Transitioning your toddler from their cot to a big bed can feel daunting, but with some preparation and the right timing it can be a smooth process. Most little ones move from cot to bed between around 18 months to three years old, but they are all different so it’s about assessing your situation and making an informed choice.
"It’s better to work on sleep in their cot before moving them."
The most important thing to think about is safety. If your toddler has learned to climb out of their cot, this can become a safety risk. If they are using a sleeping bag it tends to limit their ability to do this, so it might be worth reverting to one temporarily if you think that baby is too little to move into a bed yet.
If your toddler hasn’t shown any signs of climbing out and is quite content in their cot, I advise leaving them there until they are too big for it. There’s really no rush to move them out.
Some parents think about moving them in the hope it will have positive impact on sleep, but in my experience it’s better to work on sleep in their cot before moving them. The new-found freedom of a bed can complicate things further.
It can also help to hold off until their communication skills are more developed. They will have a great understanding of what is going on and will be more likely to stay in bed than those who are younger with less developed impulse control.
Some families start to think about the move when they need the cot for a new baby, but this often isn’t the best timing. Too much change at once can be disruptive. Let them get used to the idea of a new baby first. I would either do it a couple of months before baby arrives or a few months afterwards once they have got used to a new family dynamic.
So how can we make it a smooth transition?
Shop: Silver Cross Hoxton 3-piece nursery set
1. Keep everything as familiar as possible. The same bedtime routine is really important - the same favourite teddy or story etc. You can even put the bed in the same position as the cot was in previously. It sounds simple, but this can help the room feel familiar when they are laying in their new bed.
2. Make sure the room is safe and any potential hazards are out of reach (lamps, blinds, medicine etc). You might want to consider a stairgate if you don’t have one already. It doesn’t necessarily need to be on their door, but you might want it at the top of the stairs, or placed so that they can’t access the bathroom.
"Consider using a foam wedge, or a bed guard to prevent them from rolling out."
3. Bedding. You could introduce a duvet in advance so the bedding is familiar. Perhaps even for a week or two in advance of the change. It can be helpful to practice them pulling it up themselves so they learn to do this in the night if they are likely to kick it off. You can also allow your little one to choose their new bedding, to make it all the more exciting.
4. Bedtime boundaries. Have a think about how your little one normally falls asleep and try to stick to this. If they are used to falling asleep independently then stick to your normal bedtime routine. If they get out, then return them to bed calmly and kindly. If you usually stay with your little one, you can keep doing this. However, if it feels like its turning into a bit of a battle, I would have a think about a sleep strategy to work on this.
5. Falling out of bed. This is a common concern for many parents. Their new bed might be higher than their cot, and your little one might take some time to adjust to having an open side to their bed. You can consider using a foam wedge (these go under the sheet), or a bed guard to prevent them from rolling out. You could decide not to do this, but just make sure the area round the bed is clear. You could put some cushions or pillows there temporarily if you are worried.
Shop: Silver Cross Primrose Hill 3-piece nursery set
For some toddlers the transition comes really naturally, but for others it’s a big deal and they might need some extra reassurance from you. Try not to get too worried or nervous as they take their cues from you.
If they do get up at night then return them to bed, reassure them and kiss them goodnight as if it were the beginning of the night. They will soon get the hang of it! Stay calm and consistent in your approach and stick to the boundaries you have decided on.
If you would like to get some support with your little one’s sleep do check us out over at www.justchillbabysleep.co.uk