Cotbed vs Cot
I found that when I was looking for a cotbed before my first child was born there where masses to choose from. How do you go about picking one? I think you need to decide whether you do actually need a cotbed, i.e. a cot that converts into a bed for when the child gets older, or whether you just get a cot and then buy a junior bed.
We got a Mamas and Papas cotbed and it has served very well. My eldest made use of it until my latest offspring came along and now he sleeps in it. We ended up buying a junior bed for the eldest so it's worked out to have been quite economical.
Now that CJ (the youngest) is 2 we have converted the cot to a bed so both boys are now in beds. This should last us for a few years and due to the size of their room we are toying with the idea of bunkbeds in 12 months time so they can have some room in their bedroom to play.
Ultimately we benefited by having a cotbed, there is 3 years age difference between my boys and things worked out well. It's my opinion that a cotbed is a good investment as you can use it from birth to about 5 or 6 depending upon the size of your child and if another bundle of joy comes along and the age difference works out well you only have to buy a new junior bed. I'm not so sure it would have saved money if the age gap of my boys had been closer together. So it litterally depends upon your plans for the future.
I think the more important issue with cotbeds is buying the appropriate mattress, after all the baby is in contact with the mattress most of the night not the bed itself. Obviously it is important to get a nice sturdy cotbed that does the job and fits in with the child's room decor but I feel it is more important to spend a little extra and get a decent mattress that gives the baby the most restfull night and is also safe. I would be inclined to say never use a second hand mattress unless you know the history (e.g. it was used for your first child and you are going to use it for your second) and it is still in good condition.
The Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths states that it doesn't matter what kind of mattress you use, as long as it's firm not soft, fits the cot without any gaps, doesn't sag at all or show any signs of wear and tear. For more information look at their website http://fsid.org.uk/
If you are worried about allergies, Allergy UK has a list of approved mattress covers and bedding on its website, www.allergyfoundation.com