How to check if your baby's bed is safe; from cots to moses baskets

How to check if your baby's bed is safe, try our expert-approved tips to find out...

How to check if your baby's bed is safe illustrated by baby sleeping in cot
(Image credit: Getty Images)

How to check if your baby's bed is safe is a normal worry to spend hours researching the safe baby bed options available. 

There are so many different types; everything from best cots to moses baskets and cradles to next-to-me - they all have their pros and cons. Even with all that research, worries about cot safety measures and whether babies could slip through the bars or as they get older, climb out of their cots still hang heavy.

This, on top of the regular how to get a baby to sleep concerns such as SIDS, makes it a stressful time for all. But as much as the ever-growing pool of answers around safe baby bed options often conflicts, there are tried and trusted measures that can reduce some of the major risks involved with sleeping babies.

And once you know that your child is safely in the land of nod, you're more likely to be able to sleep soundly too.

How to check if your baby's bed is safe

The main safety points to look for in a cot are;

  • If you're in the UK, does it conform to BS EN 716? - Firstly, all cots currently sold in the UK should conform to BS EN 716. This means that the cot is deep enough to be safe for your baby, that the bars are a safe distance apart, and that the cot does not have cut-outs or steps.
  • All corner posts are smooth - Corner posts should be flush with the end panels to avoid any trapped fingers. Sand down any rough edges, outside and far away from your baby's room, to ensure no dust is spread.
  • Hardware is secure? - Try the two-finger test: If you can fit more than two fingers between the mattress and the crib, the mattress isn't a good fit. (The harder it is for you to make the bed, the better it is for your baby.) Dimensions to follow are a full-size crib mattress should be at least 27 1/4 inches by 51 1/4 inches and be no thicker than 6 inches.
  • Is the paint non-toxic? It - Definitely one to bear in mind if you have a secondhand or hand-me-down cot. Cots made before 1978 may have lead in their finish, which poses a serious health risk to babies and young children. If you have a hunch that the paint on any of your baby furniture is lead-based, have it stripped outside your house while following best practice then start from scratch with a high-quality, lead-free enamel. 
  • Does the mattress fit? - Try the two-finger test: If you can fit more than two fingers between the mattress and the crib, the mattress isn't a good fit. (The harder it is for you to make the bed, the better it is for your baby.) Dimensions to follow are; a full-size crib mattress should be at least 27 1/4 inches by 51 1/4 inches and be no thicker than 6 inches.

These are some of the safest bed options for babies to sleep in...


Apart from the price and personal taste, there are a couple of other things to think about logistically when choosing the best cot. Does it have one or two sides that can be dropped using just one hand? Otherwise, it might be tricky to get down if you're holding your baby.

It's also important to look for a cot that has an adjustable base or mattress height as this will save you getting back pain from constantly bending over.

Moses basket

Loved by parents all around the world for one simple reason, they're easy to manage and move around when a baby isn't in them. Most suitable for those under 15lb (7kg) and in homes where there aren't any other children or animals who might be able to tip the basket, as they're quite light.

As the Lullaby Trust suggests, "The safest place for your baby to sleep is on their own sleep surface, in the same room as you, for at least the first six months. A Moses basket or cot is a safe place for a baby to sleep." So in many cases, other factors such as the bedding you put them down in, can have a bigger impact on babies' safety than whether you go for a cot or moses basket.


In the early weeks, cradles are ideal but again, they can be knocked or pushed by bigger children or pets. Cradles also don't always come with a stand or mattress, so be sure that you're getting what you pay for. As with all baby sleep products, it's important to check that the cradle you're looking to buy complies with British Standards. This means that it's passed certain tests, so does not break or catch fire easily.


Much like a cradle, a crib is essentially a moses basket with a rocking stand. They are ideal if you've not got a lot of space to work with but as they come up relatively small, you might need to buy another bed for your baby to sleep in soon after.


For those little ones who have outgrown their first bed, but aren't quite ready to graduate to a proper bed, there's a cot bed. It's just like a cot but the sides often can be removed on one or both sides to give older toddlers and young children more space.

Travel cots

A travel cot is often a smaller, flimsier version of a cot that's perfect for travelling or if you've got limited space in your bedroom. While they are safe, it's important that if you're getting one second-hand, you consider the same safety standards as anything else.

As Gail Johnson, Education and Professional Development Advisor at the Royal College of Midwives says, "If you want to buy second-hand, that's fine, but check that it's clean and safe and also meets British safety standards and that it hasn't been damaged. Likewise, if you buy a second-hand mattress, check that it fits the cot properly and that there are no gaps that could trap your baby."

The Lullaby Trust also explains that as travel cot mattresses tend to be thinner and feel harder than those put in a permanent cot, "don't be tempted to place folded blankets or a quilt under the baby to make them 'more comfortable'.

"If you are very tight for space, you may have to consider re-arranging the furniture in the room to ensure that the travel cot isn’t against a radiator, in direct sunlight, and is out of reach of blind cords and hazards."

Woman smiling at camera
Gail Johnson

Gail is the lead on leadership development in maternity services, online education for RCM members. Interested in reducing stillbirths and neonatal death and improving bereavement care

Things to look out for when buying a cot

Depending on the design, your baby may use their cot for up to three years. In that time, they'll acquire a range of skills, such as rolling, climbing, and jumping. To ensure these vital skills can be developed in safety, their cot should have:

  • Lockable castors, if it has any
  • A close-fitting mattress. No more than two finger widths between it and the cot side.
  • A drop-side mechanism that can be locked when fully raised.
  • No horizontal bars to climb.
  • Bars must be smooth and securely fixed.
  • A mattress adjustment level, if it has one, that leaves 50cm (20in) between the top of the mattress and top of the cot at its lowest level and 20cm (8in) at its highest.

How to choose the right mattress

There are so many choices of mattresses around: sometimes the mattress will come with the cot, other times it won't and you'll have to buy something new and they vary hugely in price.

As your baby will likely be spending around 70 per cent of their time in it, it's important to get one that will keep your baby safe in bed. Here what to look out for...

Make sure that it fits correctly

The most important thing to make sure of when buying a mattress for you baby is that it fits exactly with no gaps around the edges. This is so there's no risk of the baby getting stuck, as the Lullaby Trust says.

If you can put two fingers between the edge of the cot and the mattress then it doesn't fit properly and it could be a safety hazard.

Check what the mattress is made of

Mattresses can be made of foam, springs, or organic and natural fibres and be anti-allergenic and anti-dustmite. It's simply a matter of how much you want to spend and whether you want a basic mattress (foam cot mattresses start at about £20), or something a bit more advanced.

Look for the blue and white label that guarantees fire-safety standards.

The mattress should have a wipe-clean surface and washable cover. Keeping it well-aired and clean may not seem a safety issue, but think of the bugs! Apart from urine, there are dust mites. These are unavoidable, as they thrive in warm, moist conditions and feed off skin particles. Even children can lose half a pint of body moisture in a night and shed a pound of skin particles a year - much of it while sleeping - so there's no avoiding them. But they're really only an issue if your child is prone to respiratory problems such as asthma.

Buying secondhand? 

Bugs in the bed are, in part, why parents are often advised to buy a new mattress. But untold numbers of babies and children have slept on second-hand mattresses and thrived. 

Do you need special lighting for a baby?

It's a myth that you need special lighting in a baby's nursery, normal lighting is fine and doesn't make your baby bed any more or less safe. Gail from the Royal College of Midwives says, "As long as you have enough light to see what you're doing when you're looking after your baby, that's fine. Obviously don't have the light shining directly into the baby's face."

Nightlights are nice, but they're not necessary for babies, they don't get scared of the dark and won't need them to help them sleep. Also, blackout blinds aren't a necessity either as babies can sleep through many things, even daylight.

Do you have to have a baby monitor?

While not essential to keep a baby safe in their bed, a baby monitor often makes parents and caregivers feel reassured as they'll instantly know if the baby is crying or needs help.

There are lots of varieties on the market. You can get video versions for about £80, good quality sound ones for under £30 and sensors that relay a baby's breathing as extra for £40. A basic monitor that means you can hear your baby cry is a great idea but make sure the batteries are working and it's somewhere that you can hear the baby. Costs aside, the best way to choose a baby monitor is to decide how much reassurance you need that your baby is okay and pick the one that will make you feel the most secure.

Sleep is a rare commodity for parents, which is why we pour so much of our expertise and resource into guiding and helping where we can, we have information on baby sleep trainingsleep regression of all ages, and how to turn your iPhone into a white noise machine.

Stephanie Lowe
Family Editor

Stephanie Lowe is Family Editor at GoodToKnow covering all things parenting, pregnancy and more. She has over 13 years' experience as a digital journalist with a wealth of knowledge and experience when it comes to all things family and lifestyle. Stephanie lives in Kent with her husband and son, Ted. Just keeping on top of school emails/fund raisers/non-uniform days/packed lunches is her second full time job.