From Cot to Bed – How to Ease the Transition for your Toddler
I’m writing this post as my little boy is about to make the big move from cot to bed, at the tender age of 2 years old. We are planning to make the change in a few weeks’ time, at the same time he will also move into his bigger new bedroom. As I, myself, research how to make the transition from cot to bed as easy as possible on the child, I wanted to pass on some advice, and I’ll provide an update a couple of months down the line as to how things progress, fingers crossed!
What age should I move my child from cot to bed?
Opinions differs on when you should consider the transition. The suggestions range from 1.5 to 3.5 years, and while some suggest it should be done as early as required (for example once your child starts to climb out of their cot), others say you should wait as long as possible, to continue the security that the cot provides to your child for as long as possible.
For us, the decision was made to do it now, because it makes the most logical sense for it to happen soon, for the following reason: we’re just finishing off a large extension to our house which will provide a much bigger bedroom for our son, as opposed to his current 8ft x 6ft tiny, box room. When the room is ready in a few weeks’ time, we thought that we may as well rip the band-aid off and make the move to his big bed at the same time, given that he will be 2 years old by then. We’ll no doubt encounter some sleep disruption with his change of room, so we may as well also get the toddler bed transition disruption over and done with at the same time.
One thing to remember is that it’s not a permanent change once it happens. What I mean is, if you try the big bed for a week or two and your child is still really unsettled, then perhaps they are not ready. Don’t feel pressured to make the switch too soon, if needs be, go back to the cot for another month or two and then try again.
What type of bed should my toddler move into?
Many parents these days are opting to purchase cot beds (like the image shown here), with the knowledge that these will perform a dual purpose and last until your child is around 5 years old. It’s worth keeping in mind though, that if you are planning on having a second child close in age to your first, then they may not be using it for the 5 years anyway. This is the situation we’re now finding our own household is in.
One of the benefits of a cot bed is that when you choose to change it into a bed, it’s not vastly different to what your child is used to. It’s the same size, same height from the floor, same mattress… the only real change will be to remove the side bars.
Of course the downside of transitioning to a cot bed is that in the future, you’re going to have to make another move to a proper bed. So is it worth skipping straight to an adult sized single bed? The cons of doing so are just the opposite of what I’ve listed as the pros for cot beds: it’s a bigger change; higher off the floor; different mattress…
A top trick no matter which type of bed you choose to go with is to ensure that you use a bed guard at least for the first few weeks after the transition. Your toddler has been used to having railings holding him in place if he rolls over to the edge of his cot, and they will need time to adjust to losing this security. A bed guard provides a bumper for your child, but won’t cover the whole length of the bed, so that they are still able to climb in and out when required (for example to use the toilet at night when potty training).
When three becomes four…
Frequently, the main reason for moving a toddler out of the cot, is in preparation of baby number 2. In our household, this is also a secondary reason for moving our little boy very soon. This seems to be one area which all of the expert advice agree on.
Do not move your toddler out of the cot immediately
before or after the arrival of baby number 2. Obviously, they will feel as though they have been evicted for the very reason of making room for the baby, and this will no doubt lead to resentment.
If you are expecting another child, you should plan to move your toddler out of their cot at least one month prior to baby’s arrival, and a little further in advance if possible. It will give your toddler time to adjust to their new bed, and to see the cot is empty prior to the baby’s arrival. If the age gap is small and you wish to delay moving your toddler for as long as possible, then you will have a few months after the baby is born when they will be sleeping in their Moses basket or crib, so you can use this time a couple of months after the baby is born to transition your toddler out of the cot.
Set realistic expectations
If you currently have a good sleeper – I’m talking about those angelic babies and toddlers that you place into their cot, say goodnight and walk out of the room with no meltdowns – then you need to be prepared that things could change whilst making this transition. Often even these angelic children can suddenly need their mummy or daddy to sit at the side of their bed until they fall asleep. It offers them comfort, and security that they won’t be left alone to settle into their new bed. Just roll with it for a week or two, and then try some gradual retreat sleep techniques to remove yourself from the room.
Remember that your child now has the newfound freedom of being able to climb out of the bed. They will probably want to practice climbing in and out as part of their mental and physical development, so give them plenty of time to do this when it’s not time for real sleep!
You can also expect a few bumps in the night as your little falls out of bed. Most young children thrash around quite gymnastically during their sleep, and they won’t be able to help themselves from rolling out of their new open bed. Expect to be woken up with a few shocked tears from your child, and you will need to go to them during these episodes, and reassure them so that they are not afraid to get back into their bed.
- Try to build excitement rather than fear into your child by talking about his or her move to a “big bed”. If you will be purchasing a new bed for them, allow them to be involved in the choice of bed – and then don’t be surprised to find that the bed of choice is car shaped bed!
- Place your toddler’s bed in the same place as their cot resided if possible.
- Your child will now be able to get out of bed as and when they please, so you need to ensure the room is totally toddler proof. All cupboards should be fixed to the wall or floor, electrical cables should be tucked away etc.
- You may wish to consider the use of a stair gate across your toddler’s bedroom door to stop them from leaving their bedroom to start with. Once your child is potty training, you should remove this to allow them access to the bathroom at night.
- Try to ensure that your child’s other bedtime comforts are still available, for example if they have a favourite blanket, teddy, or nightlight, keep these things the same.
- Use bed guard rails or place a spare mattress or cushions to the sides of your child’s bed in case of falls.
There’s no right or wrong away to go about moving your toddler from cot to bed, but I hope these tips provide some insight on how to ease the process. I would say to trust your instinct on whether you feel your child is ready for the transition, and remember, it’s not a competition against all your other friends with toddlers, go at your own pace.
I’ll post an update in the next couple of months as to how our journey is going. Good luck with yours!
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