This articles gives great suggestions on what to consider when buying a portacot. Portacots are literally portable cots, which fold away for easy transportation and storage.
Whether you’re staying in a motel, visiting friends or relatives, or camping in the great outdoors, baby will need a safe place to sleep. Portacots – or travel cots as they are also known – are not designed for everyday use, but provide a great bed for baby when you’re away.
What are your options when buying a portacot?
Like anything, Portacots come in various brands, styles and prices. Exactly what you’ll need depends on how much you travel and the types of places you travel to. Also most motels and hotels have a portacot available on request.
Safety issues with portacots
While there is a safety standard for portacots, it is a guideline only and they are not required to comply with it for sale. Under the Consumers Guarantees Act however, they are required to be of acceptable quality and last a reasonable amount of time.
Check that the portacot has suitable locking mechanisms to hold the folding bars in place and that any catches are child proof. If the base is removable, it must be able to be firmly secured during use and the space between any bars must be between 50 – 85 mm. Spaces any smaller than this can easily trap arms and legs and spaces any bigger are potential head traps.
All portacots should come with a mattress which fits snuggly into the cot, with no more than 25 mm gap between the mattress and the side of the cot. Using a mattress with a bigger gap than this can cause suffocation, so make sure you always use the mattress supplied by the manufacturer.
Size and weight of portacots
While portacots are designed for easy transportation, they vary quite a lot in size and weight. Check out how compact the cot becomes, and how heavy it is to carry.
Portacots should be made from durable fabric which is easy to wipe clean and is breathable. Cots with mesh sides provide excellent ventilation for baby, as well as a good observation point for you.
If you are using your portacot for camping, look for one which has a removable mesh top so that baby sleeps in an enclosed capsule. This is great for keeping out mosquitoes on hot summer nights.
Chances are if you’re travelling, you’re not going to have a lot of room to store all of baby’s bits and pieces. Portacots with large storage pockets are great for keeping all of baby’s gear tidy while you’re away.
Wheels on portacots
Some portacots come with wheels on one end, which makes it easy to move around. I’ve never quite understood the value of this feature, but I guess it would be useful if you were staying in a motel with limited space.
Extra features of portacots
There are a range of portacots available which have a bassinette feature, a change table feature, or both. If you’re travelling alot, these features definitely make life easier. They take up no more room than an ordinary portacot and are worth the extra investment. (Having a change table in a tent is invaluable!)
Ease of folding away portacots
Before you buy your Portacot, make sure you can actually put it up…and down! Get the shop assistant to demonstrate and then try 2 or 3 times yourself, to make sure you are completely confident that you can do it. Folding some portacots is like doing origami – practice definitely helps!
How much will a portacot cost?
Portacots range in price from $100 – $250 depending on the brand and style. Extra lightweight camping versions tend to be a little more expensive than standard portacots, as do three-in-one (cot, bassinette, change table) versions. In terms of portacots, you really do get what you pay for, so work out exactly what you need then find a portacot to match.
How can I save money on portacots?
Because portacots are not required to comply with any safety standard, it is okay to buy them second hand. However, second hand portacots should still meet with the safety checklist above.
Second hand portacots have been subjected to general wear and tear, so keep your eyes open for any rips and tears which may make the cot unsafe. Baby can easily get their fingers caught in loose threads or small rips. Also make sure that the portacot is assembled correctly and comes with the manufacturer’s instructions.
If you choose to use the second hand mattress, make sure it comes from a smoke-free home and is well aired before use. If you want to buy a new mattress to go with your portacot, make sure you buy one which fits correctly.
Portacots can be bought through traditional second hand methods including franchised stores like Cash Converters and Cash Inn, general second hand stores, newspapers, auction websites and trade and exchange type publications. You can also find second hand baby stores in your area by looking under ‘Prams and Baby Furniture’ in your Yellow Pages.
Where can I get a portacot from?
If you don’t think you will use a portacot very often, you may find it better to hire one, if and when you need it. Some specialist baby stores hire portacots, as do many large hire companies. Your local Plunket branch (or the one where you are travelling to) should be able to point you in the right direction.
Portacots can be bought from large department stores or specialist baby shops, as well as some camping and outdoor type stores. If purchasing your cot online, be sure to consider shipping costs and currency conversions if you shop offshore.
What else could I use instead of a portacot?
When travelling with baby, the main thing is to have a safe place for baby to sleep. When baby is young, there is the option of sleeping baby in a single bed with one of the following safety products:
A cozy crib is a small contoured mattress which has slightly raised sides to stop baby from rolling off. The cozy crib can be used on the floor, or on a single bed.
A Safe-T Sleepwrap is a fabric wrap which holds baby in a safe and comfortable sleeping position. The wrap can be used in cots to keep baby on their backs, or in a single bed to keep baby from rolling out.
A Baby Wedge is flannelette covered foam wedge which holds baby in a safe and comfortable sleeping position. The wedge can be adjusted as baby grows.
There’s some great information on Cots & Bassinets in our Kiwi Families article.