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  • Sally Unterberger

Moving From a Cot to a Big Bed - Part 1




Although the transition from a cot to a bed can be a really exciting stage for parents, because their baby is becoming a toddler and exploring the world around them in a completely different way, making this transition too early can be a recipe for disaster – causing bedtime battles, night wakings, early starts and nightmare naps!!

A really common issue I come across is little ones who have been moved into a ‘big boy/girl bed’ too early when they are simply not mature enough to handle the responsibility of staying in bed for themselves without the physical and psychological barriers of the cot bars surrounding them.

There can be lots of reasons for these early transitions; a new baby comes into the family and needs the cot, mum and dad think because their toddler is now walking and more mobile they must transition them to a bed or perhaps parents just think it would be nicer for the child to have their own proper bed like the rest of the family.

However, the truth is that many toddlers just aren’t ready for this big step and can’t handle the change until they are older, closer to 3 years old in many cases. Some of my clients have made the transition as early as 18 months resulting in a huge sleep regression. The most common reason for this early transition is due to the child climbing out of the cot and therefore they felt it was necessary for safety reasons (which is, generally, the only reason to transition to a ‘big bed’ earlier than 2.5yrsa).

So when is the right time to make the transition from cot to big bed? My best answer to this question is – leave it as long as possible!!

… And there are other things worth trying prior to taking the leap to a big bed:

Lower the cot setting

When you buy your cot make sure you check out the lowest level as these actually vary between cots and sometimes the lower level isn’t low enough to make climbing out tricky. Make sure you lower the mattress as soon as your baby is mobile as rolling over, crawling, sitting and standing can all happen pretty quickly, and before you know it your baby is standing and their cot railing is at waist height!

Don’t set the bed up for ‘fun’

The bedroom should primarily revolve around sleeping and, therefore, the cot should too. I always recommend that there are no toys or mobiles in the cot with the exception of a single ‘lovey’ once old enough and if a bed is introduced early in order to introduce fun to a child’s bedtime routine it will probably end up becoming a ‘toy’ and associated with play time!

A Sleeping bag

Sleeping bags make it more difficult for little ones to get a leg over the edge of the cot and a lot of brands make them for children up to 4 years old so don’t be tempted to ditch them too early. If your child is unzipping themselves to wriggle free, it is usually possible to put them on backwards to prevent this.

Monitor bedtimes

Try not to allow your little one to get overtired, pop them into the cot when they’re more likely to settle and less likely to want to play! If they are at the stage where they are starting to try to climb out of the cot, watch them on the monitor and as soon as they try to climb out, lie them back down and tell them to lie down. Be consistent and ensure they know it is not a game!!

The bottom line is be patient. Try to wait as long as possible before making the transition to a bed. Around 3 years old is when children will have developed more impulse control and you can start to introduce some sleep rules, along with consequences and rewards. If you try to introduce a bed before this and your little one struggles to understand this concept, you are likely to be playing the game of midnight ‘ping pong’ between your bedroom and your child’s!


Check out Moving From a Cot to a Big Bed - Part 2 for making the transition as straightforward as possible when the time comes.


For more help with this or any other aspect of your child's sleep please get in touch.


Sweet Dreams

Sally x

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