Portable cots

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Which give a safe night’s sleep?

Safety trumps convenience for portable cots. We test to the Australian and New Zealand standard to find portable cots that give you peace of mind your baby is sleeping safely.

From our test

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Safety

Here are some safety considerations to be aware of when buying a portable cot:

  • The cot should have 2 locking mechanisms to prevent it from collapsing accidentally.
  • The cot should be stable and have good base support.
  • The mattress should fit snugly with no gaps at the sides or ends (see "Portacot problem", below). Only use a mattress that was designed specifically for the cot.
  • There should be no gaps that could trap a child's finger, limb or head.
  • Make sure there are no protrusions or sharp edges.
  • Inside the cot, there should be no footholds that could allow the child to climb out.
  • Does the cot have wheels or castors? If so, make sure they have brakes fitted.
  • If the cot has a removable base, check that it is firmly secured.

Convenience

Certain features make portable cots more convenient. Keep an eye out for the following:

  • The cot should be easy to set up and fold away, and shouldn't be too heavy - check these features while you're in the store.
  • It should come with a carry bag.
  • Removable covers on the frame and mattress make cleaning easier.
  • Mesh sides give good ventilation and allow you to easily see the child.
  • A pocket on the outside of the cot is good for storing small items or toys.
  • 2-in-1 cots have a bassinet that sits up higher in the cot. This can be a plus if your child can’t yet get up. However, the bassinet walls must keep the child safely inside: they must be at least 250mm high once the mattress is installed.
  • 3-in-1 cots come with a change table as well as a bassinet. A 3-in-1 can be convenient – but make sure you remove the change table before putting your child in the cot, because the table could trap a baby’s limbs, fingers or even head.

Tip: Portable cots can be tricky to put up and take down. It’s a good idea to ask for a demonstration instore – and always keep the instructions just in case.

About our test of portable cots

Our test was based on the Australian and New Zealand standard AS/NZS 2195:1999 “Folding cots – Safety requirements”. We also tested against the breathability clause in the revised 2010 standard.

We check the folding mechanism, stability, that there are no entrapment hazards, sharp edges or points; that the mattress is firm enough and fits snugly; and that there are breathable zones at the sides and ends of the cot (in case a baby rolls face-first against the side or end).

Major failures include insufficient breathable zones on all four sides, a mattress that isn’t firm enough, doesn’t lie flat or fit snugly, insufficient depth, poor stability (tipping), head/neck entrapment hazards, locking mechanism integrity and material integrity failures.

Minor failures include less serious examples of major failure conditions, plus limb and finger entrapment hazards.

We won’t recommend a portable cot if it has a major safety failure.

To assess ease of use, we look at how easy it is to set up, pack and store the cot and its accessories.

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Portacot problem

The cot mattress must fit snugly. In 2008 we reported that a 4-month-old baby had rolled sideways and become trapped between the base of her bassinet insert and the mattress. Fortunately her mother heard her crying in panic and came to the rescue before she suffocated.

The Ministry of Consumer Affairs investigated and found the mattress didn’t fit tightly enough into the cot insert. The manufacturer withdrew the portable cot from sale until suitable mattresses were imported and it offered free replacement mattresses to customers who had already bought that model.

Tip: Check the mattress fits snugly. Only use a mattress that’s specifically designed for the cot and sold with it.

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