Cots are a contained sleeping environment where children can be left to rest. It is important that cots are safe and secure.
You do not have to buy the latest or most expensive model of cot. But whatever cot you choose, it is very important to make sure it meets specific safety requirements. That is because babies and young children can become injured or even die in unsafe cots.
In Australia, all new and second-hand cots must comply with Australian Standard AS/NZS 2172:2003 Cots for household use — safety requirements. Antique and collectable cots must also display a warning sign that they are for display purposes only.
Buying a cot
When you buy a cot, take a tape measure with you and make sure:
- the base of the mattress to the top of the lowest side of the cot is more than 600mm, to prevent the child from climbing out
- the mattress fits firmly in the cot, to prevent suffocation. Any gaps at the ends and sides should be less than 20mm
- the bars are smooth, securely fixed, and do not have any gaps that could trap a child's limbs or head
- the 4 corner-posts are no more than 5mm higher than the cot sides (8mm for second-hand cots)
- the drop-side catches lock securely
- screws and nails do not stick out
- cot ends do not have fancy cut-outs
- there are not any bars, ledges or other footholds that a young child can use to climb out of the cot
- the base of the cot is firm with no parts to collapse or bend when pushed down
Before you buy or use a second-hand cot, go through the safety checklist (above). You should also check carefully that all parts are in working order and all bolts and screws are firmly in place and not sticking out, inside or outside the cot. If there are any broken or wobbly bars, repair them before your baby sleeps in the cot.
It is also important to check old cots for poisonous lead-based paint. If you are unsure if the cot is painted with lead-based paint, you will need to strip it back and repaint it.
Some mattresses have a note saying they are approved by health professionals. This does not necessarily mean that the mattress is safe or right for your cot.
The most important thing is to choose a mattress that is firm and well-fitting. A mattress protector should be strong and fit the mattress firmly.
Tea-tree mattresses may become uneven as the baby becomes heavier, allowing the baby to roll over more easily. If you decide to use one, you need to check it often to make sure it stays firm.
Make sure you remove plastic wrapping from new mattresses, as this could suffocate a baby.
Portable cots are folding cots that are designed to be used temporarily. They can also be dangerous for children if they climb out or get trapped.
Only buy a portable cot that meets the Safety Standard AS/NZS 2195:1999. Make sure it is in good working order and that you follow the instructions exactly so it cannot collapse.
Do not use a thick mattress in a portable cot as a baby can get caught between the mattress and the stretchable cot side. Make sure you buy a mattress that meets the specified dimensions of the cot.
Where to put the cot
When you bring the cot home, place it away from curtain or blind cords and other cords or ropes in which the baby could get tangled. Have mobiles and toys well out of reach, and make sure the walls above the cot do not have pictures or mirrors that could fall and injure the child.
The cot should be away from power points, heaters, electrical appliances and lights.
Make sure it is away from windows, especially if the window is not on the ground floor.
Setting up the cot
Costs usually have an adjustable base that can be raised for young babies and lowered as they grow bigger.
For young babies, the distance between the base and the top edge of the lowest side of the cot (when it is closed) should be at least 40 cm. When the baby is bigger and can sit by themselves, the distance should be 60cm.
Bedding can pose a risk to babies. You should be very careful that the bedding cannot cover the baby's face or obstruct their breathing. A good way to make sure is to use an infant sleeping bag, with a fitted neck and armholes and no hood.
If you are using blankets, make sure they are tucked firmly into the mattress at the base and do not come up further than the baby's chest. Place the baby with their feet at the base of the cot.
It is recommended that you do not use pillows, doonas, loose bedding, lambswool, bumpers or soft toys in a cot. These may suffocate the baby, be used as climbing aids, or pose a choking risk.
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Last reviewed: April 2021