Cot vs Playpen
What is the difference between a cot and a playpen?
Apart from looking at the items themselves, it is quite difficult to describe them. My rough definitions will be these :
A cot is essentially a bed for your baby. It usually is made of wood, with one or two side drops, and the mattress is roughly at your hip/waist level. Most cot allows you to lower the mattress level for older babies.
A playpen, on the other hand, is usually not made of wood but nylon/plastic, with netting kind of fabric all round. The purpose of using these material is precisely for the baby to play in it and knock around without injuring himself. The base of the playpen is always at floor level.
Nowadays, a lot of playpens can be double up as a cot. The base can be elevated to half-hieght or close to the edge of the playpen. I guess this appeals to parents who wants to save the money by buying a two-in-one.
However, I feel that there are several disadvantages of buying a two-in-one playpen and use it as a cot:
1. The base is too low
Just imagine picking up an infant from floor level, over the high edge of the playpen. Enough said. You will be complaining about backaches in no time. Even those with elevated base is lower than the mattress level of a baby cot. Incidentally, if the maximum height of the mattress level of the baby cot is not at your hip/waist level, don’t buy it! You will get the same problem as using a playpen.
2. The maximum height of the base too close to edge
When elevated, the bases of most 2-in-1 playpens are too close to the edge of the playpen, making it dangerous for older babies (who can pull themselves up) to sleep in them. This means that you will have to lower the base very soon and then you will have that back breaking problem.
3. Too many functions serve no function?
Imagine a playpen full of toys. It’s also where your baby sleeps, which means you have to remove all the unnecessary things first. Personally, I prefer to keep the boundaries clear – play area is not sleep area.
Whether or not to get a playpen depends on your own preference. By the way, if you get a 2-in-1, you pay more than if you were to get a normal playpen.
Buying a Baby Cot
Here are some things to look out for when buying a cot :
1. whether it adheres to safety standards
2. whether it is made of durable material
3. is the side drop easy to operate?
4. is the size suitable for your need?
5. If you intend to have a side-car arrangement as a form of family bedding, one side of the cot should be safely removable.
Keeping Babies Safe is a non-profit organisation in the US devoted to ensuring cot safety. You will be able to find a safety checklist for baby cots and safety information on other baby accessories. For the safety of your child, do take the time to check out the website.
Where else can your baby sleep?
The choice is endless : moses basket, rocking crib, sarong, mattress on the floor, etc. It is also quite common for babies to sleep with the parents (Family Bed), especially if you are into Attachment Parenting. My personal preference is the mattress. No worries about baby falling off the cot. Easy for me to lie down next to the baby as well.
Moses Basket/Rocking Crib
Although your baby might look cute sleeping in a moses basket, the basket is not going to last you long because of its size. Dominic outgrew his moses basket by one month. Thank goodness it was a hand-me-down. Same goes for Rocking Crib.
Sarong/ Asian Baby Bouncer
A lot of new parents have a mobid fear of this, thinking that it will create a bad habit and their babies cannot sleep anywhere else. Another issue is that of safety. It is thought that the bouncer is prone to accidents. Yet, there are now westerners adapting the design of our traditional sarong and selling it at a premium! As usual, for marketing purposes, they will find all the advantages of having a baby sleep in their devise. While many parents scorn the traditional sarong, they have no qualms forking out hundreds of dollars just to get a western modified version. They want to sell you something so expensive, of course they must make it fancy! It is just like the sarong baby carrier. The western versions are the modified versions of the traditional carrier. But because they are made fancier, they charge you more for it. What is worse, we now have new-fangled baby sarong carriers modified by western businesses to sell at a premium that are in fact unsafe due to the modifications. In the end, I think a simple, traditional one will suffice!
My take on this is as follows :
1. Sleep, like it or not, is habit. If it is not the bouncer, it would be a flat surface, or your rocking, or nursing, etc. Your baby may still not sleep anywhere else even without the bouncer because he may simply prefer his own bed. And try rocking a 10kg baby for 15 minutes, especially one who is struggling or crying and fighting sleep.
2. Safety issue is a matter of common sense. As with anything else that you use, if you don’t exercise wisdom and take care of safety issues, there will be accidents. If you want to use a bouncer, you have to take note of these safety issues. First, if you are mounting it to the ceiling, you have to use special, heavy duty ceiling hook that comes with ‘claws’. You can’t just use ordinary screw hooks. Check with hardware shop for the strong and safe hook.
Second, do not use spring that has been used by several babies. Old spring will have a greater tendency to break. You should get new spring and make sure they are strong enough to handle the weight of a child.
Third, always secure the bouncer openings with diaper pin. Make sure your baby cannot roll out of the bouncer.
Fourth, place a mattress underneath the bouncer so that in the event that the baby does fall, or the bouncer does snap, there is a cushion to break the fall.
Lastly, do not pile the baby with blankets, bolsters, pillows, and soft toys in the tiny space in the sarong because of suffocation risk.
3. Buy electric ones that will rock automatically, preferably one with timer as well. Labour saving. Enough said.
4. If it keeps you sane, get it! Habit or not, it only last the first couple of years. If it keeps you sane by making your baby sleep better, then get it. Look at the big picture and don’t fret the small stuff.