Some children have no trouble with transitioning to a big bed; others can take a bit longer to get used to it.

Some children have no trouble with transitioning to a big bed; others can take a bit longer to get used to it.

Your child's move from cot to bed is a major milestone in his life, as well as yours. There’s no precise 'right' time for making this move - it's whatever works best for you and your child - but as a general guide, most parents try to do it some time between the first and third birthday. The key to success is to be patient and give your child time to adjust to the change.

Why make the move?
If a child sleeps well in his cot, don’t rush the change. Switching to a bed gives a child freedom and brings new issues for parents, such as the yo-yo syndrome (getting out of bed, and having to be led back, repeatedly) or early morning wanderings. The most common reasons to switch include:

  • Your child learns how to climb.
    Deal with this by moving your child out of the cot when the rail is up to the height of his nipples, since climbing out is more possible.
  • Your child outgrows the cot.
    Don’t assume it’s time just because his feet are getting closer and closer to the foot of the cot. You may think he’s uncomfortable, but he might actually be content in his little nest.
  • Your child asks for a bed.
     If he’s old enough, then go ahead and take the leap.
  • Your child is learning how to use the toilet.
    If you think it’s time for the switch just because you’re toilet training, you might want to hold off – it’s often a long while before bedtime dryness happens, even in children who are accident-free during the day.
  • A new sibling is on the way.
    If your little one loves his cot, ousting him to make room for the newcomer can just add stress for everyone. If you feel the time is right and it coincides with a big change, like a new sibling, it’s best to make the switch two months or more before your newborn arrives.

The key to success is to be patient and to give your child time to adjust to the change 

What kind of bed should my child move to?
If you don’t want to move your child straight to a regular-sized bed, there are a few other options. You might want to look into toddler beds, which are small, low and child-sized. They have guard rails on the sides and come in playful designs your child might like. Other parents choose to have their child lie on a mattress or futon on the floor, giving them a bed they can’t fall out of.

Keep in mind that bunk beds aren’t considered safe for children under six years of age.

How do we make the change?
Which approach is best for you will depend on your reasons for making the change, your child’s personality, and the size of her room. Here are a few options: 

  • ‘Big-kid bed’ hoopla
    Some children enjoy having an official ‘big-kid bed’ party. You can set up the bed, decorate the room together and add a few sleep-related gifts like special books and stuffed animals.
  • One step at a time
    Take the mattress out of the cot and place it on the floor where the cot was – this gives your child the same sleeping surface and almost the same view of the room that she’s used to. Keep the same bedding and cot toys. After a while, replace the mattress with her new bed in the same place.
  • The gradual introduction
    Set up the new bed in the same room with the cot. Let your child play on the bed and nap there, and do your bedtime reading in the new bed. This will help your child get used to the bed gradually, without a sudden change to her environment.

Patience and encouragement
No matter which path you choose, be patient. Big steps toward growth often happen in spurts, and your child might be excited to welcome the change one day, but be wary of it the next. Maintain your nightly bedtime routine and help your child develop a positive association with the new bed – after all, she’ll be sleeping there for many years to come!

Excerpted with permission from The No-Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley.