When you're a parent, there’s something really comforting about knowing your little one is safely contained within a crib or cot while they sleep. As your baby grows, so too does their curiosity about the world. With this comes a penchant for putting everything they find in their mouth, touching, poking, and generally making their presence known in the form of various experimental shrieks and sounds.
Unsurprisingly, transitioning toddlers from a cot to their first ‘big bed’ is a major transition for both parent and child. Maybe just the thought of it makes you a little tearful or anxious. However it makes you feel, it’s important to remember that it’s totally natural and normal to worry about big changes like this. Moving your child into their own bed is a massive milestone, and comes with its own challenges.
With this in mind, we’ve put together a few tips to help you discern when the time is right for your child, and how to make it as smooth as possible for all involved.
While this often varies, between the ages of 2-3 ½ is often regarded as the ideal time to transition. Most importantly, it’s at this age range that your little one becomes more mentally aware of change, and is at the most appropriate developmental stage to process it.
Ultimately, whether you have to make the switch sooner due to your baby outgrowing their cot, or would rather leave it later, the decision comes down to you as a parent and what you feel is best for your child.
Just to make things even more complicated, toilet training often tends to coincide with this big milestone. A major milestone in its own right, deciding when to toilet train requires its own considerations.
For most parents, it’s easier to opt for one change at a time to limit stress to their child’s routine. Depending on where your little one is at, gauge whether it would be more beneficial to begin potty training, or make the switch to a big bed first.
There are benefits to both. Making the cot to bed transition once they’ve conquered toilet training can be a great way to reward their efforts and tie up that chapter by offering a sense of independence in the form of a fun new sleep space. Meanwhile, some parents decide to move their toddler into a big bed before toilet training as it can make the potty more accessible to them.
As always, one size doesn’t always fit all, and it’s important to do what you feel is best, and meet your little one where they’re at.
If you do opt to make the sleep space switch before getting started with toilet training, ensure to stock up on 2-3 mattress protectors for their sleep space to ensure you’re covered for any little accidents. We always recommend having back-ups!
Acknowledge that this transition is not only a big deal for your little one, but that it’s also a major emotional milestone for you, as well.
The move from cot to bed comes with a lot of bittersweet feelings for parents, as it can be hard to let go of them being so small, whilst also being coupled with a sense of pride to see them growing up and into their independence.
Try not to compare yours or your little one’s journey with those of other children and parents you know, as doing so can often cause stress and frustration if your paths don’t align. Remember that each family’s milestones are going to be different, and that’s okay. Follow your intuition and you can't go far wrong.
Try letting your little one have some input when it comes to bed sheets and duvet covers. It’s a great way for them to be able to express a little personality and make the space their own.
When choosing your sheets and covers, be sure to opt for natural materials that will be soft and gentle against your little one’s skin. Our organic cot & cot bed fitted sheets are perfect for your little one from the moment they begin sleeping in their cot bed, to when you decide to take down the bars and open up the sleep space.
If you’ve opted for a cot bed, depending on the style or model you’ve chosen, you could attach toddler rails to offer a further sense of comfort and security, as well as peace of mind for yourself if your little one likes to wriggle in their sleep.
Sleep accessories such as night lights, or glow in the dark stickers and stars for the ceilings and walls can also be a fun way to set your little one up for success. A special ted or cuddly to join them on their journey through toddlerhood in the big bed won’t go amiss, either. Providing comfort and cuddles for when you’re not around.
Another reason this transition can be especially nerve-wracking for parents is the thought of their precious child feeling out their new-found freedom by exploring the house at night. When planning the transition, consider whether you feel comfortable leaving them unsupervised at night or in the morning.
If the answer here is no, hold off on the transition until you’re comfortable. In the meantime, begin toddler-proofing and decluttering. Consider installing a monitor if you don’t have one already, and set up baby gates in front of staircases and other rooms.
If you’ve tackled toilet training prior to the transition, consider including a potty near the bed. This way, should they need to go in the night, they can avoid wandering down a dark corridor to the bathroom and any scares or accidents that could pose. This way, you’re also encouraging independent use of their potty.
It’s perfectly normal to expect an element of sleep disruption when your little one first makes the switch. A period of adjustment is to be expected as they adapt to their new bed. They may take longer to settle to sleep at bedtime. Remember that this is all part of the process, and allow them time to settle into it.
If your little one has sleep issues before making the transition, perhaps consider delaying the process, as this may mean that it isn’t yet the right time for them to face more disruption. Once your toddler is comfortable with their sleep routine, and is better at sleeping through the night, they may find the transition to their big bed much more smooth.
All toddlers are different. Some may like to wander or pay you a visit, while others will take to their new sleep space almost immediately.
It can be a frustrating time, but remember that with all the changes going on at this stage, it’s normal for them to need the extra support to adjust. Try to leave the room just before they fall asleep if you can, but don’t put too much pressure on yourself if that proves difficult.
Take each day as it comes, and don’t beat yourself up if they need you in the room to settle for longer, to begin with. Take the time to read them their favourite bedtime stories, and make a routine out of tucking them in under their new bed covers and helping them enjoy and embrace the change.