Babies and all of the paraphernalia associated with them can be quite confusing, especially for first-time parents. It seems like baby product manufacturers are constantly inventing new gizmos and gadgets, but while some of the items they produce are essential pieces of baby gear, others are not. Cots and cotbeds, for example, are essential pieces of baby gear, as are car seats and high chairs.
Although some parents begin their searches for baby furniture and cotbeds by looking for models that fit their design aesthetic, all cotbed searches should begin by eliminating any models that could be considered unsafe. Typically, parents can find at least two or three safe cotbeds that fit the design of their nursery, but safety should be the first concern, not the second. While safety is definitely first and foremost, functionality should also be considered, which is why it is a good idea to look for cotbeds that convert from cots to toddler beds so they grow with the child.
Brief History of the Cotbed
Prior to the 1800s, infants slept in bed with their parents. The transition from co-sleeping to providing infants and toddlers with their own sleeping space began with parents placing infants in hollowed-out logs. Over time, individuals began making these early cribs more sophisticated, incorporating a rocking mechanism and creating the cradle shape that is known today.
As infants got to be too old to be safely placed in these primitive cribs or cradles, parents would transition them to smaller beds of their own. This transition typically occurred around three months of age, which is when infants begin to roll over. These small beds or mattresses were located in the same room as the parents' bed and stored underneath, making them the first trundle beds.
Cots began to increase in popularity in Australia, Europe, and the United States in the 19th century when parents began to incorporate baby gear designed for baby's safety. Cots provide a secure sleeping place off the cold floor, away from drafts, and they also keep the baby confined in one space, so parents do not have to worry about baby getting into trouble while they are asleep. Since cots have high side rails on all four sides, adults must put the baby into the crib and lift him or her out, which means baby cannot wander around unattended and get hurt.
Adding Functionality to Cots and Cotbeds
Modern baby product manufacturers continue to add features and functionality to cots and cotbeds, such as rails that can be raised and lowered to make lifting baby out easier and storage drawers beneath the cot. Cotbeds have also become increasingly popular in recent years because they are safe for baby from birth throughout childhood.
What is a Cotbed?
Whereas a cot can only be used until the toddler is old enough to climb out of it, cotbeds grow with a child, which means one less item to purchase as a child grows. Once a baby is old enough to lift his or her leg over the side of the cot, the cot becomes unsafe because the baby could attempt to climb out and may either fall or succeed in climbing out and get injured elsewhere in the room or house.
At this point, parents must transition to either a toddler bed, which is a smaller bed that is closer to the ground or a regular bed. While regular beds are an acceptable option, guard rails are highly recommended as their height puts a child at a greater risk of injury if he or she falls out of the bed. Toddlers and small children may also feel unsafe in such a large bed, which is why many parents prefer to use cotbeds or toddler beds.
A cotbed provides the best of both worlds as it functions as both a cot and a toddler bed. Typically, the cotbed is transformed into a toddler bed by lowering the mattress as far down as it can go and removing the side rails so the child can get into and out of the bed unassisted. This is a much safer option for toddlers because they do not have to climb over the cot rail to get out, and if they do fall, they are fairly low to the ground, so the risk of serious injury is minimal. Some cotbeds also convert to regular beds by using the side rails as head and footboards and incorporating an additional bed frame, which provides three levels of functionality rather than two.
Tips for Choosing a Safe Cotbed
When evaluating cotbeds, there are several different safety considerations parents should keep in mind. If a cotbed appears to be unsafe in any of the categories, parents should eliminate that model from their list of acceptable cotbeds. There are plenty of models available, which means parents should not have to settle for an unsafe cotbed.
Cotbed and Mattress Size
Cotbeds are fairly standard in size, as are the mattresses that are manufactured to fit inside them; however, there are a few sizes that parents may encounter. Before purchasing a cotbed or mattress, prospective buyers should check the size of each to ensure that the mattress they have in mind fits snuggly inside the crib. If any space exists between the mattress and the crib sides, the infant may get stuck in the space. Once the cotbed is assembled, parents should drop the mattress in and ensure that there are no gaps on any of the sides so their baby is not injured.
Cotbeds typically offer several different mattress heights, which can be adjusted as the baby grows. The highest mattress position makes it easy for parents to put their babies to bed, but as babies grow and learn how to crawl and roll over, they could fall out of the cotbed. This is why the highest mattress setting is only recommended for infants under three months of age. As baby grows, parents can lower the mattress so that it remains safe. When the baby is able to sit up without help, parents should ensure that the mattress is at its lowest setting so there is no possibility that the baby can fall out of the cotbed.
Many cribs feature slatted sides to allow air to circulate through the cotbed and so baby can see out. These slats can pose a risk of they are spaced too far apart because baby could get his or her head stuck, or older infants could get a limb stuck between the slats. Current safety guidelines suggest that the space between the slats be no greater than six centimetres. While most brand new cribs are manufactured to these safety guidelines, antique cribs and used cribs may not be, so parents should always measure the space between the slats before making a purchasing decision.
Stationary or Movable Sides
Most older cotbeds came with rails that could be lowered or that folded down, which made it easier for shorter individuals to lift baby into the crib. These rails also made it easier to lift older, heavier infants and toddlers into and out of the crib. Many manufacturers are moving away from side rails that can be lowered because they feel they may be unsafe for baby.
For parents concerned with safety issues, stationary side rails are probably the best option; however, for parents who may not be able to lift their child to get him or her into and out of the cotbeds, a drop-side or fold-down side may be preferred. When considering cotbeds with movable side rails, prospective buyers should inspect the side rail mechanisms to determine which model looks the safest.
If a cotbed has distinct corner posts, these posts should either be the same height as the cotbed's rails, or they should be high enough that they do not pose a strangulation risk for baby. Since some cotbeds do not have distinct corner posts, this is not an issue, but for parents considering styles that do have corner posts, it is safest to follow these guidelines.
Most teething babies chew on anything to alleviate their discomfort, including cotbed rails. Since most cotbeds are made of wood, this could result in splinters in baby's gums. When infants are old enough to pull themselves up, parents should consider putting soft plastic teething rails over the cotbeds side rails to protect baby's gums and prevent damage to the wood. These teething guards can be purchased separately, so if a particular cotbed does not come with them, parents can still purchase that cotbed for their infant.
Shopping for Cotbeds
Often parents want to see the cotbeds they are considering buying before they make a purchasing decision. For these parents, a trip to the local baby stores may be in order. While parents could certainly purchase their cotbed from these stores as well, they may find better prices on the same model by shopping around.
Once a prospective buyer determines which cotbed he or she would like to purchase, an Internet search should reveal which retailer has the lowest price. Parents should keep in mind that some cotbed manufacturers require several months to deliver a cotbed, which means they should start shopping early or look for retailers that can ship the cotbed immediately if time is of the essence.
Another great place to shop for cotbeds, especially for individuals who cannot wait several months for delivery, is eBay. The site has listings for thousands of products, including baby products like cotbeds, and with thousands of individual sellers, it is easy for shoppers to find the perfect cotbed.
Buying Cotbeds on eBay
If you are ready to take a look at the listings for cotbeds on eBay, go to the site's main page and type that keyword into the search box. Once the search results load, you can narrow down your options by sub-type, features, colour, and price or you can browse through all of the listings. If you are looking for a specific colour or model, you could enter that information into the search box, although you may end up filtering out valid listings this way.
Before making a purchasing decision, prospective buyers should read each listing carefully to determine which cotbed model is being sold. Photographs are essential so buyers can ensure that the cotbed meets all the safety criteria, and if prospective buyers have any questions about the cotbed, they should contact the seller for clarification. Buyers should also take a look at the shipping options and the seller's return policy to determine whether the cotbed can be returned in the event the buyer is not happy with it.
Baby gear is expensive and the required items can be quite overwhelming, so many parents opt to determine what they need as they go and as baby grows. While this is a great option, especially for items parents are not sure they need, a cot or cotbed is definitely a necessity for babies and toddlers. This, however, does not mean that parents need to spend a fortune to find a safe, stylish cot or cotbed that is perfect for their nursery.
Because cotbeds grow with a child, they are a great option for parents who do not want to purchase multiple beds when they can purchase one. While it is true that most cotbeds are more expensive than cots that do not convert, but the increase in cost is much less than buying a toddler or junior bed when baby outgrows the cot. Prospective buyers with knowledge on the benefits of cotbeds and how to spot safe models can find the perfect cotbed for their nursery on eBay.