Safety Requirements for Cots

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Safety Requirements for Cots
Cot slats should be spaced closely to prevent the baby's head from getting caught. (babies crib image by jedphoto from Fotolia.com)

Cots, also called cribs, are beds that are designed for babies, usually with four raised sides to prevent the child from falling or climbing out of bed during the night. Cot safety standards are set by The Consumer Products Safety Commission, or CPSC, and the American Society for Testing and Materials, or ASTM. The Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association will certify cots that meet or exceed these safety standards.

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Drop Side Cots

Drop side cots were designed with a loose side, which you can slide down on a rail to allow for easy access to the cot. According to the Daily Mail, drop side cots were banned in the United States after this design was blamed for the death of at least 46 American babies from 2000 to 2010. Over seven million drop side cots were recalled, and stores such as Babies R Us and Wal-Mart withdrew do-it-yourself cot kits with drop sides. If the rails, screws and safety hatches malfunction, the cot side can drop on top of the baby, trapping him underneath and often suffocating him. The Juvenile Manufacturers Association will not certify cots with drop sides, but may approve cots with a drop gate, where the top portion of the one side folds down on hinges instead of dropping down on a rail.

Slats and Joints

The cot should be sturdy, with relatively high sides and slats with narrow spacing to prevent the child from getting trapped between the slats. According to the American Association of Pediatrics, the distance between slats of a cot should not exceed 2 3/8 inches. If you don't have tape, you can measure the distance by trying to pass a soda can between the slats. Slats that are properly spaced will not allow the can to fit through. All joints and parts have to fit tightly, leaving no protrusions on which the baby could injure himself.

Paint and Decorations

The cot surface should be smooth, with no splinters in the wood. Only lead-free paint that is safe for nursery furniture should be used. End panels of the cot have to be solid, without decorations cut into the wood, as these can trap the child's head.

Corner Posts and Bumpers

The cot's corner posts should ideally be flush with the end panels, and may not be higher than 1/16 of an inch. The child's clothing can get caught on tall corner posts and strangle your baby. Cot bumpers -- padding that attaches to the inside edges of the cot -- used to be recommended to prevent the child from getting injured when bumping against the cot's sides. A number of organisations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, SIDS First Candle Alliance and Health Canada, now discourage the use of bumpers, as they pose a risk of suffocation. Should you choose to use bumpers, ensure that you secure the pads tightly and cut the strings as short as possible after tying it. Remove the bumpers as soon as your child is big enough to pull himself up, as he may attempt to use the pads as a ladder to climb from the cot. When choosing cot bumpers, ensure that it has 12 to 16 ties at the top and bottom, and that there are no gaps or overlaps in the bumper pads. You can also opt for a mesh bumper, which will prevent the possibility of the baby re-breathing when sleeping against the bumper. A baby can become extremely drowsy, go into a coma and even die if he breathes in his own exhaled air, which is high in carbon dioxide and low in oxygen.

Mattress

The cot's mattress should fit snugly, to prevent the baby from getting trapped. A standard cot mattress size is 51 5/8 inches by 27 1/4 inches. If you can fit two fingers side by side between the mattress and the side of the cot, the mattress is too small. The mattress should be firm, as a soft mattress can allow the baby's mouth and nose to be engulfed in the mattress, leading to suffocation. Some companies also manufacture mesh mattresses to minimise the risk of re-breathing.

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