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A Beginner's Guide to your Baby's Cot - Everything You Need To Know

Whether you’ve had a baby, are expecting one or are just thinking about having a child in the future, a cot is going to be something that you use. Whilst they may look simple from the outside, there are a lot of questions surrounding your baby’s cot. Are they safe? Are there more than one type? Can my newborn baby sleep in a cot? These are all questions that are completely normal to think about – and we have the answers.

We have put together a huge blog of the most popular questions surrounding cots. We don’t expect you to sit and read through every single question (but you can if you’d like to). If you’re only looking for the answer to 2 or 3 questions, just click on the ones you’d like to read in our table of contents – you’ll be taken straight to them!

We hope that after you read our blog, you’ll be left feeling much more confident on buying your baby’s cot or using the one that you already have. 

What is a cot?

You may think this is a super simple question that everyone knows the answer to, but if you’re just starting out and aren’t sure what a cot actually is, we have a good explanation for you. A cot is simply a bed made for babies and small children. They are designed to keep your baby secure whilst they sleep in their cot through the night or during naps. Cots typically have 4 walls that surround the edges, normally in a cage-like design. 

Whilst your baby is very young, you’ll find putting them into such a secure space seems like a bit of a waste. Your baby won’t move around too much whilst they are still very young but it’s still important to protect them from rolling over. As your child gets older and is able to get onto their feet more, this is when a cot really comes in handy. The 4 walls will prevent your child from falling out of the cot and potentially hurting themselves. In simple terms, a cot is just a smaller and more secure bed.

Types of cot

There are a few different cots to choose from, but this does depend on the age of your baby and the circumstances you are in. You will probably use each of these cots at least once in your baby’s development as they all come in handy for different reasons. We will go into more depth about these cots later on in the blog to talk about their safety and how you should use them…

Standard Cot

These cots are normally the most popular type as they are easy to find and do exactly what you need them to do. Whilst they don’t have any other features, they do provide a safe space for your child and make sure that they won’t fall out of the bed during the night. There are many different styles and colours you can get of standard cots to fit in with your baby’s nursery. However, if you’re looking for something cheap and cheerful, there are plenty of standard cots to choose from!


You may have seen these types of cots before. Instead of a permanent frame around the sides, one side of the cot is able to drop down. These can be great for parents who are slightly shorter or who have back problems. Leaning over the side of the cot can make it very difficult to get your baby out or put them in safely.

These cots are designed to make it difficult for your baby to unlatch the side themselves whilst in their cot. There are many designs like a nudge and lift mechanism, catches and foot pedals so that you can easily drop the side down without risk to your baby.

Drop-sided cots are sometimes avoided by parents as they don’t deem them as safe. It’s important that your purchase an item that you will feel comfortable using and leaving your baby in. We will discuss more on the safety of drop-sided cots later in this blog.

Sleigh cots

Sleigh cots are simply just another design of cot. Instead of the standard rectangle shape, these cots have a wavy and more stylish design. If you’re looking to go for something with a little more character, a sleigh cot is a great choice. It’s just important that you check that the ends of the cot don’t have a dip or groove in them where your baby’s clothes could potentially get caught. 

Sleigh cots can still offer you the drop-sided feature. They offer you and your baby everything that a standard cot does but with just a different style. The rails can usually also be fully removed to turn the sleigh cot into a bed once your little one starts getting older.

Travel cot

This cot really does say what it does in its name. If you’re making a weekend trip to grandma’s house or going away on a holiday, a travel cot will keep your baby safe and allow them to have a good night’s sleep. Most travel cots can be folded down completely to make it easy to put in the car when driving to your new accommodation. Some parents also take them abroad with them to ensure that their baby will be comfortable during the night as well as safe.

What size is a cot?

A standard cot for your baby is usually around 60cm x 120cm. It’s important to make sure that your baby’s nursery is big enough for a cot before you go and buy one. If you don’t have the space for one, you can always look into Moses baskets first whilst your baby is still young. If you purchase a standard sized cot, you will be able to find a standard sized mattress very easily. Sometimes these are included with what you pay for the cot.

As your child gets older, they will no longer need the sides of the cot to keep them in their bed. Some cots allow you to take the sides straight off to turn it into a toddler bed right away. However, if yours doesn’t do this, you can purchase a cot bed instead. These are usually 70cm x 140cm – just slightly bigger than a cot. 

Can a newborn sleep in a cot?

Some parents can become a little confused when it comes to their baby’s first night at home. Can they go straight into a cot? Do they need to sleep in a Moses basket first? The answer is that it’s completely up to you. The only thing that you need to make sure of is that they are in your room and should be up until they are around 6 months old. 

Most parents use a Moses basket first if they find that the space isn’t big enough in their room for a full-sized cot. A Moses basket is simply just a scaled down version of a cot that offers your baby everything a cot would. If you do have the space, there’s nothing wrong with putting your newborn baby straight into a cot from their first night home.

As long as they are kept close to you during the entire night, it does not matter whether they are in a cot, bassinet, crib or Moses basket. It’s really important that you do not share a bed with your baby, especially when they are so young. This is because you may roll onto the during the night which can cause injury or in a worst-case scenario, death.

Find a cot that you feel comfortable with putting your newborn baby in and make sure it is comfortable for you when your put them in or take them out. You will be using the cot for a long period of time, so you need to make sure it’s the right one.

How to get a baby to sleep in cot

Babies are amazing at sleeping. Wherever you are, they can usually fall asleep pretty easily. However, when you put them in the one place that they are meant to sleep, they suddenly don’t want to anymore! We have some great information on how you can get your little one to sleep in their cot and some explanations as to why they might be struggling.

So, why won’t your baby settle in their cot? When they are newborns, sleeping in new environment can be extremely daunting. Before this, they have been alone in the womb, surrounded by white noise and warmth. But now, there are noises they haven’t heard before and a whole different routine to try and get into. Once those things they are used to are taken away, it can cause many problems for them and for you as a parent. However, don’t worry, there are plenty of things you can try and do to create a calm and natural environment for them. Here’s some things we recommend…

  • Room temperature. If your baby’s room (or your own room) is too hot or cold, this will cause discomfort for your little one. When your baby is young, they will struggle to regulate their own temperature. If they get too hot, this can cause huge risks including SIDS. We recommend keeping the room cool, but not letting it get cold.
  • Try out swaddling. Your baby is in one comfortable position whilst they are in the womb. By putting them in one position and keeping them in it during the night, this can also help sleeping become a little easier! You just need to remember that once your baby can roll over, you should no longer swaddle.
  • Change the lighting. For your baby, the darker it is the better. Think about purchasing some black out curtains to ensure no light creeps into their room whilst sleeping. It’s also a good idea to turn off any lights outside of your baby’s room so that they do not become disturbed. When entering your baby’s room to change their nappy or to check on them, use a very low light to prevent waking them fully.
  • Feeding routine. A feeding routine is one of the most important things to get into. Not only is it easier for you, it means your baby will be fed exactly when they need to be and will prevent underfeeding or overfeeding. If your little one goes to sleep feeling hungry or like they have not had enough, this will impact their sleeping routine. Make sure you are feeding your little one every 2-3 hours to ensure they are getting what they need.

Give these tips a try to see if it has any impact on your little one. If you still find that they are really struggling to sleep in their cot, it may be worth checking the mattress to make sure it is comfortable enough for them and making sure they are fully supported throughout the night. If problems continue, you can always go and see a doctor or nurse to talk about anything they recommend.

How long do babies sleep in cots?

There’s no rule as to when you need to move your little one out of their cot. It usually ranges from around 18 months all the way up to 3 years old. It’s down to you to decide when your feel it is right to change your baby’s cot into a cot bed or to completely move them over to a normal sized bed. Once you can see that your baby is beginning to outgrow their cot, it’s probably time for a change.

We’ll elaborate on this more later on in our blog where you can find out when to move your little one from a cot to a bed and how you will know it’s time.

What is a cot bumper?

A cot bumper is a pad that lies around the edges of your baby’s cot to prevent them from getting their hands or head caught in the gaps of the rails. Whilst these sound like a good idea, they have proven to be unsafe for babies over the years.

In 2007, a study was published that concluded that cot bumpers were unsafe. They found that 27 infant deaths were linked to cot bumpers either because the baby’s face was pushed into the bumper or because it was caught around the baby’s neck. They have also been found to not prevent serious injury and are more likely to cause injury if they are inside of a cot.

However, cot bumpers are still being sold and aren’t completely unsafe if used in a sensible way. They have been found to prevent minor injuries like bruises and marks and can be used if your baby is being closely monitored. For example, if your little one in in their crib whilst you are also in the room with them, you can watch to see if your baby gets into any complications. However, they are not advised throughout the night when you are not able to watch your baby.

We advise that you do not use cot bumpers when you are not able to watch your little one. Your baby should be placed on their back, on a firm mattress with no loose items for them to potentially grab and put over their face.

Are drop-side cots safe?

Sticking to the subject of safety – what about drop-side cots? We briefly spoke about these earlier in the blog. Many parents are put off of getting a drop-side cot as they are worried that the rail will potentially fall and hurt their baby.

If you are thinking about purchasing a drop-side cot, you need to make sure it is a highly secure mechanism that only you can manoeuvre. Your baby should not be able to drop the side down on their own, whether that’s on purpose or by accident. 

Drop-side cots aren’t as recommended as they used to be as they do pose safety risks. A cot with 4 secure sides is much safer as it doesn’t matter if your baby grabs the sides at all. If you find that a drop-side cot would be more comfortable for you when taking your baby out of the cot, it may be worth purchasing a Moses basket instead for the time being as there is much less risk. 

It really does come down to your instincts when purchasing items for your baby. If you feel that they would be beneficial to you then we advise you look into the safety precautions and make sure your baby will be left safe when you’re not around to monitor them. 

What is cot death?

Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) – known as ‘cot death’ – is the sudden death of a healthy baby where there is not much explanation to go with it. This happens to around 200 babies a year. SIDS is a massive worry to new parents and parents who already have children. When a baby dies of SIDS, there is usually no proper explanation as to why it has happened. This is what makes it so worrying.

However, after years of research into the syndrome, there have been some things that have flagged up as to why babies die from SIDS. We have listed some things you can do to prevent sudden infant death syndrome…

  1. Place your baby on their back when putting them into their cot. Your baby is unable to rollover when they are young so will stay in that same position.
  • Keep your baby’s cot in your room for at least the first 6 months of your baby’s life. This is for close monitoring throughout the night.
  • Avoid any loose blankets inside of the cot. This can be pulled by your baby in their sleep and potentially cover their face.
  • Use the ‘feet to foot’ position. This means that your baby’s feet are right at the end of the cot or Moses basket. This is useful if you do choose to use a blanket.
  • Avoid sharing a bed with your baby.
  • Ensure the room is not too hot or cold – your baby cannot regulate their temperature when they are so young.
  • Do not smoke during pregnancy or around your baby once they are born. 

These are just a few things you can do to protect your little one whilst they are in their cot. Having your baby in your room for the first 6 months allows you to easily check on them and get to them as soon as you can if they begin crying or making any noise. It’s also easy to get up and check on your baby without waking them up.

You should take all of the precautions you can against SIDS. Unfortunately, this is something that many parents have had to experience and is important that we try and reduce the number as much as we possibly can.

When to take the side off a cot

You should remove the sides off of a cot once you are confident that your child is ready to move from a cot to a toddler bed. As we mentioned earlier, this usually happens between 18 months to 3 years old. You should carefully remove the sides off of the cot and make sure there are no sharp edges or screws left behind that your child could potentially injure themselves on. 

You should also consider if your child will be able to stay on their bed for the entirety of the night. If you are still worried that they will rollover and fall, you may way to keep them on for a little longer. You can also buy toddler beds that have small ridges on the edges to prevent this from happening.

How to put baby in cot

There are many questions when it comes to putting your baby in their cot. It can be difficult to know what’s wrong and what’s right – especially if you’re a new parent. Before you even place your baby in their cot, you need to test if the cot makes it easy for you to do that. For example, if the rails are too high and don’t allow you to be able to reach over properly, you may want to look into another design where the rails are slightly lower. It’s important that you know this before placing your baby inside as you want to make sure there is no risk of dropping them of injuring yourself. You can test it out by using an object that weighs around the same as a baby to see if you can put it in and get it out easily. 

The most important thing to remember when putting your baby in their cot is to always lie them down on their back. This may sound like a silly thing to suggest but you should not leave your baby unattended whilst they are laying on their tummy or slightly on their side. If they are placed on their back, they will not be able to rollover. This is something that young babies cannot do. As your child gets older, they will learn how to rollover, but will also have the strength to push themselves back over.

After your baby is in their cot, you should avoid any blankets, pillows or soft toys. Blankets can act as a hazard as your baby can grab this during the night and potentially cover their face with it. This will cause breathing difficulties for your little one and is a common cause of SIDS. The same goes for soft toys. Your baby will not need them during the night, and they will not help them sleep any better. Instead, they also act as a hazard and your baby could get caught on one or they could also cover your baby’s face. Pillows are not required when your baby is young as they need a flat, firm surface to sleep on. This helps them develop properly and doesn’t cause any injury to their spinal cord or neck.

If you decide to start using blankets as your baby gets slightly older, you should position them right at the end of the cot – so their feet touch the bottom. This will mean that they cannot wriggle down and get under the blanket. However, it may be safer for your baby if you dress them in a slightly warmer outfit instead – making sure they can still stay cool though!

Once your baby is positioned correctly and you are confident that there is nothing that could potentially cause any harm in their cot, you need to look around the cot too. Hanging mobiles are great to get your little one to sleep, but only whilst you are monitoring them. A lot of mobiles are clipped onto your baby’s cot and hang over them whilst they are in there. You should avoid leaving this up during the entire night as it could potentially fall off during the night and land on your baby. This could cause injuries for your little one which is something you really want to avoid. As well as this, when your child gets older and learns to pull themselves up on the cot, they can them grab this hanging mobile and pull it down on themselves. 

This also applies to other furniture that is close to your baby’s cot. If there are any items or furniture that would be easy to pull over or any items that have been left on surfaces they can reach, you should remove these. You want to be able to sleep without worrying about your little one so removing all possible risks is a great way to do so. 

What age can baby have comforter in cot?

It’s very common that babies like to have something they can carry around with them to make them feel safe. This can be a blanket, toy or just a random item that they feel connected to. However, when is it safe to give your baby their comforter in their cot? We’ve spoken lots about keeping your baby’s cot clear whilst they are sleeping to reduce the risk of SIDS. However, once your baby is a certain age, this becomes much safer. 

If your baby doesn’t have a comforter yet or you’re thinking about putting it into their cot, there are a couple of things you can do to make it much more special for them. A good way to make it a firm favourite is to keep it near you for a prolonged amount of time so that it smells of you. This could be when you are sleeping or just carrying it around with you for a little while. You can also choose something that’s brightly coloured so that they are attracted to it and it’s easy to find when they’ve lost it!

If your baby already has a comforter and you’re thinking about putting it in their cot, you should wait until they are at least a year old. By this stage, the risk of SIDS is much lower. It’s important that you don’t rush and put the comforter in your baby’s cot whilst they are still very young as this could lead to devastating consequences. It doesn’t mean to say your baby will definitely be harmed, but it’s a risk not worth taking. 

One last point is to check and see if the comforter your baby has become attached to is suited for their age range. If there are bits that come off of it or sections that have different materials, it may be worth holding off putting it into the cot. In this case, you should monitor your baby around their comforter or try and introduce them to something that is safer for their age.

Can you use a travel cot long term?

We spoke about travel cots briefly earlier in the blog. 50% of parents own a travel cot – mainly because of their convenience if you need to go elsewhere for a night or if your baby is staying with friends or family. They are a great way to make sure your baby will have a good night’s sleep when you are away from home. They provide your baby with a safe space to sleep and are sized well so that you can still have them in your room if they are young. 

However, lots of parents think that because they are safe for your baby when you go on holiday, that they can be used for longer periods of time. Unfortunately, this is not the case and can cause problems for your baby if you continue to use them when you don’t need to. 

Travel cots are designed for short term use, which means they don’t offer the same support as a normal cot. They usually come with mattresses that you shouldn’t change as they help stabilise the cot when your baby is in it. The mattresses normally aren’t as firm as your normal one and can tend to be harder and thinner. You should avoid trying to add padding to the original mattress as this heightens the risk of overheating or your baby getting under this during the night.

Overall, they are designed for short term use and should be avoided after this. Your baby is best supported in their normal cot and this should be used as their primary sleeping space. If you would like to use something for yor baby to nap when not in their room, Moses baskets can be handy and are easy to move aorund as you'd like.

How to put up a travel cot

Whilst you can buy a variety of different brands of travel cot, they are usually all very much the same when it comes to putting them up and taking them down. However, if you haven’t used one before, you may need a little bit of help to make sure it is safe for you little one. 

They are designed to be quick and simple and done by anyone. This means that if your little one is staying at Grandmas on the weekend – even she should be able to do this! It might just take a little bit of practice, try putting it up and taking it down a couple of times before you actually need to use it. We’ve got some easy steps on how you set up your travel cot and what you do when it’s time to put it away…

Putting it up

  1. Travel cots normally come in a fold design. Unfold the cot and click all of the sides together. You should hear when they have clicked in properly – it may be easier to do opposite sides together so that it ends up forming a rectangle.
  2. Push the base of the travel cot down and adjust the legs so that they are pulled out fully and the cot is stabilised.

Taking it down

  1. Pull the middle (base) up. There’s usually a loop attached that will help you to pull. It may fall over here so make sure there isn’t anything you could harm around you.
  2. Unclip all of the sides so that it begins folding back away. You can do opposite sides together again to ensure it’s all even.

And that’s it! It’s really simple but we do advise that you test yours out before you go and use it for a weekend away. It’s not just being able to put it up that’s important. It’s also making sure that it is as stable as you’d like it to be and that nothing on it is broken.

Do you need a mattress for a travel cot?

Most mattresses for travel cots are known to be hard and quite thin. Some travel cots will advise you not to change the mattress and it stabilises the cot. When it’s removed, it could cause the cot to tip over or wobble. However, just because you cannot replace it, it doesn’t mean that you cannot put a mattress on top of the one already in there. This means your travel cot will stay stable and your baby will be able to sleep comfortably. 

If you choose not to place another mattress on top, this also isn’t a problem. Travel cots are designed to be used for short periods of time so will not have any effect on your baby if it’s only for a few nights. 

One thing you should not do is take the travel cot mattress out and replace it with another. This can throw off the balance of the travel cot and make it dangerous for your baby.

What bedding do you need for a cot?

There’s a lot of dos and don’ts for a cot, and bedding is no exception. There are lots of opinions and different sources of information that tell you to do different things. But really, it comes down to you at the end of it all to sit down and think about what you think is best for your baby. We don’t all do the same things when it comes to looking after a child so don’t feel like you shouldn’t do something if the right safety precautions are being taken.

We’re going to speak about the different things you’ll need for your cot to protect it and well as keep your baby comfortable whilst they sleep. 

Waterproof mattress protector

There’s no doubt that your baby will have accidents through the night. Although they may be wearing a nappy, that doesn’t mean the cot is fully protected! To be on the safe side, a waterproof mattress protector will mean that any liquid will be stopped from getting and soaking into the mattress. It’s not essential but is a great way on keeping your mattress clean.


There are two types of sheet, bottom and top. You may find that fitted sheets are better as they don’t come off as easy. Bottom sheets go over the mattress and tuck underneath the bottom. This is primarily to protect the mattress and make it a little more comfortable to sleep on. Top sheets go over your baby – up to around their chest – and then are tucked in underneath the mattress again. Some parents choose to not use top sheets as it is a concern that the sheet could potentially cover the baby’s face. We recommend that you keep you cot empty until your child is around a year old.

Sleeping bag

If you don’t want to use a sheet or blanket on your baby during the night, a sleeping bag is a great alternative – especially when it’s colder. The sleeping bag zips up around your baby but sits against their feet so they cannot wriggle down into it. You can buy different types of sleeping bags that are more suited to different weathers. These are very popular but normally are more expensive.

What else do you need to know?

We’ve answered some of the most commonly asked questions around cots to give you a better understanding on them. We hope that this blog has helped you and given you some useful information. Keeping your baby safe is the most important thing so it’s essential that you acknowledge all safety precautions before purchasing a certain type of cot or doing something new. Now you know all about cots, why not take a look at some of our other guides?

The Definitive Guide to Moses Baskets, Stands and Mattresses

The Ultimate Guide to Baby Prams

Everything you need to know about newborn baby car seats

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