A cot bed needs to look good in your child's nursery, but you also want one that's going to keep your baby safe while sleeping, and be easy for you to put together and use.
Once your baby grows out of a Moses basket or bassinet, which most parents use for a newborn, he or she will need to move into a cot or cot bed. There are pros and cons with each.
A standard cot or cot bed – rectangle shape, fixed sides – isn't your only option. You could choose to go for a drop-sided or sleigh cot or cot bed, or one with a drawer or storage built in.
Some cot beds and cots have one side rail that can drop down to give better access for getting your baby in and out.
Drop-sided cot beds and cots are particularly useful if you're short or have a larger build, as the drop side makes it easier for you to get your baby in and out.
There are different ways to lower the drop side. Some drop-sided cots and cot beds have a nudge-and-lift mechanism, which is helpful because you can operate it with one hand while you've got your baby in the other. Others have catches, a trigger mechanism or a foot pedal.
There has been some controversy over drop-sided cots in the USA.
The drop side and the back rail are usually removed when you convert a drop-sided cot bed into a junior bed.
Sleigh cot beds are popular with parents. The name comes from their wavy design, which makes them stand out from their straight-sided counterparts.
When you're buying, check that the sleigh-shaped ends, which are usually bolted on either side of the head and foot boards, don't create a dip or groove between the pieces of wood where your baby's clothing could get caught.
Sleigh cot beds can be either drop-sided or have fixed sides. The side rails will be removed to turn the cot into a bed.
Some cots and cot beds utilise what's essentially dead space beneath the base and the legs by including a drawer.
A cot bed with a drawer might be ideal for you if your baby's nursery is small and lacks storage space.
It's possible to get sleigh cot beds and cots with drawers.
If space it limited, you may decide to go for a cot rather than a cot bed. A cot is the smaller of the two, measuring approximately 120 x 60cm.
Cot beds come in different designs, so size can vary, but the average is around 140 x 70cm.
Most cots and cot beds have a base that you can adjust as your baby grows, usually with three positions.
When your baby is small, the mattress sits on the highest base level for the first few months, so you can lift your baby in and out easily. The instructions usually recommend that the lowest position is the safest, and should always be used as soon as your baby starts to move about a bit and pull themself up, which can be about eight months old.
You may think it's pointless going for a three-position cot bed in this case, but it's normal to use the second-height position for the bed mode, as the lowest one can be a bit low for a bed. With a choice of several heights, you can adjust the bed to suit your child, however old they are.
Don't forget, whatever cot or cot bed you go for, it's crucial to get the right type and size of mattress to go in it.
The Lullaby Trust, which promotes advice on safer sleep for babies, recommends that you buy a new mattress or, if using a second-hand mattress, carefully check that it is clean, dry and free from cracks or tears beforehand. Your mattress should be firm, with no sagging, and should fit the cot or cot bed snugly with no gaps.
Mattresses are normally sold separately from a cot or cot bed, giving you a choice of different types, but the manufacturer will make recommendations for which size you should use.
Cot beds are generally bigger than cots, and although there's a lot more variation in sizes, most cot beds are quite similar: around 146cm long and 77cm deep, and between 90cm and 105cm tall at the head end. Cots are generally around 50-60cm wide and 140cm long.
Most cot beds have side rails that are around 84-87cm high in the highest position, which makes them challenging for shorter people to reach over to lay a sleeping baby down. A cot bed with a drop side will reduce this height, making it easier to reach your baby when the base is on the lowest position.
Double check the cot bed you choose will fit in your bedroom (where your baby is meant to sleep for the first six months), as well as where you plan to put it in the nursery.
Chomping on the edge of a cot is a habit many teething babies relish. Choosing a cot with a teething rail – a protective covering on the side edges of the cot – helps to protect your cot bed and your toddler from damage caused by each other.
Some cots have casters or mounted wheels – handy if you want to move it into a different room. It also makes for easier cleaning under and around the cot.
White and grey are the two most popular colours if you don't want to go for a standard wooden finish, but you can also get blue and pink cot beds and a host of other colours.
Check whether the cot or cot bed you're buying is made from wood or MDF, which is an engineered wood product. You'll generally pay more for a wooden cot bed than for MDF, but the cost will depend on the type of wood. For example, a plywood cot will cost less than one made from real mahogany.
Remember also to check whether the 'mahogany' on the label is real mahogany, or a finish on top of MDF.
When it comes to the safety of your baby, you can never be too careful – especially when creating a safe sleeping space.
Using a second-hand cot could save you some cash, but there are some essential safety tips to read first.
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.