For many parents making the decision to move their child from a cot to a bed can sometimes be tricky, especially when the child already seems safe and secure in their familiar cot.
So how can you make sure this inevitable milestone doesn’t turn into a bedtime disaster?
There is no ‘right time’ to make the transition. Ideally you should try to keep your toddler in a cot for as long as possible but generally by the age of 3 is a good time.
No matter how old your child is, as soon as the cot bars are removed they will no doubt take great delight in their new found freedom, giving them endless opportunities to explore the once out of bounds areas.
If your child does decide to do this, which is quite normal, guide him gently by the hand (avoid cuddling and picking up) straight back to bed with minimal fuss. The least attention you give him the quicker you will move this stage forward, however be prepared for at least 20 trips on the first night. During the first few nights staying calm and being consistent is the key to moving this forward and within a few days your child will quickly learn that their bedroom is the place to stay.
However some children with older siblings may well anticipate the transition and see it as an exciting ‘big boy’ stage and will be proud to be sleeping like their older siblings, whereas others may be overwhelmed by the process and will need extra care and attention.
Regardless of how your child reacts, it is always advisable to take a few precautions.
Try involving your child in the process by allowing him to choose some new bedding or a new soft toy to take to bed. Always place the bed in the same place as the old cot to prevent confusion and avoid leaving the old cot up as this encourages your child to switch between the two. It’s advisable to keep to their familiar bedtime routine (bath, story, bed) as much as possible as it will help to make your child feel secure and make the transition easier.
You should move your child to a bed when:
Your child is physically too big or can climb out:
Most parents opt for the cot/bed system which allows your child plenty of growing space and thus delays the process for as long as possible. If however your child learns to climb out of their cot or you are worried that your child may succeed in escaping or fall over the sides of the cot, then it will be time to think about moving him. Whatever your reasons, always focus on their safety first and where possible use a bed rail on their new bed to prevent them falling out at night. If you have a real little ‘Houdini’ who will without fail escape from their new bed it might be advisable to use a stair gate across the bedroom door to prevent night time wanderings. If using a gate, it’s advisable to keep the door open, thus preventing your child feeling locked in or trapped. If your child continually appears at the gate then gently lead him back to bed at frequent intervals offering little attention or fuss until he gets the message.
You are expecting another baby:
For a lot of parents the switch to a bed becomes a necessity as the arrival of a new baby becomes imminent. It’s advisable to make the switch at least 6-8 weeks before the new baby arrives, thus your child will have time to adjust to their new bed and not see the new baby taking over his place in his cot.
If you have a particularly small age gap (under 18 months) then it might be worthwhile borrowing another cot/crib for a short while so that you can delay the process for as long as possible. Young toddlers are particularly sensitive at this age and are yet to develop the independence and skills to cope with this change.
Your child is potty trained and dry at night:
For most parents this may not be an issue as most children aren’t dry through the night until at least 3 years of age. However some children are dry at night as young as 2 and therefor adequate access to the potty/bathroom is essential. If your child has developed independence and can go alone then it may be worth avoiding a bed rail and using folded blankets on the floor in case of falls and a dim night light to guide the way.
The change to sleeping in a bed will be just one of many changes in your child’s life: your response will go a long way to making this transition a smooth one.