Sleep safety – cots, bunk beds and baby slings

What you need to know to make sure cots, bunk beds and baby slings are safe for your children to sleep in.

What you need to know

  • Children may be left unattended in a cot for long periods of time, so it's important the cot is safe.
  • Bunk beds can be dangerous, especially for very young children. Most bunk bed injuries happen when children fall from the top bunk. Children can also get stuck in gaps or get their clothes caught on tall corner posts, which can lead to serious or even fatal injuries.
  • Babies have suffocated while being carried in slings, as they're not able to move out of dangerous positions that block their airways.

What you need to do

  • Cots

    Make sure any cot you are buying complies with the safety requirements of the National Standard AS/NZS 2172.

    Household cot standard

    • The cot must be more than 600mm deep. Measure from the top of the mattress base to the lowest point on any end or side.
    • The mattress must fit the cot firmly. Any gaps at the ends and sides should be less than 20mm with the mattress centred in the cot.
    • Spaces between the bars of the cot must be between 50mm and 95mm.
    • The 4 corner posts must not stick up more than 5mm.
    • The dropside catches must lock securely.
    • Screws and nails must not stick out.
    • Cot ends must not have fancy cut-outs.
    • There must not be any bars, ledges or other footholds that an infant can use to climb out of the cot.
    • The base of the cot must be firm, with no parts to collapse or bend when pushed down.

    If your cot is second-hand, also check:

    • corner posts are not longer than 5mm – cut off any excess and make sure the cut edges are smooth.
    • the type of paint that has been used – if you think the paint could be lead-based, ring your local Community/Public Health Service Provider (listed at the front of the White Pages) for advice.

    Using a cot safely

    • Read and follow the manufacturer’s assembly and use instructions. If in doubt, go back to the retailer for help.
    • Do not use pillows in a cot. They might suffocate the baby.
    • Remove plastic wrapping from new mattresses, as it might suffocate the baby.
    • Do not leave toys in the cot. Large toys are climbing aids. Small toys with ribbons can be a choking risk.
    • Do not place the cot within reach of curtains and window blind cords.
    • Repair broken or wobbly bars.
    • Make sure all bolts and screws are firmly in place and aren't sticking out of the cot, including both the inside and outside.

    Other types of cots

    Baby hammocks

    Baby hammocks don't fall within the scope of current standards. We recommend that when a baby will be left unsupervised, especially overnight, they should be in a cot or other sleeping environment that complies with an Australian/New Zealand Standard.

    Portable cots

    Portable cots should be used differently to household cots.

    Safety barriers – baby gates, playpens and portacots

  • Bunk beds

    'Bunk beds' are beds that have one bed stacked over the top of another, or beds where the upper surface of a mattress is over 700mm from the floor.

    An Australian/New Zealand product standard applies to bunk beds — AS/NZS 4220:2010. This standard is voluntary and addresses the design and construction of bunk beds. We strongly recommend compliance with the standard.

    AS/NZS 4220:2010 — Bunk beds and other elevated beds — Standards New Zealand Te Mana Tautikanga o Aoteaora(external link)

    Using bunk beds safely

    • Bunk beds aren't suitable for children under 9 years of age.
    • Use the top bunk only for sleeping – falls while playing on the top bunk are the most common cause of injuries.
    • Check ladders and guardrails are fixed and stable.
    • Check regularly for wear and tear. Always repair any damage immediately.
    • Make sure that the mattresses are suitable for the bunk bed in question — for example, if you're replacing mattresses make sure you check the effect their size will have in relation to the height of the guardrail.
    • Pay particular attention when using bunk beds that aren't familiar to you — for example, in holiday accommodation.

    Positioning bunk beds

    • Ensure the bunk bed is in a safe position within the room and immediate area — keep bunk beds away from other items of furniture that children may be tempted to try and climb onto.
    • Keep bunk beds away from windows.
    • Allow a space of at least 2 metres from ceiling fittings, fans or lights.
    • Make sure curtain and blind cords aren't accessible to children from the bunk bed.

    Guardrails

    • Look for bunk beds with guardrails or bed-ends on all sides of the top bunk.
    • The minimum vertical distance between the top of the guardrail and top of the mattress base should be not less than 360mm.
    • Guardrails should be smooth and free from protrusions or potential snag points.
    • If there's an opening to provide easier access to the bed, the opening should have a minimum width of 300mm and a maximum of 400mm.

    Gaps

    • Check that there are no gaps of 95mm to 230mm in any part on the bunk beds, including guardrails and rungs on ladders. Small bodies can fit through — but heads can get stuck.

    Protrusions

    • Check that there are no protrusions from the bunk bed more than 5mm. Anything sticking out from the bunks could catch clothing and create a strangling risk.
    • Make sure all nuts, bolts and other fasteners on bunk beds are flat or recessed and smooth and don't create a sharp point, edge or snag hazard.
  • Baby slings

    Slings are made from fabric, and are designed to help with carrying babies by easing the pressure on your arms or back.

    Parents and carers should take extreme care if using slings and pouches to carry babies that:

    • are under 4 months old
    • weigh less than 4 kilograms
    • have breathing issues, or
    • were born prematurely or at a low birth weight.

    Two positions present significant danger:

    • a curved back with the chin resting on the chest
    • having the face pressed against the fabric of the sling or the wearer’s body.

    As well as the risk of suffocating, babies are also at risk of receiving low levels of oxygen because of the position they are in, or falling out and suffering injuries.

    Dangerous baby slings

    Bag slings

    Never use a bag sling — the baby can't be placed in a safe position and can suffocate. A bag sling is one shaped like a bag with a narrow strap:

    Dangerous baby sling bag

    Slings that curve baby's spine

    Never use products that allow the baby to lie with a curved spine — these are described as ‘womb-like’, or a ‘cocoon’, or placing the baby in a ‘foetal position’.

    These place the baby in a dangerous position with a curved back, which folds the windpipe and blocks the airway. A foetus doesn’t need a straight back to breathe, but a baby does.

    Using a baby sling safely

    • Put baby to sleep safely in a cot if you need to carry out any activity involving water, machinery, heat or excessive movement.
    • Carry baby in an upright position if he or she is ill — even if it’s just a cold.
    • Don't do anything while wearing a sling that you wouldn’t do with baby in your arms.
    • Don't use a sling when you are smoking, or under the influence of medication or alcohol.

    Safe babywearing – Plunket whānau āwhina(external link)

If you have a safety problem or concern

If you have some concerns about the safety of a product or if you’re injured by a product, you should tell the retailer or supplier about it.

You also have the right to ask for a remedy such as a refund, replacement or repair under the Consumer Guarantees Act (CGA). One of the guarantees in the CGA is that products must be of acceptable quality and this includes that the product is safe.

Faulty products – Consumer Protection(external link)

In addition, it’s good to report the details to us – product safety reports from the public help government agencies to identify systemic issues and help us to prioritise and respond to issues.

Report an unsafe product