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Your guide to choosing a safe cot

Working out where your new baby will sleep is all part of good preparation for the arrival of your little one. When it comes to cots, you might feel pressured into buying the latest or most expensive product on the market. Also, there might be a cheaper or preloved option, or maybe even a hand-me-down available.

Regardless of the cot you choose, it’s always important to check safety features. Checking for all these things can take time, but can give you peace of mind when trying to create a safe space for your child when they sleep.
Regardless of the type, or condition of the cot you choose, it is important to check the safety features.

Even though a cot is available for sale, in store or online, doesn’t mean that it has been tested against or complies with Australian safety standards.

What to look out for

Make sure that the cot you plan to use as a sticker on it showing its compliance with Australian Standard AS/ NZS 2172: 2003. This standard applies to all household cots regardless if they are new, second hand, antique or even family heirlooms. If a cot meets this standard, you know that the design has been tested to meet recognised safety standards.  

The main guidelines for cot structures to follow include:

  • The majority of cot sides will have vertical bars or panels. Each of these should be between 5 cm and 9.5 cm apart. This is to avoid trapping your child’s arms or legs between the bars.
  • Beware of any parts jutting out from the structure of the cot. Any part of the cot which is considered a protrusion should be less than 5 mm.
  • You should also consider a mattress that is firm. This can help prevent Sudden Infant Death in Infancy. Visit Rednose.com.au for more information on safe mattresses.
  • Ensure that the side of your cot rail is high enough so that your child cannot climb out. Also, check that the highest setting for the side rail is comfortable for anyone who needs to lift up your child from the cot. This way, you can avoid any back strain for yourself as well.

At home

Once you’ve taken your cot home, there are some additional things you can do to ensure your child’s safety when in their cot.

  • Don’t position the cot too close to loose blinds and curtain cords that small fingers could reach, grip onto and pull down or get caught up in. Also, consider keeping your cot away from anywhere that might have potentially dangerous objects that could be pulled and fall in.
  • Most cots will have a higher and a lower setting for the cot This is so the cot base can be adjusted to be raised higher for young babies, and lower, for when your child is older and more mobile. For younger babies, the distance between the base and the top edge of the lowest cot side should be at least 40 cm when the base is in the highest position and the drop-side is up. Later on, when your child can sit up by themselves, the guideline is 60 cm. This will help prevent your child from finding footholds to leverage themselves and climb over rails.
  • Make sure there are no horizontal bars, decorations or flourishes such as additional bedding or toys in the cot which could be used to climb on or that may cause suffocation.
  • Make sure you’re getting a correctly sized mattress for your cot. The space between the mattress and walls of the cot should be kept to a minimum (less than 2 cm or two fingers width). This way, if your baby rolls, you’ve lessened the risk that they’ll get caught in a gap.

It’s also a good idea to consider the following:

  • Regularly check how tight the bolts for the cots are, as per maintenance guidelines.
  • If your cot has castors or wheels mounted to the base of the cot, does at least one pair have brakes? Remember to place the cot in a safe spot and use locking brakes.

More information

If you are considering using a cot that doesn’t appear to meet Australian Safety Standards, websites such as  Choice and Product Safety Australia have more information, including lists of cots that do not meet the safety standards. These websites also have other resources that you may find useful such as the ‘Keeping baby safe’ video on the Product Safety Australia website.