Is your baby as safe as they can possibly be in the cot you use at home? Tiffany Brown delves into cot safety and explains what new parents need to look for.
The cots we use in Kiwi homes are covered by the provisions of the Standard AS/NZS 2172:2013 Cots for household use – Safety requirements. Suppliers of home-use cots are obliged by law to supply only those cots which meet or exceed the requirements of the Standard, so when you purchase a new cot, make sure you look for verification that the Standard has been met. The same Standard, with some modifications, applies to secondhand cots.
16-20 °C is the optimum temperature for your baby’s room.
What makes a cot safe?
Some of the features of the Standard for keeping your child safe in their cot include:
- The space between the bars must be between 50mm and 95mm, no more or less, to prevent baby trapping their limbs or head.
- When the mattress is centred in the middle of the cot, the distance between the mattress and the sides or ends of the cot must not exceed 20mm.
- There must not be any components in the cot that could be used by the child to climb over the sides, such as horizontal or diagonal bars.
- The construction of the cot’s materials must be permanent and fixed. Otherwise the cost must require a tool or other method of assembly that cannot be tampered with by your child.
- The cot’s “dropside” must be able to move freely, while the dropside guides should be firmly fixed.
- When the cot is closed, the distance between the lower rails and the mattress base should measure between 12mm and 30mm. The bottom edge of the lowest rails must not be higher than the top of the mattress base.
- The cot must not have any loose or missing pieces.
- There should be no sharp edges or points in the cot that could cause injury, or catch or snag your child’s clothing.
- Nothing should protrude into the cot more than 5mm, such as nuts, corner posts, or decorative features. Your child could fall or get caught on these and be injured.
New cots also need to be fitted with information labels and markings. These should provide complete assembly instructions, manufacturers’ information, and safety and maintenance details. Manufacturers’ information and warnings must be permanently marked on the cot mattress base.
Preloved or secondhand cots
These last two requirements do not apply to secondhand cots. However, cot safety is a serious issue. Before you accept or give away a preloved cot, be aware that your cot must comply with the Standard. If it does not comply, you may be held personally liable. And if you are selling a secondhand cot on Trade Me that does not comply, you could be individually fined up to $200,000. If you’re unsure, it pays to double-check at standards.co.nz. If you’re buying secondhand, you’re best to compile your own safety checklist. As well as double-checking there are no protrusions or old-fashioned features that do not conform to the safety Standard, check the paint on your secondhand cot is not lead based.
What else can I do?
Ensure your child’s cot is placed in the safest spot in the room they are to sleep in. Move the cot away from the window, particularly if the room is not on the ground floor. Ensure any potential strangulation hazards are well out of reach, such as blind cords, curtains, and curtain strings. Mobiles and hanging toys look adorable and may provide your baby with opportunities to gaze and coo, but make absolutely sure they are fixed fast and out of reach. Babies are fairly immobile in bed to start with, but they’ll soon be moving and wriggling around in there. Take care from the outset to ensure any hanging items can’t detach and fall on them, or that your child cannot get entangled in them. Same goes for other wall items like pictures, mirrors or shelves. Cover electrical outlets with safety guards, and keep the cot well away from any heaters, dehumidifiers, or air conditioners you may use in the room.
Cot mattresses should be clean, at, and firm. Mattress protectors, sheet sets, and blankets may be purchased new or second- hand, but if you are going to use pre-loved ones, make sure they are well washed and that they came from a smoke-free home. Mattresses present a health hazard to your child if they’re allowed to get damp. Make use of sunny days to air out the mattress regularly. Place the mattress in direct sunlight outside your home, and rotate it frequently – by turning and flipping it over – to minimise pressure spots building up, particularly at the head end.
Never put toys, pillows, or bumper pads into the cot with your baby, as these are suffocation and strangulation hazards. Sheets, blankets, or duvets should be securely tucked in around your child’s body to prevent loose material covering their face and suffocating them. If you choose to warm the cot prior to bedtime with a wheat bag or hot water bottle, be sure to remove it before putting baby down to sleep.
To prevent overheating, cot bedding should preferably be made of breathable fabrics. Use sheets, blankets, or sleeping bags for your child that are machine washable, and if possible made of natural bres. Over-heating is a risk factor for SUDI (sudden unexplained death of an infant), so you need to try to regulate your baby’s temperature as well as you can. Natural fabrics like wool and organic cotton are best.
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