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Choosing a Safe Bed for your Newborn Baby

Choosing a Safe Bed for your Newborn Baby

Congratulations! If you’re reading this, it’s likely because you have your first baby on the way. Such an exciting and wonderful time, and filled with all the decisions about what you need to buy for your beautiful nursery.

At The Sleep Store, you’ll find our focus is not on an insta-worthy nursery or the cute cot sets with matching pillows and bumpers. Our focus is on safe sleep options and helping parents to choose a safe sleep option for their baby. It may surprise you that there are very safety standards for newborn baby beds in New Zealand.

While cots have a mandatory standard and travel cots have a voluntary safety standard in NZ, the beds that are commonly used for newborn babies in New Zealand have NO safety requirements. As a parent to be, we urge you to be informed and shop for your newborn bed from a retailer who can answer your questions about safety. In addition to the risk of suffocation, there are wider risks of SIDS/SUDI with babies 0-6 months. So it is even more important that a safe sleep space is chosen for babies for ALL sleeps. Often the occasional or accidental sleeping places are the ones that result in tragedy.

What do we consider safe for newborns?

Beds that achieve all the safe sleep guidelines are safest for newborns. So this means choosing beds that meet the following:

  • Have a firm sleeping surface

  • Babies have their own sleep space

  • The mattress is well fitting with no gaps

  • There are no padded or cushioned items, so no duvets, quilts, bumpers or pillows near baby.

  • If baby’s face is up against the side of the bed, it does not pose a suffocation risk. So this generally means a firm, breathable surface, such as cot slats, the cotton or mesh side of a bassinet or the firm surface of a moses basket, wahakura or pepi-pod.

What beds are safest for newborns

The safest option for babies is a bed that meets a recognised safety standard. Safety standards in New Zealand are inadequate and currently limited to the AU/NZ 2172:2003 safety standard for household cots. So you may want to research safety standards from other countries such as the bassinet and bedside bassinet standard from the USA or the Bassinets, Moses Baskets and Carry Cot standard from the UK.

So the safest option in NZ (based on current NZ standards/regulations) are:

  • Household Cots. Must meet the AU/NZ 2172:2003 safety standard for household cots. We strongly recommend you choose a FIXED Side as these are safe and durable. Many countries overseas have now banned Drop Side cots as these can pose an entrapment hazard and the drop mechanism can fail, especially if you plan to use the cot over a number of years with several children.

International standards exist for the following but not in NZ, so look for overseas certification.:

  • Bassinets – with breathable or solid sides, that meet either UK, EU or USA standards. Also, there is good info on safety from Consumer NZ though unfortunately you need to be a member to read it!

  • Moses Basket – either plain or with UNPADDED fabric liner - UK standard.

  • Bedside bassinets / co-sleepers, eg Arms Reach - USA standard or SnuzPod - UK Standard

  • Sleep Tight Baby Bed, from Purflo - While it looks similar to a nest, it has been designed and tested to meet many aspects of the Carry Cot standard, such as firm sides that retain their shape, stability and a firm base.


How about the Sleep Tight Baby Bed?

So you may wonder about our Sleep Tight Baby Beds and how these fit in. These are a significantly different product to the soft, unstructured and padded nest type products.  

The Sleep Tight Baby Bed is a safe place for baby to rest and sleep, day and night. Tested to the very latest and most relevant safety standards for a baby’s overnight bed, The Sleep Tight Baby Bed is the first of its kind to be safe for unsupervised, overnight sleeping. It was designed by one of the world's leading safe sleep product designers with safety first. Rather than say the product is only suitable for supervised sleep like so many nest products, Purflo designed this bed knowing that parents will always fall asleep overnight and not be actively supervising their baby. Advice was sought from two independent UKAS accredited test houses to determine the most appropriate testing and the product has undergone a comprehensive risk assessment and extensive, exhaustive safety testing relevant to marketing it as suitable for overnight use.

The Sleep Tight Baby Beds have a very firm base, which is so stable that it meets the requirements of the carry cot standard that the bed cannot tip over. The sides are firm and don't compress with the weight of a baby, and they meet the carry cot standard meaning that a baby cannot roll out of the bed. The sides and fabric meet all requirements for breath-ability required by UK and EU standards. Plus the shape of the Sleep Tight Baby Bed means that the sides are not close to baby's head, it is roomy, won't overheat and the sides are not a suffocation risk if baby's nose is against the sides.

We would still consider a bassinet or cot that meets a NZ or international safety standard the safest option for your baby. But if you are wanting a portable, compact bed that 'looks like a nest', then the Sleep Tight Baby Bed is a safe option for your baby.


Baby lying awake in a Purflo Sleep Tight Baby Bed

Use caution with these options - not considered safe sleep options by safe sleep advocates

Bed-sharing - ENSURE YOU CAREFULLY RESEARCH BED-SHARING GUIDELINES & ENSURE YOU CAN FOLLOW VERY CLOSELY. Basically, this means no adult bedding or pillows are anywhere near baby, that adults haven’t been smoking, drinking or taking drugs, your baby is not prem or very small, you are breastfeeding and that mum didn’t smoke during pregnancy. Babies should not be swaddled if bed-sharing and should sleep in a suitable sleepsuit or sleeping bag so no bedding is needed. Also organise your bed so that you make sure your baby cannot fall out of bed or become trapped between the mattress and wall and never leave your baby alone in the bed, as even very young babies can wriggle into a dangerous position.

Baby Hammocks – These do not meet the usual guidelines for a safe sleep space as they have a slim, slightly soft wool mattress and are not completely flat. However, they are very effective at keeping babies safely on their back which is a very important aspect of safe sleep and SIDS prevention. Parents can also choose to use the mattress stiffener to make the hammock flatter. Independent academic research conducted at Auckland University showed the hammocks have very good airflow for babies even with the slightly softer mattress and the slightly curved base, however you would want to research this for yourself.  

What do we consider UNSAFE for newborn sleep

Safe Sleep experts do not consider any of the following options safe for sleeping - both day sleep and night sleep. This is because, despite best intentions or manufacturer instructions, parents cannot 100% supervise their babies while sleeping.

Even if you intend to use something when you are supervising your baby, you may need to leave the room, go to the bathroom, get called away by the phone or door and of course fall asleep yourself, both day and night.

  • Any type of cushioned, padded or soft sleep nests that are sold for 'lounging', resting, napping or 'supervised sleep'.

  • Any padded cot bumpers (breathable mesh are OK provided they are securely attached).

  • Any cot pillows for under 18 months

  • Any form of sleep wedge or cushioned sleep positioner

  • Any pillows that claim to prevent or treat flat heads - pillows are never recommended as safe for babies.

  • Padded bassinets or moses baskets - Could a baby breathe through the fabric? Have they passd breathability or air-permability testing or an overseas safety standard?

  • In addition, the use of hats, bonnets, headbands and any form of dummy clips and teething necklaces should never be used for sleep.

Why don't we sell soft baby sleep nests or 'loungers'?

While we could sell thousands of these 'fashionable' nests, we consider the safety of babies far more important than profit or trends.

We are in agreement with safe sleep experts, many midwives, medical professionals, The Lullaby Trust from the UK and the American Academy of Pediatrics that soft padded nests and padded beds for babies pose a suffocation risk.

These beds fail on almost all safe sleep guidelines for newborns. They are like sleeping your baby IN A PILLOW. They put a padded cushion AROUND your baby’s face and head, which poses both suffocation and overheating risk. Many nests also have a padded base. Safe sleep means a firm base and no pillows for babies!

Tragically baby Zara in Australia died in 2016 in a padded bed of similar construction to those being sold in NZ today and despite our emails to government agencies since 2017 there has still been no movement on regulating these or addressing questions around false advertising.

But aren’t nests a safer way to bed-share?

If you choose to bed-share, then review our article on co-sleeping and bed-sharing, where we link to information on how to reduce the risk of bed-sharing. We don't recommend bed-sharing nor will we advise it is safe. BUT we can say that sleeping your baby in a padded nest has not in any way been shown to make bed-sharing 'safe', despite the claims of retailers of these products.

We think this sales technique from some nest brands claiming that nests make bed-sharing safe is both misleading and unsafe. It feels that they are playing on new parents wanting to find a safe way to comfort their baby during the night and that SIDS prevention advise a separate sleep space for baby. But a padded, cushioned, pillow-like nest is still a padded, pillow-like nest and poses a suffocation risk regardless of whether it is separate.

Co-sleeping with your baby in a bedside bassinet next to your bed is safest. Or choose one of the other options from above that offer your baby a firm, flat surface in their own space and without loose bedding, pillows or a pillow-like surrounding.

But don’t nest brands cover safe sleep info in their instructions?

Well…..some brands and products try to get around the fact that these beds go against all safe sleep guidelines by claiming they are for lounging, rest, play, transitioning between places....

They advise or recommend they are not for unsupervised sleep or to only use supervised. However, the very nature of sleep is that it will often be unsupervised. No-one stays awake all night ‘supervising’ their sleeping baby and no-one sits watching their baby ‘supervising’ them for every minute, of every nap, during the day.

They say they are not for bedsharing or claim that they are a safer way for bedsharing, while at the same time stating they are only for supervised sleep.

Yet many photos on these brands website and social media show babies sleeping. Yes, they may be careful to not publish their own photos of babies sleeping but they re-post or allow tagged photos showing babies sleeping in these nests.

Parents buy nests for sleeping. They also choose to use them in unsafe ways such as wedging nests into cots, bassinets and moses baskets. They use them in ‘cute’ photos with hats on while wedged into a nest.

So if you need to say a product is not for unsupervised sleep, why are you promoting it using photos of sleeping babies?

But don’t nests meet all the safety standards?

There are NO specific safety standards in New Zealand that apply to baby nests. So we recommend you ask for specifics about claims that nests are ‘certified’ or that they meet particular safety standards, as some of the claims are misleading at best and outright lies at worst. For example, one brand in NZ claims their nests meet safety standard AS/ NZS ISO 8124/Pt.1/2002 but this standard has nothing to do with beds. It is a toy safety standard!

Another brand references standard NZ 8811.1:2013, the voluntary standard that covers the firmness of sleep surfaces. While firm sleep surfaces are important for safe sleep, this is completely outweighed by the suffocation risk of very soft padded sides next to your baby's face.

So our advice is...

Take your time and think first about the safety of your newborn while they are sleeping.

Be realistic about the fact that you can't supervise all sleeps and certainly can't supervise your baby while YOU are asleep. Do your research and speak with experts who put the safety of your baby first.

We are here to help if you have any questions and you can have confidence all our newborn beds have been chosen with absolute care and a focus on your baby's safety.

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