When ‘they’ said that time flies when you’re a parent, and that you should make the most of the early days, they weren’t joking! It may seem like yesterday that you were decorating the nursery, rubbing your pregnant tum and imagining what life would be like with your new baby; just moments ago it seems that you were moving your baby from their moses basket to a cot. Now though you have a cheeky little toddler, keen on using the word ‘no’, throwing the odd tantrum and leaving chaos in his wake!! Time certainly does fly, and if you feel its time for your not-so-little one to be making the move from cot to bed, we’re going to look at how best to manage this milestone in your baby’s development and how to ease the transition.
Unlike some areas in child development, there is no ‘set’ time when you should move your child from his cot to a bed. Generally speaking, most children go from cot to bed anytime between 18 months and three-and-a-half years.
Cot to cot bed – is now the right time?
What influences many parents to make the change is a general feeling that they have outgrown the cot, especially if they have learned to climb out! Once this has happened it is important to get them into a bed soon as they could injure themselves. The only disadvantage is that, once free from the constraints of a cot, your toddler can roam around the house at night!
Other parents decide it’s time to give up the cot if they have another baby on the way. This is fine but it’s advisable to get your child used to the bed six-to-eight weeks before the new baby arrives to prevent feelings of sibling rivalry when your eldest child sees the newcomer taking his place. Alternatively, you could wait until your newborn is three or four months old, when your eldest child has had a chance to become used to the situation.
Finally, another good reason to have your child out of the cot is if you’re trying to potty train her. Sleeping in a bed will mean she can get up in the night to go to the loo, rather than being trapped by her cot bars.
Coping with change
How well your child adjusts to the new situation will depend on their nature and temperament. Some find the change easy while others have trouble with it. First-borns are more likely to resist, especially if they know another child is on the way. For very good reasons she may be very attached to her cot and, if another baby is on the way, a change in sleeping location signals yet another change in her life. Swapping cot for bed often happens at the same time as toilet-training, starting nursery and other milestones which mean that she is growing up.
Younger siblings are likely to find the change easier as they want to be just like their older sister(s) or brother(s) and a cot will just reinforce that they are still the ‘baby’ of the house!
Easing the way
Some toddlers will take to a new bed like a fish to water. Most will need some gentle encouragement and reassurance. There are various ways you can help ease the transition:
1. Put the bed in the same place as the cot.
2. Let your child sleep with her old cot blanket, even if it is too small, if she wants to.
3. Take your child along with you when you buy the bed and involve them in the decision.
4. You could throw a special party for the first time your child uses their new bed. When the big day arrives, have a party and invite friends and family. Your child may be so excited about the occasion that the big bed may gain in appeal!
5. Buy a nightlight (if you don’t already have one) to make the room feel less scary, or try the luminous stars and moons you can stick on to the ceiling (but make sure she doesn’t find them scary).
6. Leave the door ajar or playing comforting music might help make your child’s new bed feel more of a pleasure than a pain.
Words of warning
1. It’s wise to invest in a guardrail to prevent your child from falling out of bed. This can happen to even the most confident of children so make sure you’re prepared.
2. Some find that swapping cot for bed was done prematurely. If so, use the cot again for a little while and try again later.
3. If you’re worried that your little one may like their new found freedom and roam around the house at night, consider putting a safety gate across their doorway.