The transition from cot to bed can be equally exciting and daunting. It is a big development in yours and your little ones life and so it is worth making sure you are all ready for the move and ask questions.
I quite often get asked questions by parents such as, ‘my boy doesn’t sleep well in his cot so shall I move him to a bed’? ‘Is my boy too young to be transferred into a bed?’ or ‘What is the best way of introducing my child to their big bed?’
Children should ideally be sleeping in their cots until they are 2 ½ – 3 years old at least but there will be occasions where this is not possible. Safety is of paramount importance and so if your child is climbing over the sides of their cot or there is another cot safety concern then you may need to move them earlier.
Tips for children that HAVE independent sleep skills or children that NEED to move into a bed:
It’s important to let your little one know what is happening. Explain that they are going to be making the move into their new bed, and let them know when the move is going to happen. When you explain what’s happening to your toddler, make sure you do so in a positive way.
You know your child best and know how much information they can take on board without causing them to worry. Like any change you want to prepare your little one for the move, but also keeping in mind that it is not made into too much of an issue so that they get anxious about it. Whilst transitioning from a cot into a bed is a big deal, it will be more of an emotional journey for you. Putting lots of emphasis on the move puts a lot of pressure on you and your little one and can cause undue stress. Ensure it is positive and make sure you are confident and calm about the change so your little one knows not to worry.
Often it is the case that the older sibling is being moved into a bed to free up the cot for a new sibling. I would recommend not doing this around the same time as the arrival of the new baby so that they don’t feel the baby ‘took their cot away’ from them.
If they are old enough you could even allow them to have a choice when it comes to choosing their new big bed. You could take your toddler along to the shop or choose online. Asking them which bed they want (picked from a shortlist of ones you have already chosen), which colour sheets they like, or which pillows feel the most comfortable, will not only ensure you buy something they like – it will also help them feel a sense of ownership over their new bed, which can work wonders in easing the transition.
A toddler bed with a side or a bed guard can be really helpful to give your little one a visual cue of where they should sleep and might help prevent them getting in and out when they feel like it.
If their new bed will fit in the space where their cot used to be then move it to here. From the first night in their new bed keep their bedtime routine the same. Try not to introduce anything new during their bedtime routine as it may become overwhelming. This transition can be easily adapted by your little one or seem like a big deal to your little one, so try to keep any additional changes to a minimum.
Keep everything as predictable and mundane as possible.
Tips for children who are NOT sleeping independently:
If your child has never slept through the night in their cot, it is very unlikely moving to a bed will change this, in fact it may make sleep worse as they can now easily climb out of their bed when they wake in the night.
The part of a child’s brain that is responsible for having some control over emotions and impulse is not very well developed in children under 3. This is partly why toddlers are seen as being such cheeky monkeys (mine certainly was) as they snatch toys, scream, tantrum and do not often come to you straight away when you ask them to. Toddlers are much more likely to act on their desires as they are not able to control aspects of their behaviour.
If your child has not mastered independent sleep skills, I would suggest teaching them these skills before moving them into a bed. Whilst your toddler is learning skills there will be a period of adjustment as they learn to fall asleep independently and this can take a little getting used. At this time it is comforting for your little one to have a familiar place to sleep, i.e. their bedroom, sleep toy / comforter and learning these skills in their cot. You want everything to be the same until they are able to fall asleep on their own.
The transition to a big bed will be much easier if your little one is already sleeping through the night. A little one that sleeps well and is able to sleep independently is less likely to get out of their bed and leave their room at night, which is usually the biggest issue parents find when they move their little ones out of the cot.
Unless there is a safety concern there is no rush whatsoever to get your toddler out of their cot and into a big bed. Many of the parents with toddlers that I work with say they wish they’d have kept their child in a cot for longer.
If you are struggling with the transition or sleep has gone awry since the transition, I am here to help you, so please get in touch. Book a free, no obligation call and we can talk about working together to get you all a better night’s sleep