A topic I am often asked about by parents, is the right time for moving your toddler from a cot to a bed.
Many parents are eager to move their child into a bed, often to free up the cot for a younger sibling.
But when it comes to this transition, there are two questions to answer.
The first is when, and the second is how.
When to move your toddler from a cot to a bed?
If you’ve come to this blog looking for some advice about teaching your little one the skills they need to sleep through the night, then the answer to the question of “when” is, quite simply, “not now.”
There are two reasons why I say this. The first is because there is absolutely no rush to get your toddler into a bed. I recommend keeping you little ones in a cot as close to 3 as possible. Or even older if they’re happy and not trying to climb out.
The second reason is that if you’re about to start sleep training, there’s going to be a period of adjustment as your toddler learns to fall asleep independently. And that’s going to take some getting used to.
During this period, it’s comforting for your little one to have a familiar place to sleep. The same bedroom, bedding, comforter, cot. Everything that can stay the same should stay the same until they’ve mastered the skills to fall asleep on their own.
If you’re considering sleep training, moving to a big bed will be easier if your little one is already sleeping through the night.
A toddler who is well rested and falling asleep independently is less likely to leave their room at night. And this is the single biggest issue that parents have when moving their little ones out of the cot.
How to move your toddler from a cot to a bed?
The first step is preparation. Let your little one know what’s going on.
Explain that they’re going to be moving to a big bed, set a date, and let them know when it will happen. When you explain what’s going to happen, make sure you put a positive spin on it.
There is a bit of a balance to achieve here. On the one hand, you want to prepare your toddler for the change, but on the other, you don’t want to make a big fuss. Turning it into an occasion can put pressure on your child and could stress them out a bit.
A good way to prepare your child is to let them have some input. This could be which bed they want (if appropriate), what duvet they like, or what pillow feels the most comfortable. This will obviously ensure that they gets something they like, but will also help them feel a sense of ownership over the new bed. This can really help to ease the transition.
So now the bed is ready, you’ll want to keep it in the same place the cot used to be. In fact, you’ll want to keep everything exactly as it was in your toddler’s room except for the new bed. This is a big change, so try not to make any unnecessary additional changes, unless you have to due to space.
The same goes for the bedtime routine on the big night. When you’re getting your toddler ready for bed on that first night, keep things the same. Don’t alter the routine, don’t change bedtime, don’t try to give them a new food at dinner. Keep everything as predictable as you can.
What happens once they’re in bed?
So now that your toddler’s in bed and the lights are out, there are a few scenarios that could occur.
• Scenario 1 – They adapt immediately to their new bed and don’t test the rules at all. In this case, it’s time to celebrate.
Scenario 2 – Your little one seems to adapt straight away. But, after a week or so, they start leaving their room, playing with toys, or calling for mummy to come back in.
Scenario 3 – Your toddler does these things the very first night.
The solution to the latter two of these is to offer a warning when your toddler demonstrates the unwanted behaviour. Tell them what the consequence will be if they repeat it, and follow up on that consequence if needed.
Most likely, you will already have a consequence that works for your toddler, and I strongly suggest sticking with that. Again, we don’t want anything to change except for the bed, so keep doing whatever you’ve been doing up until now in regards to managing behaviour.
So in summary, explain what’s happening, keep things light, set the expectations and enforce the rules. Most likely it won’t be easy, but it can be fairly straightforward if you stick with this recommendations.
Final thoughts on moving your toddler from a cot to a bed.
As much as we’re trying to keep the transition of moving your toddler from a cot to a bed stress-free and smooth, remember this: You are in charge. Your little one will, most likely, kick up a bit of a fuss with this transition. They will probably leave their room a lot, call for you to come in, ask for a glass water, and more than anything, say they want to go back to sleeping in the cot.
It’s important that you remain consistent here, especially during the first few days and weeks. If you bend the rules and allow them into your bed, or let them return to the cot, this can drag things out.
So maintain an air of calm authority, and enforce the rules firmly and consistently. You may feel like a bit of a tyrant at times, but in the long run, consistency will get your little one sleeping peacefully in their new bed a whole lot sooner.