Cot to Bed: The how to's!

Posted by Tara Mitchell on


For some parents, the thought of transitioning your little one from their cot to a bed is exciting and for others it’s a daunting task. I work with a lot of families whose little ones were great sleepers until they moved into a bed. All of a sudden their little one became distracted by the endless possibilities in front of them – to get out of bed, to play with their toys and to push every boundary imaginable! Don’t worry we’ve got you.

I have put together a blog that will help steer you in the right direction.

Are We There Yet?

One of the first things I consider when moving a child from their cot to a bed is their age. This plays a key role in the making of a smooth or troubled transition. When I work with families who have difficulty with this transition, the most common issue is that the child was simply too young. Some may breeze through this transition but others may need more guidance.

I recommend keeping your little one in their cot until over 2.5 - 3 years of age. Here’s why – it’s important when moving your child to a bed that we acknowledge the endless possibilities that have just been opened up to them. Not only can they access all of the toys in their room, but they now have free range of the house while parents are tucked up in bed oblivious to the wrecking ball that’s roaming the house! Because of this, it’s important that our little ones are at an age where they can understand the limitations that come with the move and realise that there are boundaries, expectations and outcomes that may follow.

With this said, if your little one is climbing out and of their cot regularly or it has become unsafe for them to remain in their cot then it’s time to make the move.

The crucial part

Don’t begin playing new roles you haven’t in the past. There is no need to start sitting there until they fall asleep or waiting at the door, be confident in their ability to make the move. Then if they need support check back and be encouraging of their ability. If your little one has familiar sleep items these can also help the transitions, be that a ruggie, Dockatot grand, white noise for example. The Dockatot Grand can be a great tool to use as a familiar space to help ease the transition. It also acts as a great bumper to keep them snug and in their bed, no more midnight thuds with a roll out of bed. I cannot implore you enough to make sure they are sleeping well BEFORE you make the move from a cot to a bed. It is far easier to resolve prior. If your little one is sleeping poorly in the cot moving them to a bed is very rarely the answer. In fact it’s often more of an undoing.


Where are your boundaries

Beware mums and dads! Your little one is at a point in their young lives where boundaries are there to be pushed especially if they are closer to 2 years of age. What better time to do so than when mum and dad are tired and will give in to just about any request to get some rest. It’s really important to set boundaries for your little one in their big bed … and stick to them! I often hear phrases like “one more book”, “I need to go to the toilet … again” and “come and lie with me”. Before long, it’s not uncommon that “one more book” turns into 10 more books, or spending one to two hours each night laying down until they will go off to sleep, and possibly even listening to the pitter-patter of tiny feet making their way into the parents’ bed. Toddlers push doors they actually don’t want to open, which means that although they push boundaries, you keeping them brings them a great sense of security and far less anxiety. Be sure to keep your bedtime routine positive but confidence in holding boundaries is key. Don’t let too many little requests spiral. You may even want to use a stamp chart that has a list of activities In the lead up to bedtime that they tick off as they go along.

Choose wisely when to make the move

Don’t attempt to make the big transition close to any other big changes. Having another baby on the way is often a great motivator for parents to free up the cot. This is fine, but be sure to keep this transition well away from the baby’s due date and also be open to the idea of keeping your toddler in the cot and getting a second cot. If you do decide to make the transition prior, give your toddler time to adjust to the big move before the baby comes. This won’t just help them but it will give you time to troubleshoot any issues that may arise with the move. If you are about to move house, I would either make the transition with plenty of time in the old house to adjust, or once your little one is well and truly settled into their new home.

Keep it fun

I absolutely love the use of a step by step chart to help ease the initial transition. Not only does it bring excitement to the process, but it also really highlights to your little one what is expected of them in their new bed. I recommend my clients to have a stash of stickers that go onto the chart as they brush their teeth, have a drink, toilet etc and then each morning once they stay in their big bed for the night you may also want to offer a little lucky dip they get as a treat during this transition.

Patience and confidence are key! Happy transitions.

The Gentle Sleep Specialist


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