Moving from cot to bed is an exciting step for your child – but there’s no hurry. Here are some tips to help your child make the move when you’re both ready.

From cot to bed

Most children move from cot to bed sometime between 2 and 3½ years.

There’s no hurry, though. There are even one or two advantages to leaving children in a cot if they’re happy there. It’s also safest to wait until children are over two years before moving them into a bed.

Sometimes the shift to a bed brings a few new bedtime battles, and you might want to choose when you deal with these.

Some reasons for moving from cot to bed

It might be time for your child to move from cot to bed if:

  • your child has started climbing out of the cot

  • your child is toilet training and you want your child to be able to get to the toilet easily during the night

  • you have a new baby who needs the cot

  • you’ve decided to move your child out of your bed and into her own bed.

If you’re moving your child into a bed to free the cot for a new baby, try to move your child either a few months before the baby is born or when the baby is a couple of months old. This way your child won’t feel that the move is because of the new baby, which could cause resentment towards your child’s new brother or sister.

If you need advice, talk with your paediatrician.

Making the bedroom safe

When children move from a cot into a bed, they can also get out of bed more easily. This means they can do whatever they want in their bedrooms.

A safety check of the bedroom will help to prevent accidents. Here’s a list of things to check:

  • Windows that open to the outside: if your child’s bedroom is on an upper level, climbing out could cause a serious injury. Install safety locks so the window can be opened only a little, and make sure the gap isn’t big enough for your child to climb through.

  • Curtain cords, blind cords and hanging mobiles: if your child gets these wrapped around his neck, they could strangle him.

  • Electrical appliances, powerpoints and heaters: these could burn or electrocute your child.

  • Furniture or other heavy objects: attach these to the wall with brackets so they don’t fall on your child.

  • Anything that your child might be able to swallow: massage oil, medicines, cleaning fluids or small objects like batteries and coins are choking and/or poisoning risks.

  • Stairs: fit child-safety guards so your child doesn’t fall down the stairs in the dark or when drowsy.

Choosing a bed

When you move your child from cot to bed, you have a few options:

  • Put a cot mattress or a single bed mattress on the floor, rather than moving your child straight into a bed. This reduces the risk of your child falling out of bed and being injured.

  • Start with a toddler bed. Toddler beds are usually the same size as cots, and some cots even convert to toddler beds. They reduce the risk of your child falling out of bed and being hurt. And you can keep using your cot mattress and bedding. 

  • Use a single bed. An advantage of a single bed is that it’ll last a long time, although a single bed increases the risk of injury from falls.

Making a safe move from cot to bed

Whichever cot to bed option you choose, some simple precautions and planning can help keep your child safe:

  • Keep the bed or mattress on the floor away from walls to reduce suffocation risk. Because of this risk, it’s safer to wait until children are over two years before moving them out of a cot. Remember that pillows are also a suffocation risk for children under two years.

  • If you choose a single bed, use bed rails to stop your child falling out of bed. The bed and the bed rails should be gap free so that your child can’t get stuck. The rails need to fit tightly against the mattress.

  • Look for gaps in any panels or rails on the bed frame or between the bed and the mattress. If there are lots of gaps, a mattress on the floor is a safer option until your child is older.

  • Keep the area on and around the bed or mattress clean and clear of soft toys, bean bags and anything else that might suffocate your child.

  • If your child wears a baby sleeping bag in the cot, think about whether you’ll keep using it once she’s sleeping in a bed. There’s a higher risk of falls and injuries when children wear baby sleeping bags in bed.

Helping your child settle into the new bed: tips

Here are some tips for making a successful change from cot to bed:

  • Tell your child how proud you are. After all, moving into a bed is an exciting step towards being a big kid!

  • Tell your child all about the plans to set up the new bed – and make sure he knows it’ll be fun.

  • Get your child to help you set up the new bed. If it seems like a fun idea, take her shopping to choose the bed or bedding. Let her watch while you move the furniture in the bedroom. Children feel happier if they’ve had a say in the move too.

  • Why not throw a big-bed party and celebrate the move to the big bed?

Using a new bedtime routine: tips

Moving into a big bed can be unsettling for your child. A new bedtime routine might ease the change:

  • Have ‘quiet time’ before bed. Pack away toys and prepare the bedroom as a place of quiet rest, rather than somewhere exciting.

  • Encourage your child to climb into bed if possible. Also, when children can pull up their own bedcovers and arrange pillows the way they want, they sometimes feel more settled.

  • Let your child take a blanket from the old cot – this might help him feel more secure and comfortable.

  • Say goodnight. Tell your child what you expect and what’s going to happen next. Say something clear and positive like, ‘It’s time to go to sleep – see you in the morning!’ This can make bedtime seem less scary.

Some children will get out of bed, just because they can! If this happens, help your child back to bed straight away. You can say something like, ‘It’s time to go to bed – see you in the morning’. Then leave the room.

You might have to do this several times until your child stays in bed or settles.

Our article on calling out and getting out of bed has more tips if getting out of bed becomes a consistent habit.

© raisingchildren.net.au, translated and adapted with permission

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