How do you know when it is time to help your child move from crib-sleeping to cot or bed sleeping? This is one of the key considerations when contemplating this particular “rite of passage”. Some children are ready to make the transition from crib to cot at the age of 2-3 months and from cot to bed at the age of 2 years. For others, the cot can offer cozy, comfort until almost age four.
Here are some of the circumstances that might facilitate making this change:
- Your child wants to change and asks to change.
- Your child physically outgrows his or her cot.
- You are expecting another baby and need the cot and want to reuse the cot mattress.
- The cot becomes worn out and needs to be replaced.
- Your child consistently attempts to climb out of the cot.
You should know that it is never a good idea to just arbitrarily decide that it’s time for your child to say ‘goodbye’ to the cot and accept a toddler bed. If your little one is happy, safe and comfortable in a cot, forcing this change on him or her is an unnecessary stress. It is certainly something that should not be done all at once.
6 ways to prepare for the transition
A smooth transition from cot to bed is best carried out in increments over a period of a few weeks or even months. If your child always knows that someday, he or she will be making the change to a big bed, your task will be easy. Here are six habits you can build into your everyday routine to help your child become accustomed to the idea of the switch.
- While your toddler is still a baby in the cot, establish a bedtime ritual that you can carry forward throughout childhood. Having a familiar, nightly routine will make the change from cot to bed much easier.
- Look for bedtime stories about the transition from cot to bed. Reading these at bedtime can help your child achieve the mindset necessary for a successful transition.
- If you are expecting a new baby, focus on the transition early in your pregnancy so that your toddler will be well established in his or her new bed by the time the new baby arrives. A couple of months’ lead time will help prevent having your child feel displaced from his/her cot by the new arrival.
- Build enthusiasm by taking your child on shopping trips to look at beds and bedding. Encouraging your little one to choose furnishings and bedding is a great way to ensure a smooth and happy transition.
- Never “shame” your child into the transition. Don’t push him or her to be a “big” boy or girl. Instead, allow and encourage growth and readiness to occur naturally.
- Your child is sure to exhibit some fear and insecurity around this change. This is natural and reasonable. Be empathetic and understanding about his or her fears and help your child work through this difficult time by sharing your own experiences with change.
How big should the new bed be?
Decide whether you want a cot bed or a toddler bed. Naturally, if your child has physically outgrown the cot, a cot bed may be out of the question. If your child can still sleep comfortably on a cot-sized bed but wants more autonomy, a toddler bed is a nice, affordable option that allows you to continue to use your existing cot mattress. This solution adds a step to the transition to a “real” big bed later on.
On the other hand, if you feel your child is ready to make a complete transition simply moving from cot to a bed is a one-step solution. This solution can also make bedtime more comfortable for you as you will be able to sit or lie next to your child at bedtime for stories and snuggling.
Talk this over with your child and help him or her make the appropriate decision.
7 steps to take at transition time
Remember to keep your child involved every step of the way. Don’t spring any surprises on your him or her. Replacing the cot with a bed while your child is away at his or her first day at day care or preschool is a very bad idea! Here are some steps to take to help your child make this transition safely and smoothly.
- Don’t combine the switch from cot to bed with other important transitions, such as moving, bringing a new baby home, starting preschool or potty training. Allow your child to focus on and conquer one change at a time.
- If your child is very attached to the cot, you may wish to leave it in the room for some time. If you need the cot for a new baby, ask your toddler to help you decide where to put the cot and have him or her “supervise” its move to the new location.
- When you make the actual change, it’s a good idea to place the new bed in the same position as the old cot. This will help your child feel comfortable at bedtime.
- If you don’t have night-lights in place already, add them when you add the new bed. This is a safety feature that will help your child become familiar with the new circumstance while preventing tripping and falling hazards.
- In addition to the new bedding of your child’s choosing (e.g. foam or spring mattress), be sure the new bed also has lots of familiar items in place, such as stuffed toys, favourite pillows and blankets and the like. This will help the new bed feel safe and familiar.
- Be sure the new bed is safe. It should not be too high, and having safety rails in place is a good idea. Without them, your child could roll out of bed or get stuck between the mattress and the wall.
- Toddler proof the room. Remember that your child will now be autonomous at night, so it’s important that you put plug covers in place and remove any hazards that may cause falls and injuries.
Once the new bed is in place, you will still have a month or so of transition time to deal with. Your little one will surely test his or her ability to pop out of bed at will. When this happens, simply pop the little jack-in-the-box back into bed without a lot of comment. Too much reaction on your part will only reinforce the unwanted behavior.
Successful transition depends on you!
A successful transition from crib to cot and to bed is dependent on good observation and preparation on your part. Don’t push your child, and be sure to allow him or her to be involved and “in control” as much as possible every step of the way. Empathize with your little one’s very real fears, and congratulate him or her on successfully graduating from cot to big bed.