Is there a perfect age to transition from cot to bed?
There are many reasons parents decide to move their baby from their cot to a “big” bed. For some, it may be the imminent arrival of a sibling. For others, it could be that lifting the baby out of the cot has become too much of an effort as the baby has grown heavier by the month! Another common reason for making the move is that the child has become a little Houdini and can escape from the cot, with a possibility of hurting themselves. Generally speaking, parents are recommended to transition their baby to a bed once a height of 91cm is reached (of course, for the Houdini type of baby the height is immaterial!!)
Whatever the reason, how do you go about preparing your little one for the move? And what age is best for the transition?
Mostly this will depend on the temperament and age of the child. If your baby is only 12 months old when you decide to move him over to the “ big bed”, there is no need for much fanfare as a child of this age doesn’t really know what a “ big boy’s bed” is. However, some children are resistant to change, even if they are this young and so you would probably have to have a few days or weeks of putting your baby down for his morning or afternoon nap on the “big bed” to get him used to it. You would probably also have to lie there with him initially to stop him getting up! (take advantage of this and have a little nap yourself!!). In the case of a baby this young, I would also spend a bit of time letting him play on the bed during the day and show him how to get on and off safely. I would also put safety rails on the top end of the bed so that a baby this young cannot roll off in his sleep, but when awake could scoot down to the bottom end of the bed in order to climb off safely.
For older toddlers, it can be more difficult to get them to move on to the bigger bed as they are used to their cot and resist change. Other toddlers welcome the idea of being like the “big” people and sleeping in a proper bed. Some parents resort to reading stories to their toddlers in which the pictures show toddlers happily making the move to a big bed. For most parents, though, it seems as if the transition turns out to be much easier than they had anticipated.
Several things need to be taken into account when you are thinking of moving your toddler into a bed. The prime concern is, of course, safety.
- The room has to be “baby-proofed”, especially for a toddler. All electrical outlets have to be covered, the furniture needs to be sturdy so that the toddler cannot accidently pull it over on himself, electrical cords need to be concealed or high enough to be out of reach and all breakables need to be removed
- Provide a soft landing place next to the bed with no hard objects nearby in case your little one rolls out
- Either choose a very low sleeping surface and/or use bed rails
- Make sure cupboard doors are closed properly and that your toddler cannot open them
- Make sure blind cords are up and out of reach
Day Nap or Night Sleep
When to pick for your toddler’s first “big bed” session – naptime during the day or overnight? For many parents this may not be an option if their toddler has already abandoned his daytime naps. If he still has one of his naps during either morning or afternoon you may want to opt for this as the stakes are lower – you won’t be sleeping so any issues can be sorted out quickly. If you start with the overnight sleep this will mean the room is dark (nightlight would help here) and your toddler might be more sleepy and less inclined to climb out of bed. However, with the overnight route, you may find that your toddler has uncharacteristic frequent wake ups. Sometimes, a toddler will roll to the edge of the bed when sleeping and then make his way off the bed and be standing there half asleep, crying and very confused as to how he got there! Having a very low bed or mattress on the floor or the bed rail usually solves this problem. There seems to be no right or wrong answer as to whether you choose a day nap or overnight to transition your toddler from cot to bed as each has its own pros and cons.
Early morning wake-up call
Now that your toddler knows how to get off the “big bed” you may be in for early morning wake ups! This seems to happen mainly with older toddlers. You could use a baby gate to prevent your toddler from escaping his room and roaming around the house. Here are a few advantages, therefore, in transitioning to an open bed earlier rather than later:
- Babies and very young toddlers don’t really fight bedtime yet. They fall asleep quite quickly and are too young to demand water or tell you he has to go potty. So if your little one is not yet fighting sleep you might consider making the transition to a bed.
- Door handles can’t be reached by babies and young toddlers – so if you have baby-proofed the room, then it will effectively be like one big cot
No definitive answer
There is no single definitive answer as to what is the perfect age to move your child from his cot into a bed. Sometimes circumstances force your hand.
My eldest son was transitioned to a bed at the tender age of 2 years as his sibling was due 3 months later and we needed the cot for the baby. He was very proud to move to his big bed, so we had no problems. With my youngest son on the other hand, we had to move him to a “big bed” before he turned 12 months old as he was the Houdini in the family, periodically appearing in the lounge unexpectedly when we thought he was sound asleep! As we were scared that when climbing out of his cot he would fall on his head, we rather moved him to a bed with bedrails. At least when he reappeared after bedtime we knew that he had gotten out of the bed without bashing his head!
You will just have to go with your instincts on this one and as we all know, a mother’s instincts are invariably the right way to go!!!
Yours in newborn lifestyle photography