Deciding when to make the change from a cot to a big bed should not be taken lightly. Resist the urge to make this transition for the wrong reasons, such as, you feel your child doesn’t like the cot or your newly turned 2 year old has discovered how to climb out of the cot. Routinely, many children are encouraged to sleep in a bed at a time that is too soon developmentally and this jump from cot to bed can cause many unnecessary sleep issues. The most common ones being that unless the parent stays at bedtime your child won’t stay in the bed.
Although I have seen many young children in a bed, the most appropriate age would be from 2.5 years and upwards. If your child is very happy in their cot and there are no issues, then the longer the better. In fact my fourth child was not put into a bed until almost aged 3.5 years as he loved the cot and there was no real reason to change. Some parents are inclined to speed this process in anticipation of a new baby requiring the cot and again, it would be far better to invest in a second cot then have your young mobile toddler in a bed too soon.
When making this move, if your child is older, closer to 3 years old, then they will developmentally have the ability to not only understand what you are telling them, but also have the ability to see the instruction through. This is fundamental to helping with a smooth transition and ultimately ensuring that when your child is in a bed and therefore mobile and free to roam when they never were before, that they will stay in their bed when it is sleep time and remain there all night, if that is your preference.
When you believe that it is the correct time for you all:
- Get your child involved in the process. Let them help you re-arrange the room and get organised for this big milestone of the “big bed” and turning into a big boy or girl.
- Talk lots to your child about the move and also about your expectations that when the lights go out, they will close their eyes and go to sleep. Essentially let them know that you want them to stay in bed without getting out!!
- Take one milestone at a time and keep this change and potty training separate so that you don’t overwhelm them.
- Remove the cot from the room and don’t use it as a threat if they don’t stay in the bed.
- Modify your original bedtime routine to take account of this change.
- Consider a story time zone separate to the bed for your routine
- I find the use of a lamp on a timer for the bedtime routine a great indication when sleep time should begin
- Add an extra 10 minutes or so to your bedtime process at the start so that you prepare your child for what will be exciting at first
- Understand at the beginning they may not stay in the bed. If you normally don’t stay at bedtime, calmly return them to the bed as many times as required, this should settle down within a few days
- Repeat throughout the night also unless you have no problems with bed-sharing overnight going forward as a long term approach
If within a 7-10 days, you feel that their sleep and behaviour is deteriorating and that they won’t stay in the bed and they are also requiring you to stay when you didn’t previously or if they are consistently waking up overnight and that this is new for them also. It may be that you have made this transition too early and you may have to back track and reintroduce the cot for a while longer. Don’t worry that you made a big fuss about the big bed, you can re visit again a month or two down the line, and you will be amazed at the difference, because when the time is right, the transition from cot to big bed should be seamless.