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Parents warned over defective cot beds

A quarter of all those tested by Which? were delivered damaged

Recent Which? testing of cot beds has revealed defects in 25% of those we purchased. 

We’ve just posted 12 new cot bed reviews from popular brands. Three out of 12 of the samples we tested were defective.

Defects ranged from screw holes in the wrong place, to pieces of the cot bed splintering off. We also found others that are unlikely to comply with British Safety Standards.

As with all our reviews, Which? buys samples independently from retailers. We don’t get them sent to us as press samples. This means manufacturers don’t know we’re testing their product. Buying ‘off the shelf’ means we know we’re getting exactly the same quality as consumers.

Shocked at shoddy condition

We were shocked at the shoddy condition of some of the cot beds we bought. The poor state of some of them meant we had to buy more before we could begin our testing.

Luckily we’re not prospective parents with a due date looming, and the delay just meant our testing was pushed back. But if you’re buying your cot bed pretty close to the birth of your child, and you come across the same issues, you could risk not having anywhere for your child to sleep – an unnecessary stress at a difficult and demanding time.

Here are the cot bed issues we found that parents and parents-to-be need to keep an eye out for, and what to do if you find yourself in a similar situation:

Pieces splintering off

The last thing you want in a new cot bed is bits splintering off it. Not only is it unsafe for your baby, as it can cause splinters and your child could accidentally ingest pieces of it, but it could also weaken the structural integrity of the cot bed itself.

Below you can see two cot beds that sustained damage before they reached our laboratory, which made it impossible to fix together the cot beds safely.

In the picture above, you can see where the veneer coating on one of the end boards had completely splintered off.

The other had damage to the bottom corner on the inside of one of the end boards. The bent veneer obstructs the slot for the slatted cot bed base to be bolted into, causing it to remain loose.

This meant both had to be sent back and replaced.

Screw holes in the wrong place

Most cot beds you buy are flat-packed and need to be assembled at home. This reduces storage, transportation costs and cost to parents.

But this means there is a risk that the parts won’t fit together properly due to an error during the manufacturing process.

That’s what we experienced. In the photo above, the hole that’s labelled A should have been a good couple of inches higher to line up with a hole in one of the cot bed sides, so the two pieces could be screwed together.

There was no way this cot bed could be put together unless we started drilling new holes, so this cot bed had to be sent back and a replacement ordered.

Stickers that could pose a choking hazard

British Safety Standards stipulate that there should be no self-adhesive labels on the inside of a cot bed where a child can reach. This is because they can be a choking hazard if your child manages to peel them off and put them in his or her mouth.

So it was surprising to see three out of the 12 cot beds we tested had stickers on the internal sides of the cots, which could pose a safety risk if they’re not removed before use.

How to deal with a defective cot bed

Unfortunately there’s generally no way of knowing whether your cot bed is defective until you open the box. Here’s our advice if you’re buying one for your baby:

  1. Make sure you order your cot bed far enough in advance of the birth to give you time to get a replacement if needed.
  2. When you get it, take it out of the box straightaway. If it’s not practical to set it up at that point, at least check all parts and make sure there’s no damage to the wood.
  3. If your cot bed has holes that don’t line up, do not try to correct the problem yourself. It could invalidate the warranty and make the cot bed less safe to use.
  4. If your cot bed has a sticker on it anywhere your child could grab it, make sure you remove it before use. Dabbing with warm water should get it off.

We’d advise checking our cot bed Best Buys for those we recommend.

Read our advice on faulty goods to find out what you should do if an item you’ve bought is defective and needs to be returned.

How we test cot beds

Each cot bed we test goes through a number of safety and durability tests, to the appropriate British Safety Standards. But we also go further than the standard in order to check whether a cot bed can withstand wear and tear and last for as long as you expect it to. This includes:

  • Pounding the bed base to check it’s strong enough to withstand the force of a jumping toddler. Each is pounded with a 10kg weight 1,000 times, and then hit a further 1,500 times with a 23kg weight to simulate a bigger child jumping on the bed.
  • We carry out an angry toddler test to replicate a toddler with a tantrum shaking the side rails. Each side rail is shaken up to 30 times a minute until each one has been shaken 5,000 times.
  • We also use a panel of parents who check how easy it is place your child in the cot and pick them up again, adjust the base height and convert it from a cot into a junior bed. We deliberately pick parents of different heights to see how easily (or not) all parents can manage.

This gives us a complete picture of how safe cot beds are, how easy they are to assemble and use, what features are a help and which are more of a hindrance. So you can confidently purchase the best cot bed for your budget.

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