Babies, and Mums need their sleep. Cots cradle, bassinets, the Riddle explained.
Recently we went through it all again. The re-shuffle and reconfiguration of the nursery, as well as the cot to the toddlers bed for the middle child and the new king single for the oldest child. I will try and do anything to get a full night’s sleep. If you already have a couple of children you will know exactly what I am talking about. If you are about to have your first child , Please let me try and explain the differences between the options for babies sleep havens , and help you with your decisions.
As babies spend so much time sleeping, or sometimes not sleeping, AAARGH, you need to make sure that you have made the right choice. Especially the safety aspects as well.
Your baby may sleep in a bassinet, cradle or cot, or perhaps your own bed. Or you may just see how your baby behaves and what suits you all after the birth. You may also have the needs of older siblings to consider.
The type of bed your newborn baby sleeps in will generally come down to the cost, the space you have, and your own personal preferences. Some parents like using a bassinet or cradle for the first 2 – 6 months, and then when their baby outgrows this they move them into a cot. Other parents use a cot from the beginning and save on the cost of a bassinet (and later storage space), or they may use a ‘snuggle bed’ for the first few months. (A snuggle bed is essentially a soft, miniature bed that can be placed inside the cot to help make the baby’s sleeping space smaller.) Parents of twins or more often place their babies straight into a cot, to avoid buying multiple beds.
You may find family members will offer to purchase your baby’s bed, perhaps as a gift. Or you may be given one as a family heirloom. Just bear in mind that heirlooms (as well as borrowed and second-hand furniture) may not comply with current safety standards (and even new cheap and nasty products can fail to meet these recommendations). When choosing your child’s bedding, there are certain safety aspects to consider as well.
Bassinets are small baby beds, usually on a stand of some sort. They have been a traditional sleeping place for newborn babies for many generations. Bassinets are usually woven from cane or willow (some coated in plastic) or are made from a perspex material (like the ones used in hospitals). They can range from a simple basket design to a large hooded version. Another choice that is presently making a comeback is the ‘Moses basket’, similar to those dating back to biblical times.
Bassinets are convenient because they don’t take up a lot of space and can be placed in your bedroom beside your bed. Most bassinets sit on stands with casters or wheels, so they can be moved from room to room easily. This can help you to keep your baby near you during the day when they sleep, and you can rock the bassinet to help soothe and settle them. However, if you have an older child, they may also attempt to move the bassinet! Therefore it is important to make sure the casters or wheels can be locked into position with a childproof locking device.
If your bassinet has a hood, this can allow for mosquito netting to be draped over the bassinet during the warmer months. Otherwise, you may want to buy a separate stand to hold the netting.
Bassinets have a relatively short usage span, because babies tend to grow out of them quite quickly. They should not be used once your baby can roll over or pull themselves up (or over) the side of the bassinet (any time after 4 to 6 months). If you purchase a bassinet you will also need to consider storage space, especially if you plan to use it for subsequent children. If you borrow or buy a second-hand bassinet or are using a family heirloom, it is recommended that you buy a new mattress. This ensures it is clean, firm and fits the bassinet correctly. Some older mattresses were made with soft filling, making them too soft for current safety recommendations in relation to ‘Sudden Infant Death Syndrome’ (or SIDS).
Cradles are usually made from wood and come in various styles and colours, with most having the ability to swing or rock. The rocking mechanism can help parents to gently soothe and settle their baby. Cradles do not take up a lot of space and can be placed beside your bed if you wish to have your baby near you at night.
Some cradle manufacturers will have either the Australian Standards Mark or the Safebaby Code advising parents that their product meets the current safety standards. However, these standards are voluntary and are not a mandatory requirement to allow cradles to be sold in Australia.
Cradles that swing, rock or tilt have safety requirements. The Australian standard specifies the requirements for the material, design and construction performance. The cradle should carry the Australian Standard AS/NZS 4385:1996 code.
If borrowing or purchasing a cradle, you need to make sure it meets the Australian safety standards, taking into account adequate space measurements so the baby’s head, limbs, fingers or toes do not become entrapped. Cradle standards also have specific recommendations for their rocking capacity. Things to look for include:
There being at least 300mm between the top of the lowest cradle side (or end) and the top of the mattress base.
The maximum distance between side panels or ‘filler bars’ being between 50mm and 65mm.
Having good ventilation in and around the cradle and mattress.
The mattress being firm and designed for a cradle. It should fit correctly and the thickness should not exceed 75mm.
Checking the rocking motion and ensuring that the cradle is fitted with either a ’tilt limiter’ or a self-levelling device. The tilt limiter must be designed so that the mattress base of the cradle cannot be tilted more than 10 degrees from the horizontal. This safety feature prevents you (or anyone else) from rocking the cradle too drastically from side to side and allowing your baby to fall out!
The cradle having an inbuilt ‘locking device’ to allow parents to ‘lock’ the cradle into a level position when leaving their baby. It also prevents a baby from titling the cradle as they move around when going to sleep, or upon waking and stops older children from rocking their little brother or sister when you are not present.
Checking that the cradle meets the current safety standards (especially if it is second-hand or a family heirloom). Even if it has a safety standards label on it, it may be outdated. Make sure the cradle is still strong and that there are no missing or broken pieces. If it is painted the paint should be lead free.
If you intend borrowing or buying a second hand cradle or using a family heirloom, it is recommended that a new mattress be used to ensure it is clean, firm and fits the cradle correctly. Some older mattresses were made with soft filling, making them too soft for current safety recommendations for ‘Sudden Infant Death Syndrome’ (or SIDS).
The mattress should not exceed 75 mm in thickness, otherwise it will be too high and the baby may fall out. If you need to purchase a new mattress it is important to obtain accurate measurements. The following is suggested:
Measure the base length of your cradle.
Measure the width of your cradle (at the widest point).
Measure the depth of your cradle.
Take into consideration the shape – does it have rounded or square edges? If you are unsure, make a template of the base with a piece of newspaper to take shopping with you.
Check to make sure the height of the cradle is at a comfortable level. You will be surprised at the amount of time that you will spend leaning over it to comfort your baby to sleep!
Babies spend an amazing amount of time in their cots for up to the first 3 years of their life. They sleep there, wind down there when tired, wake and have short play times there. Cots are also often handed down to a younger brother or sister later on. Because a cot is an item that is used over a relatively long period of time, it is worthwhile investing in one that is well made and most importantly, safe.
Australia has its own rigorous safety standards which became mandatory from July 1998. These standards are amongst the strictest in the world. All household cots, including second-hand cots, must comply with the mandatory safety features listed under the ‘Australian/New Zealand Standard for Children’s Cots AS/NZS 2172: 1995 – Cots for household use – Safety requirements’. The regulation aims to reduce the risk of injury to children associated with hazardous cots. Cots must be safely designed and durable to last for several years and therefore need to be constructed to avoid:
- - ‘Climb out’ or fall hazards.
- - Strangulation hazards.
- - Head, arm or leg entrapment hazards.
- - Hazards that could cause finger or toe injuries.
If you intend purchasing or borrowing a second-hand cot, it is important to bear in mind that some older cots may not meet the current mandatory standards.
Bedding and mattress requirements
When buying your baby’s bed, you will also need bed linen. Newborn babies don’t need to lie with their head on a pillow until they are at least 12 months of age (and many don’t until preschool age or older). Lying on a pillow can interfere with the correct posture of their neck and back and is not recommended. Pillows are also not recommended to help prevent SIDS. If you want your baby’s head to be tilted up (for example as part of treating reflux), you will need to tilt the whole cot, or place pillows or rolled towels under the top part of the mattress, to slightly tilt the whole mattress.
NOTE: SIDS Australia currently recommends that pillows, quilts, doonas, duvets, cot bumpers and lambskins should not be used as part of your baby’s bedding. Soft and fluffy bedding is unnecessary and may cover your baby’s face and make breathing difficult.
Depending on the type of bed your baby will sleep in you will need:
6 to 8 bassinet, cradle, or cot sheets. It is amazing how often their bedding will need to be changed due to regurgitated milk or an overflow of urine or poo! Sheets can be cotton or cotton/polyester mixes. Fitted sheets are easy to put on and are more likely to stay on the mattress. You may want to use cot sheets on a bassinet or cradle for the early months, tucking the excess sheeting under the mattress.
2 mattress protectors. The protector should be waterproof and strong to withstand regular washing. It should fit tightly over the mattress so your baby cannot pick pieces away or be able to get under it. Protectors should only be used from the baby’s waist or chest level down – NEVER above the level of the baby’s shoulders, because the plastic in the protector can prevent air flow and contribute to a suffocating hazard.
2 to 3 blankets. These can be made from a cotton weave or a wool mixture depending on the time of year. Blankets should not have any beading or other decorative items that could be a potential choking hazard, and no fringes that could wrap around little fingers or toes. Layers of light bedding may make it easier to control your baby’s temperature, by adding or removing layers as needed.
Mosquito netting (or ‘mozzie nets’). Depending on the time of year and where you live you may need a mosquito net. These can be made from cotton or synthetic materials and should be washed regularly to keep them clear of dust. Some nets can hang from the ceiling of the room or you may be able to buy a stand for one. It is important that the net is positioned well above baby to avoid it being dragged down and over them.
Lamb’s wool skins have been used for many years in the past and have often been promoted as being warm in winter and cool in summer. At present, there are suggestions of a link between the high incidence of asthma in Australia and the popular use lambskins, because the wool is an ideal breeding ground for house mites, which may cause allergic reactions or trigger asthma attacks. As a general precaution, you may want to avoid using them if you have a family history of allergies and/or asthma. However, if you wish to use one, it is recommended they be washed regularly in very hot soapy water, thoroughly rinsed and tumble dried (if possible). They can be dried in the sun, but this makes them stiff and hard. As part of the SIDS) recommendations, they should be placed under the baby’s bed sheet for sleeping.
The size and firmness of the mattress is the major safety concern with all cots, bassinets and cradles. There have been deaths of infants caused by suffocation, where the baby’s head has become wedged between the cot mattress and the cot side. If the mattress is too short or narrow, a baby can slide down the gaps between the mattress and the base and suffocate, or their limbs or fingers can become caught. If a mattress is too thick, the height can make it easier for a toddler to climb up and fall out – particularly when adjustable cot bases are placed in the higher position.
The following are some safety considerations:
- - New cots should come with a ‘swing tag’ label attached to the cot that recommends the mattress size. Purchasing the cot mattress at the same time as the cot will usually ensure a proper fit.
- - NOTE: In mid-2001 the Infant Nursery Product Association of Australia (INPPA) came to a decision to recommend one standard cot mattress size to be manufactured in Australia. The recommended size is 1300 x 690 x 130 mm. However, it will take time for manufactures to phase out other sizes and to adopt this one standard size.
- - Gaps between the cot side and the mattress should be no more than 25mm.
- - Always remove plastic wrapping from a new mattress. NEVER leave it on or use it as a mattress protector as this can contribute to a suffocating hazard.
- - The Sudden Infant Death Association recommends a FIRM mattress. You can test this by placing your hand on it and pressing down. When you lift your hand off, it should spring back to its original shape.
- - If purchasing a Tea tree mattress – it should be firm and not soft.
- - Our tips
- - Once a month give the mattress a good airing, particularly if there is a family history of allergies or asthma.
- - Change the position of the mattress by turning it over every now and then.
Other bedding options
You may want to consider some other bedding options, especially when your baby is newborn. These can include:
The traditional Moses basket
The Moses basket dates back to biblical times and can be used for the first 3 to 4 months (or until your baby starts rolling over). They are portable and easy to use as a bed when visiting family and friends or on holidays and can be placed inside a cot. You need to have a new, firm mattress, fitted specifically for the basket. It is also important to take care when lifting and carrying the basket – both handles must be used. Other safety issues include making sure the basket is always placed on a flat, stable surface and kept away from open fires and heaters.
Snuggle or ‘nest’ beds
A snuggle bed is like a miniature bed that can be placed inside a cot or between parents for co-sleeping. They can also be used when visiting or going on holidays. Depending on the brand they generally have a base and four sides that go all the way around or ‘snuggle nest beds’ that are enclosed at one end and have two sides with an opening at the other end. Parents who use snuggle beds feel they may help with the transition from moving their baby out of their bed and into a cot, with the familiarity of a known space and smell. However, for this to work the baby needs to make this transition before they outgrow the snuggle bed.
NOTE:When using these options it is strongly recommended you are aware of the SIDS sleeping guidelines and discontinue the use of the snuggle bed as soon as your baby starts to roll and move.
Portable or travel cots
Portable (or travel) cots can be an optional item or, depending on your lifestyle, they could be a necessity. Some parents find them invaluable when visiting family or friends or perhaps putting it in the backyard under a tree during the summer months. Your relatives may buy one for when your baby comes to stay, or you may just take one with you when travelling or on holidays.
There have been concerns about safety of portable/travel cots over recent years. Some brands have now been taken off the market. If you want to find out about these you can contact the Department of Fair Trading in your state or territory. The main safety issue relates to them not being assembled correctly, in case they collapse while a child is in them.
Some considerations for portable/travel cots include:
Only using a portable cot that has the Australian safety approval. There should be a sticker or label displaying the Australian Standards coding AS: 2195.1999. Bear in mind that this standard is a voluntary requirement and is not mandatory.
Checking the inside of the portable cot. There should be no bumps, ledges and protruding parts that a child could hit their head on or snag their clothing. There should be no gaps where a child could trap fingers, toes or limbs.
Making sure the mattress is firm and fits snugly without gaps on any sides. Only use a mattress that has been designed for the portable cot. NEVER use one that is too small that will create a gap and cause the baby to become wedged between the mattress and the side of the cot. Nor one that is too big that could fold back over on top of the baby or create an uneven surface.
Checking the locking devices. Make sure they all work and are secure and childproof when the cot is assembled. If possible, test them in the shop before you buy the cot. If you find that they do not work after you assemble the cot at home, take it back to the shop.
Checking the portable cot if buying a second hand one. Make sure the locking devices work and it is in good working order. It needs to be strong to cater for a growing baby. There should be no tears in the mesh or fabric sides and no cracks or sagging in the base or side rails.
Using the assembling instructions when erecting the cot for use.
Maintaining the cot and checking for any wear and tear. Repairing or replacing any parts that have come loose or are not operating properly. Structural weakness can comprise the function of the cot and endanger the child placed inside it.
Checking to see if there is a maximum weight usage for the cot. Make sure you do not use the cot when your baby outgrows it or can climb out of it.
Making sure that all locking devices are properly latched before placing your baby inside.
Removing all soft toys, pillows and cushions. Portable cots have the same SIDS recommendations that apply to a cot/basinets and cradles. You can read more in SIDS.Our Tips:
Ensure that you can easily fit the portable cot into your car (along with all your other baby gear) before you purchase one. This might sound blindingly obvious, but the mystical allure of a baby shop sometimes temporarily erases all traces of common sense!
The environment around where your baby will sleep
Once you have decided what your baby will sleep in (and the where they will sleep), the next consideration is the immediate environment surrounding your baby when they are sleeping. Remember to look for these things in your own home and anywhere your child is cared for, including day care, childcare centres and the homes of family and friends.
The following are some safety considerations for when your baby is sleeping:
Do not place your baby’s bed near any cords hanging from blinds or curtains, or electrical appliances. These can get caught around your baby’s neck.
Keep heaters, lights and electrical appliances well away from where baby is sleeping to avoid the risk of overheating, burns and electrocution.
Do not use bumpers as part of your baby’s bedding and do not place any cushions, pillows, soft fluffy toys or comforters in their bed. You can read more about the current recommendations for making up your baby’s bed, in SIDS.
Do not allow small objects in their cot, bassinet or cradle that could cause your baby to choke. Be aware of how close your baby’s sleeping place is to a chest of drawers that may have potential hazards on top and within reach (especially as your baby grows), such as lamps and small objects.
Ensure the space above the bedding is free of objects such as pictures or mirrors that could fall or be pulled down.
Avoid any mobiles or toys within reach, or with stretchy or elastic cords in or around the sleeping area.
Never use V or U shaped pillows for children under 2 years of age. Small children can become wedged in the pillow and suffocate. It is a SIDS recommendation that pillows should not be used in any type of bedding – regardless of shape or size.
Never use electric blankets, hot water bottles or heated wheat bags. Babies cannot escape from the bed or cot to cool down and they can’t remove bedclothes. A baby who becomes too hot is at an increased risk of SIDS.
Don’t put your baby on a waterbed or beanbag. They do not provide a firm or stable surface and are unsafe for babies.
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) or ‘Cot death’ is a sudden, unexpected death of a baby from no known cause. The incidence of SIDS has been reduced in Australia by about 75% over the past 10 years since widely publicising the risk factors and the ‘Reducing the Risks of SIDS’ campaign, which began in 1991.
You can read more about SIDS at their website: www.sidsandkids.org
If you have any further concerns about the safety of your baby whilst sleeping, contact your local doctor, paediatrician, your local baby health clinic or children’s hospital.
Well I hope that has cleared up the riddle of how and where and what your baby will sleep in. Please feel free to ask any of the helpful staff at metromum if you have any further questions.
And please place your comments below.