Choosing your baby’s cot is more than just a question of interior design. Making your baby’s sleeping space as warm and welcoming as possible will calm him down. It could even give you a few extra hours of valuable sleep per day!
But even more importantly, safety during the first year of your baby’s life is critical.
Your baby doesn’t have much movement control in those first months and relies on you to keep him out of danger’s way, especially when he’s sleeping. Get informed about baby cots, beds, mattresses, linen, décor and typical hazards so that you can choose the best, most comfortable and safest bed for your new arrival.
Types of Beds and Cots on the Market
The traditional choice is a cot. They are larger in size, designed to grow with your baby and come in a huge range of colours and styles.
Cots usually have wooden side bars and their height can be adjusted. The ideal height won’t just protect your baby as he grows and gets more adventurous with climbing, it will also preserve your back strength as you lift him up and put him in each night.
Many cots are manufactured with drop-sides for even easier access. When purchasing a cot, make sure it complies with industry standards. The bars should be spaced correctly (between 2.5 and 6.5 centimetres apart) and the cot should be tall enough to stop your baby from climbing out and injuring herself.
If you opt for a cot, you can also purchase removable “cot rockers”. I can personally recommend these as it was easier to get my daughter off to sleep with a bit of gentle rocking. They are so easy to install – just screw them onto the legs of the cot to rock your baby to sleep.
A bassinet, also known as a cradle, a co-sleeper or a bed nest, is smaller and more lightweight than the traditional cot. This means that it takes up less space, but might only be useful for the first four to six months of your baby’s life.
Many bassinets can be attached to the side of the parents’ bed, allowing for close contact during the night and making night feeds a bit easier.
The Baby Nest
Baby nests are growing in popularity for newborn babies. They are small, portable and comfortable pillow-like nests that envelop your baby in a thermally controlled environment.
They are snug, offering your baby a feeling of security and support that a larger cot or bed can’t provide. They’re also portable, which means you can put them between two parents in a double bed or place it in the cot to make it more comforting. Baby nests are produced by several designers but can be pricey.
I decided to sew my own baby nest. This was great to use for daytime naps in the living room as well as for night time in the cot beside my bed. My daughter slept well in the baby nest but outgrew it when she was 4 months old. It has now been recovered and handed on to her little cousin.
Whatever type of bed you choose for your baby, keep it out of direct sunlight and away from the bedroom window. You should also make sure that the bed is well clear of any hanging cords or curtains.
Cot bumpers are attractive and might reduce injury caused by your baby bumping his head against the bars or getting a limb stuck between them. However, I would advise against using bumpers, as they may increase the risk of suffocation, entanglement or strangulation.
Choosing a Mattress
There are two basic types of baby bed mattresses: foam mattresses and innerspring mattresses.
Foam mattresses are lightweight and cost-effective, though they vary in density and quality. Denser foam mattresses regain their shape faster when weight pressure is removed. They therefore offer your baby more support while she’s sleeping.
Innerspring mattresses are usually more durable, firmer and more expensive. Some mattresses are filled with organic materials, which may be a desirable alternative to the typical flammable or toxic compounds and chemicals used to manufacture standard foam and innerspring mattresses.
Should I Be Wary of Buying a Second-hand Cot Mattress?
I would be wary of buying a second-hand mattress unless you know the person you are buying it from. The mattress should come from a non-smoking household and should have been stored in a clean, dry place.
A mattress from a smoking household will have absorbed third-hand cigarette smoke. A mattresses stored in damp or dark places carry an increased risk of containing mould or bacteria.
The American Academy of Paediatrics has conducted research that shows smoke left behind on furniture (such as mattresses) can be seriously harmful to a baby’s developing lungs.
General Safety Concerns
Whatever mattress you purchase, make sure it is as firm as possible. It needs to support your baby’s rapidly growing body and to reduce the risk of suffocation during sleep.
The mattress size should match the size of the cot so that no gap exists between the edge of the mattress and the side of the cot.
Suitable cot mattresses are usually labelled with a certificate of compliance with safety standards. Don’t ever let a baby sleep on an air mattress or water bed. If the surface is too soft, or deflates during the night, your baby could suffocate.
Pillows and Blankets and Toys in the cot.
The Lowdown on Pillows
Most adults can’t imagine sleeping without a pillow, and wonder when it’s OK to introduce it into the baby bed. Actually, pillows aren’t necessary for babies, children, or even adults, but we certainly find them comfortable and useful.
Pillows are not recommended for children under the age of two: they can suffocate or get trapped underneath one. Pillows introduced after this point should be small and firm.
There are other useful ways to use a pillow beside placing it under your baby’s head. In neonatal intensive care units, they sometimes roll up a towel to prop up tiny babies on one side to stop them from lying on their fronts. There are special pillows that you can buy for this purpose.
Additionally, you could place the pillow under the mattress to elevate your child’s upper body. This is really helpful if your little one has reflux or has a cold.
All about Bed Sheets
Cotton sheets are a popular choice for baby beds. They usually come in pure cotton, cotton jersey or cotton flannelette for cold nights.
For babies who are particularly sensitive to allergies or illness, you can buy anti-allergy bed sheets that offer more protection against dust mites, bacteria or mould.
Make sure your fitted sheet is stretchy, snug and fits your cot well.
Swaddle, Blanket or Sleeping Bag?
Cellular blankets are popular choices for cots because they are breathable, lightweight and warm.
Swaddles can be extremely useful in the early months of your baby’s life.
Sleeping bags are safe and practical. All three options have some significant advantages and disadvantages.
For the first few months of their life after birth, babies demonstrate what’s known as the Moro Reflex. Before birth, they felt snugly supported in a compact space. After birth, there’s all this space and air to contend with, and they sometimes feel like they’re falling and react quite suddenly. They jerk their limbs outwards and inwards.
This behaviour is completely normal, but it can disrupt your baby’s sleep.
Swaddling a baby snugly in a breathable, lightweight blanket can recreate the feeling of support from the womb and calm your baby down, allowing her to fall into a deeper sleep.
Swaddle blankets are usually thin and specially-shaped.
Not all babies love swaddling. If it makes your baby feel safe, it will only work for a few months. You shouldn’t be swaddling your baby after it is three months old.
I and many other parents love baby sleeping bags because they’re both cosy and practical. Your baby can’t kick it off in the middle of the night and get cold.
They come in a huge range of designs, sizes and thickness for the optimal thermal environment. Plus, they’re easy to get on and off.
The only hassle is getting the temperature right. They come in different seasonal varieties, which means your summer sleeping bag won’t cut the mustard when the weather cools down.
Sleeping bags can restrict your baby’s movement while sleeping, especially if there isn’t enough room at the bottom for her feet to kick about. Make sure you purchase the right size – there should be at least six centimetres between his toes and the bottom seam of the bag.
Personally, I didn’t start using a sleeping bag until my daughter was a month old. I found it more difficult to find a good feeding position with it on and it made the multiple nappy changes harder.
Later on, putting on the sleeping bag became an important part of our bedtime routine.
Because lightweight cellular blankets are easy to layer, using them in your cot can be much more cost-effective than purchasing several seasonal sleeping bags.
You just pop another blanket over your baby if she’s cold, or remove one if she feels too warm.
Don’t use a duvet before the age of one – heavy bedding increases the risk of overheating or suffocation.
If you choose to put blankets in your cot, lay your baby with her feet close to the bottom of the cot and make sure the blanket covering doesn’t go past her shoulders. This will reduce the risk of her moving down during sleep and getting lost underneath the bedding.
Here’s a handy tip: infusing blankets with mum’s familiar scent is a great way to calm your baby down. You could wear his blanket around your shoulders for a half hour before putting him to sleep. Failing that, take a used t-shirt out of the laundry basket and place it over your baby’s lower body at bedtime.
Don’t ever clutter the bed with toys – it increases the risk of SIDS. If you want to put a lovey/blanky or white noise plush toy in the cot to help your baby sleep, wait until he’s six or eight months old and has better control over his movements.
Hanging mobiles above your baby’s bed will either stimulate or soothe her to sleep, so it’s worth making sure the soothing variety is used at bedtime.
If you find your baby becomes distracted by a hanging mobile and won’t sleep, consider removing the mobile altogether or replacing it with another one.
How to Dress Your Baby for Bed
The optimal temperature for your baby’s room is between 18-20 degrees Celsius (63-68 degrees Fahrenheit) , but if you can’t keep it constant, you can always adjust your baby’s sleepwear.
Pyjamas are usually one-piece cotton suits with long sleeves and press studs or a zip for easy access. Some of them have removable arms, feet and/or hands for better temperature control.
In colder temperatures, you can layer a short-sleeved onesie underneath your baby’s pyjamas. Leave your baby’s head uncovered unless she is premature or underweight.
Explaining the Tog Rating for Sleeping Bags
Sleeping bags are rated in terms of thermal resistance: how thick the fabric is and how warm it keeps your baby. Body temperature has a huge influence on sleep quality and safety, which is why understanding this system and choosing the right sleeping bag for your baby is important.
The lightest sleeping bags are rated 0.5 tog, which means they are not padded and suitable for room temperatures of 24 degrees Celsius and above.
1.0 tog sleeping bags are meant for temperatures between 18 and 24 degrees Celsius.
The 2.5 tog bag is good for anywhere between 15 and 21 degrees.
Should temperatures in the bedroom fall below 18 degrees consistently, a 3.5 tog sleeping bag will keep your baby cosy.
You can complement sleeping bags with either short-sleeved or long sleeved onesies or full-body pyjamas, depending on the chill factor.
Transitioning to a Toddler Bed
At some point between the ages of 18 months and 3 years, it is time to transition your baby to a normal bed. One day or night, your baby will start trying to climb out of his cot. It’s a great idea to make the switch before this happens.
Families also make the transition when the baby cot is needed for a younger sibling. Whatever the occasion, keep in mind it will take some getting used to and might be met with resistance.
If your baby’s bedtime routine isn’t consistent and familiar to her, the transition can be harder to accomplish. Also, it’s best to avoid making the leap if there are other major changes going on in the household that could affect your baby emotionally, such as toilet training or a change in childcare arrangements.
There are ways to make transitioning to a toddler bed a positive experience. You could let your toddler choose new bedding in their favourite colour or superhero design. Your little one can have a say in how the space around the bed gets decorated.
Or, you could celebrate with a special meal or party and invite some guests. When the bed is ready and waiting, keep your toddler’s bedtime routine as consistent as possible.
What Worked for Your Family?
Did your baby snooze best in a sleeping sack or nod off in a nest? What’s your hottest tip on baby bedding? And how did you make the transition from cot to bed?
Leave a comment and let us know your tips and tricks for successful slumber.