When should you move from a cot to a bed?

The transition from cosy cot to big bed is significant in any toddler's life. Here's how to make it a positive move.

When you lay your tiny newborn in her cot for the first time, it’s hard to imagine that soon she’ll be a great bounding toddler, big enough for a ‘grown-up’ bed.

There are all sorts of reasons why parents decide to move their toddlers out of their cots and into beds: the impending arrival of a new sibling perhaps, your child’s tendency to break for freedom and plunge to the floor, or simply the fact that she’s suddenly just too enormous for it.

Here we help you decide when the time is right, and how to make the transition a smooth and happy one for the whole family.

The right time?

There’s no hard-and-fast rule for when you should move your toddler from cot to bed. Some children are happy to make the move at 18 months, others are content in their cots till they’re almost 3.

Lots of things will affect your decision, the size of your cot, how adaptable your child is and the dynamics of your family. Here are some of the signs that your tot is ready to say goodbye to her cot:

*She looks huge in it, and has to sleep all curled up to fit in, or often bangs herself on the bars.

*She tries to climb out by herself.

*She’s ready to embrace other aspects of being a big girl, such as potty training, eating by herself and walking rather than being in a buggy.There’s really no rush, so if you don’t think your child’s ready, then leave it for a while.

Go easy

Toddlers love familiar things, as they make them feel safe and secure. When we rouse slightly during our natural sleep cycle, which happens several times a night, our subconscious does a quick check to ensure our surroundings are as they should be, so that we can roll over and go back to sleep.

If your toddler senses that something isn’t quite right, she’ll find it much harder to nod off again. So it’s important to make the change to a big bed as stress-free as possible.

These ideas may ease the way:

*Introduce the idea gradually, talking about how she’s a big girl, and it’ll soon be time to say goodbye to her baby cot and get a lovely new bed.

*Make the new bed attractive Invest in a new duvet cover in her favourite colour, or featuring a beloved character. You could even involve her in choosing it.

*If your toddler is keen on the bed, then just go for it. But if she’s reluctant, leave the cot up for a while and let her play in the bed
for a few days before asking her to sleep in it. Then progress to daytime naps in the bed, finally dismantling the cot and going for full nights.

Which bed?

Cot bed
If you’ve got a cot bed, then the move is much more straightforward, you just take one side off and lower the base. It gets tricky if you’ve got another baby on the way, though. Do you buy another cot, or buy a bed, and make the cot bed back into a cot?

The other issue is bedding, normal duvets are too big, so you can either fork out for a cot-bed sized duvet and cover, or have a normal one drooping over one end.

Child bed
These are the same size as cot beds, so again you’ll need cot-bed bedding. They’re great for small rooms, though, and can be a good interim move if you’re planning on bunk beds for siblings later.

Bed guards
Some parents feel that their child should adjust to the dimensions of their new bed and lack of bars so that they don’t roll out after the first few nights. Others just can’t face the constant picking up and putting back into bed. So fold-down bed guards can be a really good solution.

On the move
Once your tot’s in a big bed, it changes things when you travel, too. Travel cots are bigger than normal cots, so she might be happy to carry on sleeping in one for a while, but sooner or later she’ll need her own bed on holidays. A great option is a Readybed. It’s an inflatable bed with a sleeping bag attached, complete with a pump. When deflated it fits into a really small carry bag. Perfect for going camping.

When not to make the move

When you’ve just moved house
Too many upheavals at once can make your toddler feel anxious, and could lead to disrupted nights. Let her adjust to her new home while enjoying the familiarity of her old cot. Once she’s settled in, you can introduce her gently to the idea of her new ‘big bed’.

If you’ve just had a new baby
Her whole life will change once she has a sibling, so your toddler will need familiar things around her, and a new bed could be one change too far. Also, turfing her out at the same time as the new baby arrives can make her feel she’s being replaced, or that the baby is taking her things. If you have time to move her into her big bed well in advance of the baby’s birth ? at least six weeks ? she’ll probably be much less possessive of her old cot.

If the gap between your children is small
Don’t rush your older child into a bed before she’s ready for it. It may seem like an extravagance to have two cots, but you don’t have to spend a fortune. Try Ikea Sniglar cot, £29.00 ikea.com, which is a great basic cot or you could choose to have a cot bed, which you can then change into a bed when she’s grown a bit older.

She’s starting a new nursery or other childcare
Again, if other parts of her life are changing, it will help to make your toddler feel safe if the place where she goes to sleep remains the same. Wait until she’s fully settled in to a new routine before making the change.