Safe and Healthy Sleep

Changing from cot to bed

19 Sep, 2022

One of the first big changes in a young child’s life is the move from the cot that they’ve always known and loved to a new, unfamiliar bed. Although some children take to their new bed without too much trouble, for many families it can mean tears, night-waking, and a return to the interrupted sleep patterns that you hoped you’d left behind. However, by planning ahead for this big day and knowing how to handle the challenges you’ll all face, you can help to minimise disruption and upset, keep your little one feeling safe and secure, and just as importantly, not disrupt their sleep routine. Here are a few ideas to help you along:

· Choose the right time. Many parents feel that they have to move their child out of their cot because their child has reached a certain age, or because friends or family are asking when they will make the change. However, you should remember that every child is different, and what suits one family might not suit another. Typically, children move into their first bed from around 18 months, but this is absolutely not a rule, and you should not feel pressured into making the change until you judge that the time is right for you. Signs that your child might be ready include attempting to climb out of their cot, becoming too big for their cot, and them saying that they want to be more grown up. Sometimes other pressures, such as the arrival of a new baby, can force the issue and if this is the case, try to settle your child into their new bed before the new baby arrives.

· Make one change at a time. Try to time the move to a bed so that it doesn’t coincide with other changes, such as potty training or starting nursery school. Too many changes at once can be very unsettling for you little one, and it can take longer for them to settle into the new routine.

· Maintain a familiar environment. One way to minimize the effect of the change is to keep as many things as possible the same. For example, if you place the new bed in the same place as their cot used to be, the room still looks the same to them when they get into bed. You can also help by using familiar bedding. For example you could continue to use the same sleeping bag or if you need to buy a new one, choose one that uses the same design. It also helps to involve children in choosing their new bedding because it can make them feel more grown up and in charge of the situation.

· Choose a suitably sized bed. It might be tempting to buy a bed designed for bigger kids or even an adult bed, but whilst this can save money, it is not advisable because these types of beds are usually too high for toddlers, who will almost inevitably fall out of their new bed at some point.

· Take your time. Instead of expecting your little one to immediately adapt to their new bed, try to slowly acclimatise them to it by having them sleep there for naps before you move them into it full time.

· Prepare for night time wanderings. Your child WILL get out of bed when you don’t want them too, typically in the middle of the night. Plan for this and make sure that there are no toys on the floor or other trip hazards. When they do come into your room, just put them straight back to bed and try to be firm. Remember, if you cuddle them and take them into your bed, they will just keep coming back every night. It also helps to make a fuss of them when they do manage to stay in bed all night as praise can go a long way.

Whenever you decide to make the change, take it slowly and involve your child as much as you can in the process – and don’t be afraid to change your mind and go back to the cot if you later decide that you’ve made the change too soon. Good luck!