With so many well marketed products, choosing between a cot, camp cot, co-sleeper, bassinet and Moses basket can leave you feeling overwhelmed and unsure of the safest option. Each of these baby sleepers offers something different from stability to portability and convenience as well as accommodating a range of ages and weights. Knowing what each one has to offer and how safe it is to use can help make your decision easier.
What is a safe sleep space for your baby?
In order to reduce the risk of SIDS and other sleep-related injuries such as suffocation, entrapment and strangulation, specific recommendations regarding your baby’s sleep space have been established.
The following is an overview of practices which should be used for the first 12 months to assist in keeping your baby safe:
- Place your baby on their back for every nap and sleep.
- Ensure your baby has a firm and flat surface to sleep on.
- Share a room with your baby for the first 6 months. This does not mean bed-sharing as your baby must be placed on a separate firm and flat surface to you.
- No soft or loose items should be placed in your baby’s cot or sleep environment. This includes cot bumpers, blankets, duvets, pillows and stuffed toys.
- Using a dummy during nap time and bedtime once breastfeeding has been firmly established has also shown to reduce the risk of SIDS.
- Avoid using devices such as wedges, inclined sleepers and in-bed sleepers as well as other devices which do not meet safe sleep recommendations.
What is a cot?
A cot is often the first thing parent’s purchase for their baby’s nursery. It is a solid structure most often made of wood. A standard cot in South-Africa measures around 56 x 118cm and a large cot measures in the range of 66 x 132cm. Placing your baby to sleep in a cot with a firm and flat mattress with no loose items around them falls in line with the recommendations from the AAP and Lullaby Trust.
While it is not easy to move around due to its weight and size, it has the benefit of lasting until your baby is 2-3 years old as you are often able to convert them into a toddler bed. Most cots come with an adjustable base upon which the mattress rests which moves down as your baby grows. The sturdy structure upon which a cot based is more durable and prevents any risk of it tipping over.
Concerns relating to the use of a cot include the possibilities of your baby becoming trapped between the side of the cot and the mattress if the mattress does not fit correctly, as well as suffocation if the mattress is too soft or additional items have been added to it.
Ensuring that your cot meets the safety recommendations, as mentioned in our “Safety Standards of Infant Cots and Mattresses” blog, the risk of SIDS and other sleep-related possibilities are considerably reduced.
What is a camp cot?
A camp cot is a collapsible cot made from a frame with fabric or mesh used to construct the base and sides. Camp cots in South-Africa are frequently used instead of purchasing a standard cot as they are often more affordable and are easier to assemble and store. A standard camp cot in South Africa measures around 66cm x 94cm and a large camp cot measures in the range of 104 x 72 cm. This makes them smaller than an average cot and may make it easier to fit into the available space. Similar to a cot, they are able to last until your baby is around 2 years old.
Certain safety standards and guidelines from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission have been put in place for most international camp cots (also known as a "pack ‘n play”). These guidelines ensure that there is a limited chance of the cot can collapsing or folding in on itself while your baby is in it. It also ensures that the latching mechanism and the strength of the base have been assessed. These are important aspects to consider and check when using a camp cot. There are no such safety standards for cots which are manufactured locally.
It is also recommended to be cautious with items such as a bassinet which can be attached to the top of camp cots. They may look comfortable and accommodating for your new-born, however the surface on which they lie might not be firm enough and can increase the possible risk of SIDS especially if your baby is left unattended.
What is a co-sleeper?
A co-sleeper is in essence a small three-sided cot often made from a sturdy frame and fabric or mesh which can be secured to an adult bed. It allows your infant to sleep close to you making breastfeeding more accessible as well as making it easier for you to soothe them all while reducing the possible risk of SIDS, suffocation or overheating. Co-sleepers provide a separate surface for your infant to sleep on as recommended by the AAP and the Lullaby Trust.
They are only intended to be used for the first few months of your baby’s life and carry a weight limit of approximately 9kg (it is always important to check the manufacturers guidelines around this). They are easy to move around and reduce the number of times you have to get up during the night, especially after delivery.
The only concern regarding co-sleepers is the potential of your baby becoming entrapped between the edge of the co-sleeper and your bed should it not be securely attached. This can lead to suffocation as well as injury. To avoid this from happening, the AAP recommends using a freestanding cot or bassinet rather than a device which attaches to your bed. They also indicate that there is limited information regarding the safety of co-sleepers and can therefore not recommend or discourage the use of them.
New safety standards from the British Standards (BS) and European Standards (EU) indicate that a 12cm barrier must be present around the cot to prevent your baby from rolling onto your mattress. By adding a “half-wall” or 12cm barrier on the open side, your baby’s mattress will be lower than yours when the cot is lined up to your bed, creating a protective barrier.
Co-sleepers with sides which drop down completely no longer meet the necessary safety standards. Many co-sleepers offer you the option of changing it into a bassinet by raising the open side to the same height as the others. This helps to completely eliminate the risk of your baby rolling onto your side.
What is a bassinet?
A bassinet is similar to a co-sleeper except it has 4 sides and cannot attach to your bed (they should not be confused with pram bassinets which are smaller and are not included in this section). They are portable and easy to move around as many of them come with wheels. This means that you are able to have your young baby sleep next to you and be assured that they are in a safe environment.
As with co-sleepers, bassinets should only be used for approximately the first 4 months of your baby’s life. It is important that your baby is moved to a cot or camp cot which will be safer when they reach the weight limit of the bassinet or are able to roll and are more mobile (whichever one comes first). The height of the bassinet is generally adjustable which makes picking your baby up and putting them down far easier and less strenuous. The bassinet is also far smaller than a cot and so it takes up less space in your room.
One of the safety concerns when using a bassinet is that it can potentially tip over especially if an older sibling hangs on the side of it. The bassinet can also move easily if the wheels are not locked in place.
What is a Moses basket?
Moses baskets are named after the biblical story in which Moses was placed in a reed basket amongst the bulrushes. These baskets are now used as a safe place for new-born babies to sleep for the first few months. Similar to the co-sleeper and bassinet, a Moses basket enables you to sleep close to your baby as is recommended by the AAP and Lullaby Trust to minimise the risk of SIDS. These modern baskets are made from naturally woven materials such as wicker and often come with a stand to elevate them off the floor.
They are intended to be used until your baby is around 3-4 months of age or until they become more mobile and are able to roll and pull themselves up. As with co-sleepers they have a rough weight limit of 9kg (it is always important to check the manufacturers guidelines around this). These baskets can be effortlessly moved around making it easier for you to have your baby with you in the same room especially during daytime naps. They are also smaller than a traditional cot which makes it easier to place in your bedroom and fit next to your bed.
Many of these baskets come with handles which help with moving it around. However, these handles can also become a choking hazard should they flop onto your baby and not outside of the basket. It is also important that the handles allow you to carry the basket with one hand so that you can use your other hand to support the base while walking (your baby should not be in the basket when you are carrying it).
Using your Moses basket correctly also assists in keeping your infant safe. This means that the basket must be on a firm, flat surface at ground level. Should you wish to use a stand, ensure that it was designed specifically for the Moses basket you have and that it is sturdy and stable. It is also recommended that your baby is never left unattended in a Moses basket.
General things to consider:
- Always ensure that the mattress you use in whichever device you select is made specifically for that product. That reduces the chance of the mattress being too big or too small which has possible safety implications.
- Read the manufacturers manually carefully to ensure correct use of the product. This is especially important as many baby sleepers require frequent checking for safety concerns.
- Try where you can to purchase items that carry a BS EN code which indicates that the item meets the stringent safety regulations of Britain and Europe.
- The majority of deaths which occurred in a Moses basket or bassinet were suffocation as a result of extra bedding, placing the baby on their tummy and the baby getting stuck between the side of the bassinet and additional bedding.
- Injuries which occurred with the use of a Moses basket or bassinet were mainly attributed to falls out of the device. However, the majority of these cases occurred when the infant was older than the maximum age.
Finding a sleeping device that fits in with your family and lifestyle as well as ensuring your baby’s safety is most important. Take your time to research the item you are planning on purchasing to make sure it is a good and safe fit.