Choosing nursery furniture is an exciting part of preparing for a new baby. Although it can be hard to imagine your bump or tiny newborn as a toddler, it’s worth some forward planning when considering sleeping options.
A Moses basket or crib can be used for a newborn baby insead of a cot, though some parents prefer a cot or cotbed from the start. There are many similarities between the two, but there’s a key difference that sets them apart – longevity. While a cot is suitable from birth to approximately 2 years, a cotbed may be used from birth to about 5 years. Some cotbeds can even turn into little sofas and last longer still!
Cotbeds – the pros and cons
A cotbed has removable sides and end panel so it can convert to a short, low bed for a toddler. Larger than a cot, but smaller than a single bed, a cotbed requires a mattress and bedding designed specifically for it.
A cotbed may seem to be the hands-down winner over the cot – and there’s some evidence of this in the huge range now being sold. Although slightly more expensive than the average cot, a cotbed will be in use for twice as long, so can be more cost effective. Though do remember to factor in the cost of purchasing an extra mattress and bedding, if necessary, when the cotbed is converted. Consider too that you’ll still have to buy a single bed at some stage.
Familiarity with the cotbed may help smooth your child’s transition from cot to a ‘big bed’, too.
If space is an issue for you though, a cotbed may not be suitable. The Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths (FSID) recommends that your baby sleep in your bedroom for the first six months. If a cotbed is too large for your room, opt for a cot instead.
Some parents also feel that the size of a cotbed leaves their newborn looking a bit lost! One solution is to use a Moses basket or a crib for the first few months, then move to a cotbed.
Cots – the pros and cons
Cots vary in size, but are usually smaller and cheaper than cotbeds, have fixed sides (though some have a side that will drop down for ease of access to your baby), and there’s a wide selection of bedding available for them.
An advantage of choosing a cot rather than a cotbed is that you can select one to fit the available space in your room. Some children are happy to remain in a cot for longer than the 2 years suggested by many manufacturers, while others move from cot to full-size single bed with ease.
A major consideration is whether you plan to have more than one child. Although a cot tends to have a shorter lifespan than a cotbed, it may prove cost effective if it can be used for future siblings. You may find that if you buy a cotbed, it will be required for your next baby before you have chance to turn it into a bed for your older child. So, you’ll have to buy a cot or second cotbed for your new baby. This is often the time that parents try to coax their older child into moving to a single bed - it can be touted as a ‘prize’ for being the ‘big brother/sister’, though some children feel as if the new baby is ousting them from their cotbed!
If you do buy a cot because you plan on having more than one child, consider if you have the space to store it before it’s needed again.
Our buyer's guide to cots and cotbeds will take you step by step through finding the right one.
Whether you’re using a second-hand cot or cotbed or re-using the one in which your first child slept, the same advice about mattresses applies. FSID says: “It is very important that your baby’s mattress is clean, dry, ﬁrm, ﬂat and well ﬁtting. Ideally, you should buy a new mattress for each new baby. If you are not able to do this, use the one you have as long as it was made with a completely waterproof cover and has no tears, cracks or holes.”