Need to know
- 17 out of 20 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 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, great for holidays and sleepovers, and a convenient option if you want a second, collapsible cot at the grandparent's house.
But CHOICE experts warn to exercise caution when 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. Our latest batch of reviews shows that 85% of these products fail key safety requirements, which is a really disappointing result," says CHOICE baby product expert Rebecca Ciaramidaro.
"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 meet the mandatory requirements."
How we test portable cots for safety
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 aspects such as whether it has breathable zones on all four sides, that it's sturdy and stable, and that there are no other aspects that could cause a child injury, such as sharp protruding objects, or entrapment or strangulation hazards.
Our test is mainly based 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 we find failures there too.
We only recommend models that have a CHOICE Expert Rating of 70% or over, meaning that they pass all our safety tests but may have some very minor failures, such as insufficient information labels.
The number of cots failing our tests on key safety requirements is extremely concerning
However, the number of cots failing our tests on key safety requirements is extremely concerning. In fact, in the latest batch of cots we tested, we were only able to recommend one model for parents to buy.
Most of the safety failures relate to the portacot mattress either being not firm enough or not fitting snugly inside the portacot base. Soft or poorly fitting mattresses can increase the risk of sudden unexpected infant death. SIDS charity Red Nose recommends that parents choose a mattress that meets this criteria and passes this test.
"Just about every other month, CHOICE discovers kids products that do not pass key safety tests," says CHOICE product safety expert, Amy Pereira.
"Portable cots is 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."
Follow our tips to make sure you're using your portacot safely.
Tips for buying a portacot and how to use it safely
"Price or brand is not an indicator of how safe these products are. We find that even some of the leading brands of portacots have issues that pose safety risks for babies," says Ciaramidaro. "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 only designed to be used temporarily. They are not suitable to use as a permanent sleep solution.
- Before you buy, check the 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 so a child could climb out too easily.
- The mattress should be firm and snug-fitting all around to avoid trapping the baby's head.
- Make sure there's nothing sticking out that could snag the baby's clothes or provide 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 these items can 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
Joie Excursion Change & Rock Travel Cot ($399)
Love N Care Playland Travel Cot HK 999 ($130)
4baby Liteway Travel Cot EA11816 ($169)
Ingenuity Smart & Simple Travel Cot 10116 ($249)
Phil & Teds Traveller 4 ($199)
Vee Bee Amado Travel & Play Cot N9560 ($149)
Vee Bee The Sierra N9338 ($215)
Elite Baby All in 1 Deluxe ($95)
Kmart Anko Travel Porta-cot 42001409 ($49)
Childcare Trio 3 In 1 Travel Cot 074260-357 ($180)
Babyco Edinburgh Statesman 4006375-377 ($150)
Babyhood Bambino Dormire 2 in 1 Porta Cot ($299)
Steelcraft Sonnet 32439 ($109)
Target Holiday Portacot BRT023A ($49)
Childcare Matisse 4 in 1 Travel Cot ($180)
Joie Commuter Change Travel Cot ($199)
Chicco Lullaby Easy Portacot ($500)
Our full portable cot reviews, available for members, include information on why these models failed safety tests, plus portable cots that we do recommend.