Many parents are not sure when their little one is ready to leave the confines of the cot for the freedom of a ‘big bed.’
It does vary from child to child and also on the sleeping conditions in each situation. As a general rule, most children are better off in a cot until around 2 years old and the majority have moved by 3 years old. Moving a child into a bed before that can sometimes cause quite a lot of problems, because apart from anything else, they often do not yet understand the concept of having to ‘stay in their bed’ when there is nothing to restrict them from getting out and playing.
If your child is sleeping very well in the cot and seems to have plenty of room still, then there is no need to change to a bed just because your child has reached a certain age. Keep them in the cot as long as they are not climbing out or finding difficulty turning over without bumping into the cot sides and getting upset. Move them to a bed when they seem developmentally ready and have outgrown their cot. If your child is not yet self settling, then try to fix this before moving to a bed.
When deciding whether your child is ready or not you want to be asking yourself the following questions:
*Has my child physically grown out of the space? Is he/she ready?
*Is my child settling easily therefore they should also be able to settle without problems when moved to a bed?
*What sort of bed will I buy?
*Is there anything in the room that could possibly be unsafe for them if they are not restricted to a cot? (Eg: drawers, bookcase, windowsill) and injure themselves?
*What changes need to be made to ensure the room is safe?
*How will I handle the situation if my child keeps getting out of bed?
*Do I want to use a gate at the door?
*There are many different types and styles of ‘toddler’ bed, be sure to buy one that is quite low to the floor and large enough for your growing child.
*Ensure the mattress is firm and fits well.
*Ideally, put the bed in the same place as the cot was. Decide whether you are going to use a side railing/buffer until they get used to their new bed.
*Take a look at the room from your child’s perspective and remove or secure anything that could topple over onto them if climbed upon. Hide wires and cords behind furniture or secure to the wall to prevent dangers. Apply socket covers to unused sockets. Secure any windows that your child could reach with locks and keep them locked. Decide on either keeping the door closed for sleep times or use a gate at the door to keep your child safely in their room. If you prefer to leave the door open and no gate, be aware of any safety implications if your child wanders out of their room at night.
*Involve your child in choosing the bedding/duvet cover and make the move to a bed a positive experience.
*Keep to your bedtime routine and keep everything else the same, including soft toys etc, so the only difference is that your child now sleeps in a bed.
Deborah Taylor, Sleep Expert
Deborah Taylor is a UK trained paediatric nurse and health visitor who has lived and worked in Hong Kong for the past 9 years. She has specialised in infant and toddler sleep for many years, initially in London, UK and in 2004, founded the first infant and young child sleep clinic in Hong Kong. Following the success of the sleep clinic, Deborah now has her own company Infant Sleep Resources offering a range of sleep services and packages to suit your infant and toddler sleep and settling challenges.