“How To Make the Switch from a Cot Bed To a Big Kid Bed”

26 October 2018

By Eliana Beeson

I get asked a lot of sleep questions. The one question I wished people asked more often is, “When should we move our child into a big kid bed?”.

And the reason why I would love to hear that question more often is because most parents tend to feel an urge to move their little one into a cute big bed soon, when their child is actually often not ready for that.

To put it simple, my answer to this question would be a quite generic “Later”, and there are a couple of reasons why I would say that.

Number one is because there are so many other priorities when it comes to your baby’s sleep. Establishing a bedtime routine, helping your child develop independent sleep skills, getting your baby accustomed to a schedule, are all things that should take place before you worry about moving him out of his cot. There’s no doubt that it’s going to be a lot easier to make the transition once you have got a good, skilled sleeper on your hands.

The other reason I tell parents to wait as long as they can is because, unless you have a new baby on the way and need to make some space in that cot bed, there’s just no reason to push it.

Toddlers will inevitably notice that they sleep in a different bed than their parents, or their older siblings, and will ask why, to themselves, and most importantly to you.

Once they have shown some interest, and feel like they want to make the switch, I would go for it. But please don’t look at it as some kind of developmental stage that your child should reach at a predetermined age.

They will get there when they get there, and there is no harm if it’s later rather than sooner.

I should actually throw in a little disclaimer here. If your little one has started the “escape artist” routine, and is climbing out of their cot in a dangerous way, there is potentially some harm if they fall on their way out.

However, if they have got the skills to get out of the cot safely, (and believe me, some kids are exceptionally good at climbing out of their cot bed!) then, again, I once again recommend sticking with the cot.

One of the biggest reasons I see for parents moving their kids to a big kid bed, is because they are hoping it will solve some existing sleep issues. Maybe baby has developed a habit of wanting to climb into bed with Mummy and Daddy, or they are suddenly waking up and demanding a glass of milk in the middle of the night. So maybe a big kid bed would help them feel more grown up. Maybe it would give them a feeling of security and comfort.

It will not. There is no way around it.

To the best of my knowledge, and based on what I have seen with all of the other consultants I network with, none of us have ever seen bad sleep habits disappearing or fading away by moving a baby to a new bed.

Now, I recognise that some of you need more details and you want an age, even if it’s just a guideline, so I would say 2½ is probably the earliest you want to implement this change. But again! That’s just a guideline, and later is better.

So, now that I suggested to wait as long as possible, what if you have already waited, and are now ready to make the switch?

The first thing you might notice is how quickly and easily your little one makes the transition. Your little one climbs into the new bed, loves the cool print on the new sheets, and sleeps happily straight through the night.

So maybe you nailed it, or maybe you did not!

There is typically a honeymoon period with the big kid bed. Children initially think they are great, but then, after a couple of weeks, they start to wake up and leave their room in the middle of the night, asking to get into bed with mom and dad.

You may be tempted to comply with this request, but I strongly suggest you put an early and absolute moratorium on bed sharing at this point. If your child starts leaving their room in the night, walk them back, tell them it’s not allowed, and let them know what the consequence will be if they do it again.

Regardless of how sweet the request is (and yes, I agree with you that toddlers are extremely cute… and powerful!), and how easy it might be to allow your child in your bed in the middle of the night and snuggle with him till morning, don’t give in. It’s important to make clear that it’s not allowed. Unless you are prepared to deal with nighttime roaming for months!

Posted on October 26, 2018

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