Do you really need to buy a travel cot?
Have bed, will travel. Grace Nixon, AKA The Baby Lady, looks at the pros and cons of portable places to sleep.
With many people loading up the car and heading away on the classic New Zealand road trip to visit friends and family around the country. Unless your destination already has a cot for your baby to sleep in, you are going to have to bring your own, hence the marvellous invention of the portacot!
As with anything, portacots come in various styles, brands and prices. Exactly which one you’ll need depends on how much you travel and the types of places you travel to. If you spend lots of time camping, for example, you might need a different portacot to one for, say, staying at baches. Thankfully, most motels and hotels have a portacot available on request.
There are really two main types of portacots on the market today. The first are those that pride themselves on being super lightweight and compact. The second are the more standard, traditional, solid bed-type portacots. Both have their pros and cons and are more appropriate for different types of usage. Let’s take a look at the main differences and advantages of both.
COMPACT and LIGHTWEIGHT
★ The Pros:
The most obvious advantage is that these portacots are in fact incredibly lightweight and compact. Most are under or around 5kg, which makes travelling with them extremely easy. They pack up small so can easily fit into your suitcase, in the overhead locker of a plane, or tuck nicely under a seat in the car – leaving you plenty of boot space!
★ The Cons:
The base of these portacots is often very close to the ground, and once baby is in it, their weight can cause the base to sag, and the baby can end up sleeping very close to ground. Because they are so compact and light, they also tend to have very thin mattresses, although some brands are better quality than others, so have a good look around.
★ Best for:
Because the baby is basically sleeping with just a thin mattress between them and the ground, this type of portacot is probably not your best option if you are going to be camping, as the ground can get rather cold and damp in the night and therefore your baby will probably get pretty cold also.
A more traditional portacot might be best if you’re camping.
The best usage for this type of portacot would be those short stays at baches, or if you’re heading to a friend’s place for a summer night barbecue and want to put baby to sleep there.
TRADITIONAL and SOLID
★ The Pros:
The biggest advantage of this type of portacot is that it has a much more substantial mattress. This is great if you are going to be using it for longer periods of time, as it's more comfortable for the baby. It also feels more like the normal cot that they are used to sleeping in at home.
Some brands of these types of portacots are quick and easy to put up and down. To be honest though, others are not and require the patience of a saint to set up and pack down.
★ The Cons:
These portacots are about twice the weight of their lightweight cousins and aren’t as compact. However, they're still pretty light and compact for a travelling bed!
★ Best for:
Even though these traditional portacots aren’t as compact to travel with, this is your best bet if you’re going camping. There's a decent gap between the ground and the mattress so baby is not going to be sleeping so close to the cold ground.
This type of portacot is also great if you're going to use it on a regular basis and it might be left set up – perhaps at a grandparent's or caregiver's house where your baby or toddler is going to be looked after each week. It will provide your child with a good sleep in a nice comfy bed they are familiar with.
Other things to look for
★ How quick and easy is the portacot to put up and down? With both styles of portacots, there are models that are easier and faster to assemble than others, so make sure you get a sales assistant to demonstrate the process of putting it up and down before you purchase it.
★ Check the weight and age range on the particular brand before you purchase to make sure the portacot is right for your baby.
★ Make sure that the portacot complies with Australian and New Zealand safety standards, eg are all sides completely made of mesh making the portacot fully breathable?
★ If you're purchasing a secondhand portacot, make sure it’s in excellent condition. Just as if you were buying a secondhand cot, be sure it has got all its parts, comes from a non-smoking home and isn’t mouldy. I also recommend you purchase a new mattress.
Grace Nixon is an Auckland-based nursery specialist. Find her at practicalparentingantenatal.com to learn about her antenatal classes.
AS FEATURED IN ISSUE 40 OF OHbaby! MAGAZINE. CHECK OUT OTHER ARTICLES IN THIS ISSUE BELOW