When to transition from cot to bed
Is it time, or is it not time?
That is the question so many parents are asking when transitioning their toddler from cot to bed. It can be a nerve-wracking time knowing that your child is about to leave the safe confines of their cot to a big bed, where they have the freedom to get out, roam and explore their room and possibly the whole house.
Here are my TOP SIX TIPS for moving from cot to bed safely to help you navigate this time and ensure a smooth, seamless transition for all.
1. DON’T RUSH IT
The older your toddler is, the more they will understand the concept of staying put and sleeping in an open space (their bed) instead of a confined one (their cot).
People often ask, “What is the best age to move from cot to bed?” I always say to parents, “Keep your toddler in their cot for as long as possible”, ideally closer to the age of 3 years. Of course, if there is a need to move them out earlier for safety reasons (they are climbing out or no longer fit), yes, the transition will need to happen sooner, but no earlier than 18 months. At this young, it is unsafe for them to be in a sleep environment that isn’t contained.
2. TRY NOT TO PANIC
If your toddler sees you stressed and worried about the big transition from cot to bed, they may start panicking about it too. Our little ones feed off our emotions. If we are cool, calm, and collected on the outside (even if the feelings are a little different on the inside), they will see there is nothing to worry about when it comes to leaving their cot for their new bed.
For cot-to-bed safety, you will need to spend time setting up your toddler’s sleep environment. Ensure their room and areas outside their room are safe and free of clutter and too many distractions. Check for and secure tripping, falling, burning or other hazards. You’ll also need to play around with their sleepwear layers (like toddler onesies and sleepsuits) and bedding to ensure they stay warm and cosy all night long in their new, open sleep space. Include your toddler in all of this. Let them choose their new sleepwear or their new bedding. Let them help you set up their bed and declutter their room. Kids love getting involved and being a part of it all.
4. PRACTICE WITH A QUILT AND PILLOW
Try introducing a toddler pillow and an appropriately sized quilt and into your toddler's cot before the transition begins - this can make the transfer from cot to bed easier. Ensure one of the cot sides is removed before you do this. You can use these items along with their regular Sleep Suit Bag while in the cot. After a few weeks, your toddler will get used to sleeping on a pillow and perhaps have taken on the concept of pulling up a blanket. Take the quilt and pillow to the big bed with them for familiarity, consistency and comfort.
5. PICK A START DATE & TIME
Have a good look at your calendar and pick a time that suits you best so you can commit to the transition process and stay super consistent with it. Once you start sleeping your toddler in their new bed, ideally, you avoid reverting to the cot as that may confuse and unsettle them. I recommend starting the process at bedtime as opposed to nap time. Our drive to sleep is stronger in the evening and overnight, so I do find it can be a smoother transition for toddler and Mum and Dad, too. And just a tip – make sure bedtime is earlier during the transition period, so your toddler doesn’t get too overtired as they adjust to falling asleep in their new sleep space.
6. BE PATIENT AND CONSISTENT
Expect that during the transition period from cot to bed, there will be some ups and downs. Your toddler may take a lot longer to fall off to sleep at bedtime and naptime. It’s all very normal, to be expected as they adjust, and I promise you, it will get better in time. My biggest piece of advice here for how to transition from cot to bed is: if you can leave your toddler to it and give them plenty of time and space to find their groove in their new bed, you will all move through the transition period so much quicker than if you intervene a lot during the going-to-sleep process. Of course, if they need your reassurance, go in for a cuddle. If they are awake and otherwise happy in their bed, step back and let them ‘do their thing’.
About the Author
Steph Gouin is a qualified Baby and Child Sleep Consultant, a Registered Nurse of over 15 years and Mum to her three beautiful children - 8, 6 and 4. As one of Australia’s leading sleep experts, Steph is an International Keynote Speaker, having travelled to the Middle East in 2019 to speak at a Toddler Health and Wellness Conference.
She's been published on several online parenting forums, including ‘Kidspot’ and 'The Tot' in the US, in numerous Australian parenting magazines. She is one of two 'resident sleep experts' for @mymothersgroup and Kidspot. Steph is incredibly passionate about the work she does and gains great satisfaction from educating, supporting and guiding parents as soon as their baby arrives and in the years beyond.