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Baby bed buying guide: From co-sleepers to cotbeds, here’s everything you need to know

We ask the experts how best to keep babies safe, sound and – hopefully – asleep with the perfect setup

Tara Breathnach
Friday 05 February 2021 14:18 GMT
<p>Space and futureproofing will both come into play when making your decision</p>

Space and futureproofing will both come into play when making your decision

When it comes to buying for a newborn, there are some things that are absolutely essential. Getting the right baby bed is one of them.

An initial browse online may make you feel a bit lost as to exactly which to plump for, as there are just so many options available.

Should you get a cot, cotbed, Moses basket or co-sleeper? Do you need to buy a mattress separately?

Read more: 10 of the baby beds, from Moses baskets to cotbeds 

Factors like safety, space and budget will no doubt come into play, as well as if you’re looking for something your child can grow into, or something portable that you can carry from room to room.

There are lots questions, and it can be hard to decide what’s right for your family. So, how do you choose?

Well, we can provide a little guidance. We’ve got tips from The Lullaby Trust, which raises awareness of sudden infant death syndrome (Sids) and provides expert advice on safer sleep for babies, to help get you started on your baby bed buying journey.

Hopefully these pointers will help you think through all the factors at play before you make such a big purchase.

You can trust our independent round-ups. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.

Should my newborn be in a baby bed from birth?

Yes, they should. “The safest place for your baby to sleep for the first six months is in their own cot, crib or Moses basket,” says Kate Holmes, head of support and information at The Lullaby Trust.

“Evidence shows that the risk of sudden infant death syndrome is significantly reduced if a young infant sleeps in their own sleeping space in the same room as their parents during this period of development.”

The NHS adds that whenever your baby is asleep during the first six months, day and night, they should be in the same room as you. 

How much do beds cost?

Prices vary widely. You’ll find beds from less than £80 to up to £1,600 in our rundown of the best baby beds.  

Have a think about your budget before you start buying, and remember you might have a few other big purchases to make, like a buggy or car seat.

Bear in mind, not all baby beds come with a mattress, so you’ll need to factor that in when considering your budget

Sometimes pricier options are all about looks, though you might also find they cost more because you're getting a bed that will grow with your baby and save you money down the line. If you do want to go for a cheaper option, that's fine, but make sure it has a British Standard. 

How do I know the cot I’m buying is safe?

“Choosing a sleeping product for your baby can be daunting as there is so much on the market,” Holmes acknowledges. “The important thing to always check for is that it has a British Standard from the British Standard Institution. 

“While this doesn’t prevent Sids, it does guarantee a certain level of safety – something which many products found online lack. Be wary of any products that claim to prevent Sids, as there is no known cause of Sids.”

Retailers like John Lewis & Partners will usually include the British Standard mark BS EN 716-1 in the product description.

The NHS advises when you’re buying a cot that it should be sturdy, that any bars should be smooth and the distance between each one should not be less than 25mm and not more than 60mm so your baby’s head can’t get stuck. The mattress should fit snugly inside the bed frame.

You should keep your baby’s cot space empty, too: avoid cot bumpers, as babies can overheat or get tangled in the ties, and don’t put cuddly toys or blankets inside until your child’s at least 12 months old.

What’s the difference between a cot, cotbed and Moses basket?

A cot is a small baby bed that usually comes in a fixed size. How long your child can sleep in it will really depend on how quickly they grow.

If you’re happy to splash out on something seriously stylish, this vox vintage baby cot (£355, Cuckooland) could be just what you’re after. 

It’s a bold statement piece which is very solid and made to last and last.

“With its retro design and beautiful finish, this cot is not just a resting place for your baby, but a piece of furniture in its own right, said our reviewer of the best baby beds. “Made from high-quality laminated board with solid oak legs, this cot adjusts to three baby- and toddler-friendly heights.”

If you want to buy something that will last longer, a cotbed is the better option: these have removable sides so they can convert into a toddler bed as your little one gets bigger. 

Some also let you adjust the mattress height, so you can have it higher when your baby’s small and you’re reaching in a lot. 

Getting a cotbed will mean your baby can use it for longer. As they get bigger, you can lower the mattress so they can’t climb out

Choosing a cotbed also means that your baby won’t need to get used to a new bed once they become too big for their cot or Moses basket, and they’ll be in familiar surroundings as they sleep. 

With the extension kit (£79.95) for this SnuzKot skandi cot bed (£349, Snuz.co.uk) your child can keep enjoying it until they’re around 10.

It found its way into our best baby beds round-up, with our reviewer commenting on its natural beech finish and “solid frame and sturdy design” which should make it a keeper for a good few years.

A Moses basket is usually the most lightweight option: it often has handles so it’s portable, meaning you can take baby from room to room, wherever you go.

This knitted Moses basket (£92.90 including basket, mattress and mattress protector) is featherweight and easy to move from room to room. 

“Its traditional weave design is surprisingly durable, and it’s made out of palm leaf which is tougher than other maize Moses baskets,” said our tester of the best baby beds. They also noted, though, that it has a slight rustling noise when your baby moves or stretches: worth being aware of.

What’s a co-sleeping cot?

A co-sleeping cot is one that allows you to have your baby close to you while you’re in bed, but which still allows for your baby to sleep safely with no shared mattress, duvet or blankets.  

You can usually adjust the height of them and they'll attach to your bed: some can be used as standalone cribs as well.

If the idea of a co-sleeping bed really appeals, you might consider this Tutti Bambini cozee bedside crib (£185, Amazon.co.uk). 

It won our best buy award in our review of the best baby beds. Our tester said: “The adjustable height setting means it will fit safely to any bed, and if your little one suffers from reflux, you can adjust the incline to help your baby have a restful sleep. It can also be used as a standalone crib too. Genius. 

“Our favourite feature is the mesh window that allows you to watch your baby as they sleep. If you’re planning on breastfeeding or having an elective caesarean, this makes a great choice as the crib allows for a little movement to feed your baby.”

It doesn’t rock, however, and will only last until your baby’s sitting upright (at about six months). But it does come with a mattress in place, which we think is a good bonus and will save a few pennies.

What kind of mattress should I buy?

While some cots do come with a mattress, often they are sold separately and therefore require more decision making. Like adult beds, you’ll find there are different kinds, including foam, coil-spring and pocket-spring mattresses.

You can go for whichever you prefer, but there are three main things you should look out for. “Always check that the mattress you buy for your baby is firm, flat and waterproof,” says Holmes. “We encourage parents to check that any product they use has passed the necessary safety check.” Look for the standard BS EN 16890:2017 on children's mattresses in the product description boxes of retailers' websites.  

“We know from research that the safest place for your baby to sleep is always going to be on an entirely flat, firm surface, with no soft or thick padding or bedding around them. The advice we give is the surface of the mattress should be firm enough that when your baby is placed on it, their head does not sink in more than a few millimetres.”

In addition, notes Holmes, “a waterproof cover for a mattress is important for keeping it clean and dry and prevents the harbouring of any bacteria”.

If you’re unsure, we have a guide to the best kids’ mattresses that could help narrow down the search.

This Stompa s flex airflow mattress (£150,  Stompa) won the best buy award for its value, breathable fabric, hypoallergenic foam and quilted topping for extra comfort.

Do check the size of any mattress before you buy, and make sure its dimensions fit with the bed you have your eye on.

Although The Lullaby Trust recommends buying a new mattress if possible, many families will be gifted a mattress, or buy one second-hand. If so, make sure it was previously used with a waterproof cover, has no rips or tears and is in a good condition. It should also have been stored safely somewhere that there is no mould.

Can I put twins in the same cot?

While The Lullaby Trust confirms there’s no evidence that putting twins in the same bed to sleep increases the risk of Sids, they do say that you shouldn’t put twins together in a small cot or Moses basket, as there’s a risk they could overheat.

If you do put them in the same cot, this should only be for the first few weeks, when there is no danger of them rolling over or towards each other. 

One option, says The Lullaby Trust, is “to place them at opposite ends of the cot, each of them ‘feet to foot’. Each twin therefore has their own firmly tucked-in bedclothes or baby sleeping bag.”

Do I need a travel cot?

If you think you might be travelling with your baby at some point, it’s not a bad idea to invest in a travel cot. That way you won’t need to rely on the place you’re staying in to provide one, and you’ll know exactly what you’re putting your baby in and how it works.

Do note that the mattress you’ll get with a travel cot will often be thinner than your baby’s usual bed, and that they are designed for occasional use only.

The same guidance applies when you’re choosing a travel cot as with a regular cot – as The Lullaby Trust says, it should have “a rigid frame and base, and a firm, flat mattress, covered in a waterproof material”.

With all the expenditure that comes with a new baby, if you’re looking for something purse-friendly when it comes to travel cots, why not try this Dooky portable one (£37, Kidly)?

As you can see, it folds up into a very neat little case so you can store it easily when you’re not using it, and is super lightweight.

As our tester of the best travel cots said: “The whole thing weighs just 1.2kg, folds up to the size of a briefcase and can be stowed under a buggy or in a car door. We love that the risk of an impromptu nap doesn’t necessarily mean we don’t have to take the buggy everywhere.“

It simply folds out into a safe, comfortable sleeping space for babies, from newborn until they are able to sit up independently.”

There are pockets at the side, too, for storing wipes and nappies.

What kind of bedding do I need for my baby’s cot?

Sleeping bags are a great option, as your baby can’t wriggle and get their head caught under them. You can find plenty of recommendations in our review of the best available.

If you choose to use blankets, The Lullaby Trust advises that they shouldn’t be too thick or doubled over, so your baby won’t overheat. 

It also recommends: “If using blankets, make sure they are firmly tucked in and come up no higher than the shoulders. Sleep your baby in the ‘feet-to-foot’ position, with baby’s feet against the foot of the cot, to avoid their face becoming covered by loose bedding.”

Choosing a bed as your child gets older

We know that if you’re looking at baby beds right now, the idea of getting a kids’ bed might seem a long way off.

But it doesn’t hurt to have a think about what kind of bed you’d like your child to transition into as they grow, especially if you’ve gone for a cot that’ll need replacing before too long (time will fly!).

Our best buy in kids beds went to this rather lovely looking mento white wooden treehouse bed (£399.99, Happy Beds).

“This is a fun and safe first bed,” our tested commented. "The safety rails will keep little ones in bed all night and the design will make every bedtime an adventure (instead of a horror story).”  

It fits a standard single mattress, so there is room for a parent to squeeze in for storytime. It is made from solid pine painted white, meaning it will suit any room. 

"Our little testers loved peeping out of the windows and the height off of the floor makes it ‘treehousy’ enough for make believe, but easy for little legs to access.”

We’ve got more ideas for kitting out your baby’s bedroom in our guide to nursery decor

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