amico Super Light Travel Cot ($249)
- Star Kidz Vivo Super Light Travel Cot ($399)
- Target Adventure V2 3 in 1 Portacot BRT022A1 ($99) NOTE: a previous version of this product received a CHOICE Recommended score in our 2019 review, however this is a different updated model.
- Target Holiday Portacot BRT023A ($55)
- Vee Bee Amado Travel & Play Cot N9560 ($199)
- Vee Bee The Sierra N9338 ($239).
Our full portable cot reviews include information on why these models failed safety tests (and responses from the manufacturers), plus portable cots that we do recommend as safe options.
Responses from manufacturers
In response to our 2022 test, manufacturers from Baby Bunting (4Baby), Kmart and Star Kidz disagreed with our results, showing us reports from other third-party labs, indicating their products pass safety standards. CHOICE, which also operates its own in-house accredited lab, stands by its results.
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.