When is the best time to transition my child from cot to bed?

Updated: Nov 2, 2020

Moving your baby to a bed is often more exciting for the parents than for the child. I mean.. who can resist the opportunity to redecorate the nursery with a little bed fit for a princess or a race car for your little rev head?

The truth is.. It really is best to try to hold off on the move to a “big bed” until your child is at least 2.5 to 3 years old. Of course, if your child is climbing out and at risk of hurting themselves then this may need to happen a little earlier, however, there are some sneaky tricks and tips to keep them safely in their cot a little longer. I’ll go over these later.

Most children don’t develop enough impulse control until closer to their third birthday for them to be able to resist the urge to continuously climb out of bed. There are probably some of you reading this thinking, well, I transitioned my baby earlier and had no trouble. This is certainly the case for some people. However, if your little one is already a poor sleeper, transitioning them out of the cot is rarely the answer and can often cause more problems than it solves. Even if you already have a good little sleeper, making this transition too early can lead to unnecessary dilemmas.

I hear a lot of parents with babies as young as one year old transitioning out of the cot as they think their child genuinely hates the cot and that it is the cause of their little one’s poor sleep. These parents often say their child screams at the mere sight of the cot and just won’t settle at nap or bed time. It’s easy to understand why they think the cot is the issue. Although, when taking a closer look at their baby’s routine, nutrition and sleep environment we can usually find a more probable cause which is easily fixed with a few small adjustments, and all of a sudden baby is back to sleeping peacefully in their cot.

Now, if your little one is a mountaineer and has mastered the art of climbing out of the cot before the age of two and a half, then we can try a few things to keep them in a little while longer. The best way is to dress them in a sleeping bag. Having your baby in a sleeping bag from an early age will definitely delay the onset of the climbing. If you have never used one, then give it a go before giving up completely on the cot. For those little Houdini’s who work out how to get out of their sleeping bag you can try putting the bag on backwards, inside out, with a t-shirt or jumper over the top, or all three of these at once.

Note: Some babies will still be able to climb out while wearing a sleeping bag which can be dangerous. Consider your child's climbing ability and depth of cot before relying on a sleeping bag to keep them from climbing out.

When it is finally time to make the transition, the fun can begin with deciding on a new nursery design. Most cots these days convert to toddler beds, however, there is no rule to say that your baby needs to go from cot to toddler bed to big bed. You can just as easily move them straight to a single or double bed if you wish. If you do decide to go for a bigger bed, for the first few weeks you may want to just place the mattress on the floor, so they don’t have too far to fall if they do roll out. Or, you can purchase bed rails designed for keeping wriggly toddlers in their beds. Using a sleeping suit (sleeping bag with legs) is also a good idea for those who still move around a lot and don’t stay under the covers.

Your child will now have the freedom and ability to get up and roam around their room (or house!) unsupervised while you sleep, so it's important to baby proof their room and any other parts of the house they can access. Some things to consider are loose cables or blind cords, exposed power points, furniture that hasn't been secured to the wall etc. You could also put a baby gate on their door if they are able to open the door themselves. 

Once you have made the transition and you find your good sleeper now has interrupted sleep due to their new found freedom, doing a bit of role play, creating some rules and using a reward system can encourage them to stay in bed until morning.

If you do have any concerns around your little one’s sleep and are considering the change from cot to bed, get in touch and we can dig deep to find the real cause of your baby’s sleep struggles.

One on one consultations and downloadable sleep guides are all available online x

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