Cots, cribs and Moses baskets buying guide

Sleeping solutions for your newborn baby

You’ll need somewhere cosy for your baby to sleep after they’re born. It’s recommended that they sleep in your bedroom for the first six months, so what you choose will depend on how much space you have. Here’s the lowdown on your newborn baby’s sleep options in the early days, along with some tips on safe sleeping.

Sleeping options in the early days

Where you put your baby to sleep will probably vary, as you should keep your newborn close to you as much as possible in the early months. This means your baby should sleep in your room at night. If your bedroom is big enough for a cot that will last until they’re a little older, this is the most economical option. However if you can’t fit, or don’t want to fit, a full-sized cot in your bedroom, you can choose a basket or crib for those crucial early weeks.

During the day, you’ll need to put your baby to sleep somewhere that’s portable, flat and safe. Remember, a car seat is not suitable for your baby to sleep in for naps.This is because being in a semi-upright position for long periods of time may place a strain on your baby’s developing spine.

Moses baskets

A Moses basket is a popular option for newborns, although it will only last until your baby is around three months old. Often made from a woven natural material such as maize or palm leaves, they usually come with a foam mattress. You can buy a Moses basket stand, and some have the option of a rocking motion.

Pros of a Moses basket: Moses baskets are light enough to carry from room to room using the carrying handles and small enough to fit in your own bedroom for the first few months, as recommended by the Lullaby Trust charity.

Cons of a Moses basket: Moses baskets can be expensive, especially given the short time they can be used for. Some Moses baskets come with more accessories, such as bedding and canopies.

Moses basket safety:

  • If you’re offered a second-hand Moses basket, it’s a good idea to buy a brand-new mattress.
  • Mattresses are only designed for short-term use, and a used one may not offer enough support.
  • New mattresses are inexpensive, but make sure it’s a good fit.
  • Only carry the Moses basket with your baby inside if the handles are long enough to meet in the middle.You can then lift it with one hand and support the bottom of the Moses basket with your free hand.
  • Always place the Moses basket on the floor, unless you’re using a Moses basket stand, so that it can’t fall from a raised surface if your baby wriggles.

Cribs

Like Moses baskets, cribs can only be used for a limited amount of time.They’re larger than Moses baskets and will generally be suitable for a baby up to about six months old. Cribs are commonly made from wood and often have a rocking or swaying option, which some babies find soothing.

Pros of a crib: Cribs offer a smaller, cosier sleeping environment for a newborn baby than a full-sized cot. Although they’re not very portable, a crib is a good solution if you have limited space in your bedroom.

Cons of a crib: Cribs are a fairly expensive option, given their limited usability. Some babies don’t like the rocking/swaying motion, which means you will have paid for a feature that you may end up not using.

Crib safety:

  • If you are offered a second-hand crib, buy a new mattress to give your baby proper support. Make sure it fits snugly with no gaps around the frame.
  • If you choose a crib with a rocking/swaying option, make sure it has a locking mechanism so you can turn off the motion when your baby is left unsupervised.

Bedside cots

A bedside cot has a side rail that slides or folds away so it fits against your bed.This means your baby can sleep safely alongside you without the risk of you rolling on top of them, or your baby suffocating in your bedding. This is useful until your baby is sleeping in a separate room, when the rail can be put back on the cot again.

Pros of a bedside cot: Bedside cots are a fantastic idea if you’re breastfeeding as you can reach your baby without having to get out of bed. You can also comfort and settle them without lifting them out of their cot.

Cons of a bedside cot: Bedside cots are often smaller but more expensive than standard cots.

Bedside cot safety:

  • Check that the bedside cot mattress will line up exactly with your own (bedside cots usually have multiple height adjusters).
  • Look for a model that clamps the bedside cot to your own bed so your baby can’t fall through a gap created by either bed shifting slightly.

Sleeping options on the move

Carrycots

A carrycot is a sturdier alternative to a Moses basket and, unlike a crib, is designed to be portable. If your Pushchair or travel system includes a carrycot or basinet, you can use this as you would a Moses basket in the first few months, although you’ll need to buy a more substantial mattress for your baby to sleep in a carrycot at night.

Pros of a carrycot: Lightweight and portable, a carrycot that’s part of your pushchair or travel system can be detached from the frame and carried indoors without waking your baby.

Cons of a carrycot: Another short-term option. They are not the most economical either and there may be an added cost of a more substantial mattress if you want to use it for night time sleeping. If your carrycot is part of a pushchair or travel system, having to detach and re-attach it every time can be quite fiddly.

Carrycot safety:

  • Always put your carrycot down on the floor or attach it fully to the pushchair or travel system frame when your baby is inside it.
  • If you have to buy a more substantial mattress for your carrycot, make sure it’s a snug fit.

Travel cots

A travel cot is usually easy to set up and collapse so is useful when you’re away from home. It’s a good idea if you’re using a full-sized cot at home but need a portable bed for when you go away. Some travel cots are large enough to double as playpens. They tend to have metal or sturdy plastic frames and mesh sides.You can often buy a separate canopy or sunshade, too.

Pros of a travel cot: Travel cots are great for the odd night away from home, or when you’re on holiday. They’re quick and easy to put up and take down. Travel cots are better value when used as a playpen as well, and can be used for a longer time than a Moses basket or crib.

Cons of a travel cot: Travel cots can become an expensive purchase unless they’re used regularly. It’s unsuitable for regular, long-term use as it won’t offer your baby proper support as he or she grows. Some come with a bassinet – a smaller temporary cot that fits inside the travel cot – which raises your baby up to an accessible height. Travel cots without bassinets aren’t suitable for use with newborns and young babies. They don’t have height-adjustable mattresses or drop-down sides, making it hard to reach your baby. They can also be bulky to store, even when collapsed.

Travel cot safety:

  • Make sure there are no toys large enough for your baby to climb onto once they can pull themselves up – an inquisitive baby could get out of the cot.

The rules of safe sleeping for babies

There are some important safety rules to consider when it comes to where your baby sleeps:

  • The Lullaby Trust (formerly the Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths) which promotes safer sleeping for babies recommends babies sleep in the same room as their parents for the first six months. This has been shown to reduce the risk of cot death.
  • Always put your baby down to sleep away from radiators or other heat sources (and windows) if you can. Otherwise, check the windows are draught-free and lockable, and turn radiators and other heaters down to their lowest setting. If the room gets early-morning sun (or your baby will be in the bedroom for daytime naps) make sure you provide shade for them.
  • Make sure your baby can’t reach any dangling cords from blinds or other sources, as there’s a risk of strangulation.
  • Don’t put your baby to sleep under shelving that could potentially fall on them, or near anything they could grab and pull down on top of them.
  • Ensure your baby’s bed and mattress conforms to the latest BSI safety standards. For an at-a-glance guide, visit the British Standards Institute pages pages and search for the product you want to check.
  • Buy a room thermometer. The ideal room temperature for babies is between 16° and 20°C (60° and 68°F). There will be times during the summer when the temperature may be higher than the recommended level, so you will need to adjust the baby’s sleepwear and bedding accordingly. For advice on how many baby blankets to use, read our guide on baby bedding.
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