Choosing a cot How to buy a cot
A cot will be one of the bulkiest - as well as one of the most expensive - pieces of baby equipment you'll need to invest in before your little one arrives.
With prices anywhere from £70 for a basic cot up to £700 for a solid oak luxury model, it's worth shopping around to choose a suitable cot to last you through your baby's early months. You can view all the different options available and our Best Buys by checking out our cot bed reviews.
Choosing a cot
We asked more than 500 cot owners, along with 600 parents who had bought a convertible cot bed, to tell us what they believed to be the most important considerations when buying one.
Buying a cot: top five factors
|3.||Whether the cot can be converted into a toddler bed|
|4.||Cot has drop-side|
Buying a cot bed: top five factors
|3.||Ease of converting into a toddler bed|
|5.||Ease of using height-adjustable base|
(Which? baby products survey, January 2011)
Cot shopping checklist
Cot sizes vary. Cots designed to fit 'standard-sized' cot mattresses are a few centimetres narrower than cots designed for 'continental-sized' mattresses - although they're often a similar length. Cots also vary in size within these categories, too. Measurements should be clearly displayed on the cot label.
The advantage of a larger cot is that your baby will have more room - and it may work out a more practical option if you and your baby are happy to continue using a cot well into toddling years. However, a smaller cot will be perfectly adequate for a growing baby.
The base height of most cots can be adjusted as your baby grows. You can choose the highest level for the first few months, so you can lift your baby in and out easily, then reposition at a lower level when your baby starts to pull him- or herself up, so he or she stays secure in the cot.
Cots tend to have a two- or three-position base, although a few have more. Two positions are fine for most people’s needs.
Fixed or drop sides?
Most cots available have drop sides. One side of the cot will have a mechanism designed to let you lower the side so you can lift your baby in and out with ease. Some cots have drop mechanisms on both sides.
'Nudge and lift' mechanisms, when you push the side of the cot into a position where it can be lowered, can be useful because you can operate them with one hand. Other cots have a trigger mechanism, a foot pedal or a couple of catches to undo.
New rules to ban drop-side cots in the United States are being introduced over there from June 2011, following the deaths of at least 32 babies because of defective drop-side cots since 2000, and recalls on 11 million cots since 2007.
British cots come under European safety standards, which are different to those in the US. So far, there has been no indication that a similar ban on drop-side cots will be applied in Europe. Here at Which? we'll be taking a closer look into this issue in the coming months.
Chomping on the edge of a cot is a habit many babies seem to relish. Choose a cot with a teething rail – a protective covering lining the side-edges of the cot – if you want to avoid the risk of damage.
Some cots have casters or mounted wheels - handy, if you want to move your cot into to a different room. It also makes for easier cleaning under and around the cot.
A cot bed is a cot with removable sides and end panel so it can be converted into a toddler-sized bed. These are increasingly popular and seem a logical way of lengthening the life of a cot as well as helping to make the move from a cot to a bed as smooth as possible for your child.
Cot beds are larger than cots but are not necessarily much more expensive. You'll need to buy a cot bed-sized mattress rather than one designed for a cot.
You can buy cots with a removable side so you can position the cot right next to your bed. The base can be adjusted so your baby’s mattress can be lined up with yours, which makes night-time feeding easier.
Travel cots are portable cots that you can fold up and put in a bag to take away with you. Most have a plastic or metal frame, woven fabric-and-mesh sides, and a hard segmented bottom with a folding, lightly padded mattress. Our dedicated travel cots guide has more in-depth advice.
Cots should carry the British Standards Institution (BSI) number BS EN 716:2008, which indicates that they comply with the required safety standards. Additionally, the Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths (FSID) advises parents to follow these cot and sleep safety tips:
- The recommended room temperature for a baby to sleep in is 16-20ºC or 61-68ºF - use a room thermometer to check the temperature before putting your baby to bed
- The safest position for your baby to sleep in a cot is on their back, not on their front or side
- Your baby should be positioned with their feet at the foot of the cot
- The cot bedding should be tucked in and made up to come no higher than your baby's shoulders
- Keep the cot in a room with you for the first six months (space allowing)
- Keep the cot out of direct sunlight.
Watch the FSID's video guide to safe sleeping for more useful information.
If you're thinking of buying a second-hand cot or accepting a hand-me-down, there are some important points to consider:
- Avoid old family heirlooms as they may not meet current safety standards
- Measure the bar spacing: the bars should be no more than 6.5cm apart so your baby can't get stuck between the bars of the cot
- There must be at least 50cm between the top of the mattress and top of the cot
- Check the drop-side mechanism works smoothly and stays reliably in the ‘up’ position
- If there's any sign of peeling paint, strip and re-paint the cot
- Remove any transfers on the inside of the cot because they could come off and become a choking hazard
- Check there are no footholds or cut-outs or ledges in the sides or the ends that could help a baby climb out
- Check there are no protrusions on the top rails where your child could catch his or her clothing, or get anything caught around his or her neck
- Check the cot mattress carefully, making sure it's the correct size for the cot, is clean and has maintained its shape Check for tears or splits in the cover. Unless you know the history of the mattress and are happy with its fit and condition, you should buy a new one.