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A baby lying on an elevated mattress in an infant bed

An infant bed (commonly referred to as a cot in British English and a crib, cradle or stock) is a small bed specifically for infants, generally up to 3 years old.

Infant beds are most common in North America, Europe, and Australia, employed by the majority of parents as an alternative to co-sleeping.



Infant beds are designed to restrict the baby to the bed. The sides are too high for a baby to climb and provide no footholds. Design standards for infant beds include considerations such as preventing hand and head entrapment.

Government manufacturing standards set in 1973 have greatly improved crib safety; most new cribs sold in the U.S. are very safe. However, cribs continue to be associated with the highest child injury rates of any nursery item. Approximately 50 infants each year are killed and another 9,000 are injured in crib-related accidents in the U.S.[1]

The Consumer Product Safety Commission sets standards for infant beds sold in the U.S. In the U.S., the Consumer Product Safety Commission set standards for infant beds.[2]. Among the requirements:

  • The vertical bars or slats must be no more then than two and three-eighth inches or 60 mm apart. This is to prevent infants from slipping through or becoming stuck between them.
  • Any openings at the end walls of your crib, must not exceed two and three-eighth inches, as they may allow an infant's body to slip through.
  • The crib bars must be sturdy and intact.
  • The distance between the top of the crib side and the top of hte mattress must be no less than 9 inches when the side is lowered and at least 26 inches when the side is raised.

Research has shown that the mattress influences SIDS outcomes; a firm mattress lowers SIDS risk.[3] Bed sheets ought to fit the mattress tightly so that the child cannot become entangled and suffocate; a common safety recommendation is to short sheet the bed.[citation needed] Because of the pronounced risk of suffocation in very young children, the addition of anything other than sheets (including pillows and plush toys) into an infant bed is not recommended by health authorities.[citation needed]

Infant beds that can be converted into a standard sized bed as the child grows larger have become increasingly popular; see also toddler bed.

Infant beds can be stationary or portable (portacots). In their portable form the beds generally don't feature a dropside, and portability factors are emphasised. Portacots are often made from plastics, are often smaller and fold into a compact package.

Larger infant beds are manufactured, generally for hospital use or for those with special needs. They may include a top, generally made of plastic or metal, to prevent a child from climbing out.


An infant bed is typically used after it is no longer safe to leave the baby in a bassinet. They have a lower center of gravity, a broader base of support and can hold a larger baby than a bassinet. Infant beds are more stable than bassinettes and as such become desirable when a baby can roll, transferring inertia with their actions; a bassinet may tip, an infant bed wont without concerted effort.

Placing a child into an infant bed can put strain on a caretaker's back. To reduce the strain on those operating an infant bed, many infant beds feature:

  • a mattress that can be in a raised position until the child is able to sit upright.
  • a dropside, a side which lowers to ease the process of putting the child into the bed, but can be raised again to restore the integrity of the enclosure.

Infant beds may be used due to health concerns regarding co-sleeping or due to cultural norms.

"Crib bumpers" are marketed to keep children from bumping against the hard sides and hurting themselves; breathable bumpers are intended to prevent suffocation, while proving padding. Toys specifically for an infant bed include mobiles, musical toys to soothe the baby to sleep and mirrors to keep the children entertained while awake in the bed. It has become increasingly common to have a baby monitor nearby so as to disturb the caretaker when the child awakens.


Baby cribs have a history dating back several hundred years. The earliest and most common type of crib was more like a cradle. Basically a hallowed out half log to provide a secure resting place for baby. Many cradles were made on a frame so they could rock gently. Once the baby out grew the cradle it graduated to a trundle bed considered a toddler bed. The trundle bed was made to fit easily under the parent's bed to conserve space.

Bedrooms were rare until the mid 17th century. During the 1800’s the baby crib came into existence as homes became larger. Cribs were usually homemade and passed on from child to child and passed on through generations since they were constructed of solid wood. During this time there were many children in a family and each one would use the crib for the first year or until the next child came along. The nursery started as a small nook located adjacent to the parent’s bedroom. Eventually the idea of the child having his or her own room came to be the standard. Wealthy families who could afford a nanny were able to have a separate room for the child. Homes were built with more bedrooms so they could accommodate more children.

Crib design through the years has shown a steady improvement of features yet the same basic shape and form have remained the same. Today cribs are under continually updated safety rules to ensure that children are safe in their cribs. [4]

See also


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