Sleep, ah sleep. We might not be getting much as new parents, but we can sure dream. Which means having the right bed sorted for our newborns (and then hoping against hope that they'll sleep in it!)...
Considering that newborn babies tend to snooze somewhere between eight and 18 hours a day, finding the right bed for them is one of the most crucial purchases you'll be making before D-day.
Figuring out which bed to buy for your baby can be a confusing process since there are so many options on offer, from Moses baskets to swinging cribs to cot beds (you can even put them to bed in a swinging hammock if you like). The truth is, first-time parents just want to ensure their baby's bedding is snug and safe (and it doesn't hurt for it to look stylish, too).
While it's lovely that there are endless options out there to suit every interior's style and budget, figuring out which baby beds will work for you and which ones will be the best value can be tricky – and that's before you've even started to think about what goes inside the bed.
"Broadly speaking, your options are: Moses basket or crib in the early days, a cot up to 18 months to two years or a cot bed to approximately five years years," explains Kiddicare product expert Linda Holmes. "Do bear in mind that parents should keep baby in their room for the first six months, so the size of the parents' bedroom can be a deciding factor."
Here's our breakdown of the baby bed choices out there, their pros and cons and everything else you need to know about buying baby's first bed so that both you and baby can sleep in peace (eventually)...
Typically made from palm or wicker, Moses baskets are suitable from birth and feature a cosy-looking design with sturdy handles and linings available in a variety of prints and colours to suit any space or set-up. They start from around £20 and can be used until the baby is about three or four months old, or reaches the maximum weight capacity of 9kg. Alternatively, once your little one begins to move around, it's time to move them into another bed.
According to Caroline Bettis, nursery buyer at John Lewis, the main advantage of investing in a Moses basket is that "it can be moved from room to room so your baby has its own sleeping place which is fully portable."
In accordance with recommendations that you have your baby in the same room with you for the first six months, you can perch the Moses basket conveniently in your room, on the floor or at bed level – just get a stationary stand for it (or even a rocking version for babies who need a bit of movement to settle).
"It's great to keep it bedside, on a stand: you can reach out and rock it to soothe your baby or have easy access to your baby for breastfeeding," adds Bettis.
When moving your Moses basket from room to room, Kiddicare's Holmes advises putting your hand beneath it in addition to holding the handles for additional support.
If you've already invested in a pushchair that comes with a carrycot, you may be tempted to use this as baby's first bed. Bettis urges against it: "Not all prams are suitable for overnight sleeping, and, also, if the pram becomes damp it is not safe for the baby to sleep in it."
"In addition, it is good for babies to learn that they go to bed for a longer period in a Moses basket and you can then transfer them to a cot easily rather than a pram, which is for trips outdoors," she advises.
If you're desperate – and you've checked that your pram or carrycot has been tested for overnight sleeping and is suitably ventilated – you can use it as a Moses basket alternative, but it's likely to be less convenient and heavier to move than a typical Moses basket.
If you like the idea of a Moses basket but not the traditional look, there are other, more contemporary options available, namely the brightly hued Moba Moses basket, available at John Lewis, which is made from an eco-friendly recyclable material with anti-microbial and hypoallergenic properties. Unlike wicker or palm versions, the Moba won't fray, split, or potentially become contaminated in storage (and it's vivid colour options means baby's first bed can be neon orange as opposed to tame pastels for a change!).
"I think a bassinet or Moses basket is great for the first few months, so you can have your child with you at night," says Stephen Quiddington, director of online retail boutique Mood - Mini Objects of Desire, which sells design-led children's furniture and accessories from leading international brands like Oeuf NYC and Kalon. "This initial security is invaluable for both baby and parent."
Another plus? When your baby has outgrown the Moses basket, it also doubles as a stylish piece of nursery furniture that can be used to house and display cuddly animals and toys.
The swinging crib
An alternative to the Moses basket that can also be used from birth, a swinging crib can be placed beside the bed and creates a gentle rocking motion that can help the baby drift off to sleep. It requires a mattress and can be used until your child is able to sit up or kneel (up to six months) and starts at around £60.
The bedside crib
Another option for new parents who want to keep their babies close is the bedside crib. It either attaches directly to the parents' bed with one adjustable, drop-down side or is designed to be placed alongside your bed. These cribs give babies their own space while keeping them within easy reach and offer the closest alternative to creating a co-sleeping scenario with your tot without actually having them in bed with you.
"Bedside cots can be convenient for the first six months and most adapt so they can also be used separately (is, as freestanding cribs)," explains NCT senior policy advisor, Rosie Dodds. "They are designed to provide parents with a way of sleeping close to their baby without sharing the same bed and are popular with some families, but don't work for everyone."
According to Dodds, some of the benefits of bedside cots include supporting breastfeeding since they save you the trouble of getting out of bed, reassuring both mothers and babies by keeping them close to one another and giving mums quick access to crying babies so they can be easily settled. They are also a convenient choice if your movements are restricted, for example after a C-section.
If you're unsure about committing but curious to try one of these, they're also available to rent (from six weeks upwards) from the NCT.
As for drawbacks? They are more expensive than Moses baskets and not as portable.
In case you're tempted to co-sleep...
Mums who struggle to get their baby to sleep in Moses baskets or cribs may feel like co-sleeping presents the simplest option, especially if they're breastfeeding through the night.
"There is evidence of an increased risk of cot death if babies share their parents' bed and parents smoke, have consumed alcohol or other drugs which affect sleep, and if babies are premature or small for dates," explains NCT's Dodds.
"However, if none of the known risk factors are present, bed-sharing is safer than risking falling asleep on a chair or sofa." She also recommends bedside cots for breastfeeding mums.
Cot or cot bed?
While some parents choose a smaller bed for their baby to start out in, others put their little ones into a cot from day one – it's all a matter of personal preference, as long as the bed you choose meets the safety recommendations and conforms to British safety standards (BSEN716).
While cots may be more suitable for smaller spaces, cot beds are a longer-lasting option, so give you better value for money.
No matter what you end up choosing, be sure to pick a firm, flat, waterproof mattress in good condition to reduce the risk of SIDS, advises safer sleep charity, The Lullaby Trust. Even if you've got a second-hand cot or cot bed, it's probably worth investing in a new mattress to feel safest.
"If you have the space for a cot bed it's definitely better value for money as you only need to buy once," advises Kiddicare's Holmes. "The sides and split-end panels can be removed at approximately 18 months – 2 years to convert it into little one's first big bed." Cot beds tend to last up to 4-6 years of age.
In addition to being better value, John Lewis' Bettis says cot beds can be beneficial down the line in terms of facilitating the transition from cot bed to toddler/junior bed when your child gets older.
Another safety tip: when organising your nursery, avoid any bulking bedding (see below), don't place the baby's bed directly next to the window (you don't want them to overheat in sunlight) and there have been a succession of horrifying news stories of toddlers strangled by blind cords. Most importantly, always remember to put baby down to sleep on their back, in the feet-to-foot position with their feet at the bottom of the bed.
Another reason to invest in a cot bed is the longevity – it is a piece of furniture that changes and grows with your family and some styles can turn into day beds that last beyond early childhood. If pressed for space, look out for cot bed units with removable changing table attachments or underneath storage compartments to maximise your room.
"Most of the cot beds we offer are designed to outlast a single child's use and have multi-functionality so they can be used as a day bed when the child grows out of it," says Mood's Quiddington. "Equally, they are beautiful pieces of furniture that can be moved to another room in the house."
Believe it or not, there are still a few other baby bed options if you're looking for alternatives. The Stokke Sleepi is a 4-in-1 unit that starts out as a small crib and grows with your child, turning into a cot and then a junior bed/sofa (it lasts until age 10).
There's also the Sleepyhead – a favourite of John Lewis' Bettis - a multi-functional, portable baby bed that you can use from birth and that has a longer shelf life than your average Moses basket. It can be used around the house – put baby in it while lounging on the sofa or keep it in a cot or travel cot.
Another early-on alternative option for the contemporary design lover is the Micuna Smart Cradle + Bassinet, a crib-on-wheels that can be moved from room to room and that comes in a stylish oval shape and a rainbow of 30 colour options.
Bumper to bumper
While cot bumpers can help your nursery to look very sweet, you're better off skipping them (invest in an eye-catching wall print if you're looking to add some pattern and colour to your space).
Bumpers are a protective padding that fit the mattress base and are designed to prevent babies from bumping their heads on the sides of the bed and their limbs from escaping through the cot bars. They are best avoided since they can pose a risk to babies as soon as they can sit themselves up.
"It is recommended that the inside of your baby's cot should be as clutter-free as possible," advises Dodds. "Cot bumpers can trap heat in the cot and could be used to climb on when your baby becomes more mobile so these are not recommended."
If you're worried about your baby hurting their head against the bars or screaming from getting their legs stuck between them, Kiddicare's Holmes recommends trying the Airwrap, a breathable protective wrap that won't cause overheating.
If your baby is under 12 months old, do not use pillows or duvets in the bed to avoid any possibility of suffocation. Instead, opt for minimal and lightweight bedding like a sheet or blanket (and don't place anything above shoulder height).
If your baby loves nothing more than to kick off their hand-crocheted blankets, keep them warm and safe at bedtime with a sleeping bag. Here's our guide to buying a baby sleeping bag.
"Baby sleeping bags come in different tog ratings so they can be used all year round: 1.0 tog for the summer, 2.5 for the winter," explains Kiddicare's Holmes. "They help to stop more active babies flipping blankets over their heads in their sleep and keeps them warm as they can't kick the covers off."
Don't miss our gallery below on top beds for baby, from Moses baskets to cot bed styles...
For more information...
NCT's guide to choosing a bed safely: http://www.nct.org.uk/parenting/sleeping-safely-cot
Safer sleep info and fact sheets from The Lullaby Trust: http://www.lullabytrust.org.uk/LThome
CORRECTION: The recommendation for the Bednest has been removed following the NCT withdrawing it from sale.