What is An Infant Bed

An infant bed (commonly called a cot in British English, and, in American English, a crib or cradle, or far less commonly, stock) is a small bed especially for infants and very young children. Infant beds are a historically recent development intended to contain a child capable of standing. The cage-like design of infant beds restricts the child to the bed. Between one and two years of age, children are able to climb out and are moved to a toddler bed to prevent an injurious fall while escaping the bed.

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Infant beds are more common in Western countries, employed by the majority of parents as an alternative to sharing a bed (co-sleeping).

The name “crib” was used to describe a slatted, high-sided child’s bed. It derives from the Old English word “Cribb” which means “manger” (food trough, referring to the shape of a bassinette) or stall (implying corralling the child).

It wasn’t until the 19th century that infant beds developed from bassinettes, acquiring a role of keeping the child in their bed. The development of a distinction between infant beds and bassinettes was natural because it was “considered vital that the child’s bed be raised off the ground.” This was due to a perception of noxious fumes below knee level, and explosive vapours near the ceiling, with good air in between. Once children’s beds were raised off the ground the role of the sides changed from a convenience to a safety feature.

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It was recognised that once children learn to stand they may be able to get out of a bed with low sides. According to an expert of the time, infant beds were used once the child was 12 months old. Often one side was hinged to open the enclosure, a function fulfilled in modern infant beds with a dropside. With the hinge side lowered, the bed could be moved on casters, and they could be moved right up to the carer’s bed when needed.

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Iron beds were developed in 17th century Italy to address concerns about bed bug infestation and moths. This new application was quickly extended to children’s beds – a lockable iron bassinette (with spear-like corner posts) has been dated to 1620–1640. Proponents promoted the supposed health benefits of iron beds. Infant beds constructed from metal became popular during the latter half of the 19th century. Infant beds (and bassinettes) constructed from iron with mesh or chain sides were common. Childcare experts gave iron beds their approval because it was hygienic material (compared with wood) and could not “harbour vermin”, of which bed bug infestation, lice and moths were cited concerns. Commonly painted with white vitreous enamel, later manufacturers working with wood continued to paint in the now traditional white; unfortunately, this was often lead paint, and children were notorious for chewing and sucking the sweet surface.

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Since 1938, babies in Finland have slept in cardboard boxes with a mattress in the bottom, which are distributed to expectant mothers as a “maternity package” containing baby supplies.

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