Need to know
- 16 out of 24 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' house.
But CHOICE experts recommend 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 more than 65% of these products fail key safety requirements, which is a really disappointing result."
Our latest batch of reviews shows that more than 65% of these products fail key safety requirementsKim Gilmour, CHOICE testing expert
The recent testing also revealed the worst portable cot we have ever seen in our labs – the Mamakiddies Baby Playard Happy Dino portable cot, which received a score of just 14%.
"The Mamakiddies portable cot had so many safety failures that we gave it a score of zero percent for performance, and an overall score of only 14%," says Kim.
"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."
The Mamakiddies portable cot had so many safety failures that our experts gave it a score of zero percent for performance. It's the worst portable cot that we've ever tested in our CHOICE labs.
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 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.
Origins of our test
Our test is 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 we 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 safety tests, but may have some very minor failings, such as insufficient information labels.
Worrying safety failures
However, 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 Kim 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
"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 that 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.
"And if you've already purchased one of these unsafe cots, CHOICE recommends you return it to the retailer or manufacturer for a full refund."
'Manufacturers not taking safety seriously enough'
SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) 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," 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 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, enabling 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
4Baby Liteway Travel Cot EA11816 ($169)
Babyco Edinburgh Statesman 4006375-377 ($80)
Babyhood Uno 2 in 1 Portacot ($449)
Chicco Lullaby Easy Portacot ($500)
Childcare Ison 3 in 1 Travel Cot ($129)
Childcare Matisse 4 in 1 Travel Cot ($180)
Joie Excursion Change & Rock Travel Cot ($399)
Kmart Anko Travel Portacot 42-001-409 ($49)
Love N Care Playland Travel Cot ($150)
Mamakiddies Baby Playard Happy Dino ($119)
Mocka Porta Cot A02458 ($100)
Phil & Teds Traveller 4 ($199)
Star Kidz Amico Super Light Travel Cot ($159)
Target Holiday Portacot BRT023A ($49)
Vee Bee Amado Travel & Play Cot N9560 ($170)
Vee Bee The Sierra N9338 ($209)
Our full portable cot reviews include information on why these models failed safety tests, plus portable cots that we do recommend.