This can be a very daunting milestone for many parents and one that should be met with caution! I have some top tips to help this transition go as smoothly as possible for both parents & toddler!
1. I advise parents to purchase a cot bed when they are preparing for the arrival of a new baby. They tend to be slightly larger & when it comes time to transition your child to a bed style sleeping environment you can start with taking the side off their cot. This way you are retaining a familiar sleeping environment for your child with simply the side removed. Often taking things in small steps rather than big chunks will be easier for everyone to manage.
2. I recommend purchasing a portable bed rail that can be put on the side of the cot bed when the cot side is taken off. This gives the security that they will not fall out of the bed during the night but also allows them to be able to get in and out of the bed safely too. It also will give your child that sense of security and boundaries that the cot gave while they slept.
3. My top tip to all toddler parents is to leave your child in their cot until they are 3 or older. A child of 3 will be better able to manage the lack of boundaries that moving out of a full cot brings. If you will be more likely to have a smooth transition with the change in sleep environment with a 3-year-old than you would with a younger child.
4. If you are experiencing difficulties with your baby or toddlers sleep, a move to a cot is unlikely to solve them, in fact, they are likely to make them worse. I would advise working on the issues at hand and ironing them out while your child is still in a full cot. Once you have things nice and settled and your child is 3 or older then I would consider moving things on as I have described above.
5. If you have made the decision to make the change start talking to your child about it a few weeks beforehand. Nothing too heavy, just simple chat. I suggest to parents to avoid referring to ‘staying in bed all night’, ‘sleeping all night long’ and ‘getting up during the night’. Simply talk about them being a big boy or girl now and soon they will have a bed that is more like Mum and Dads (or their older sibling if they have one!). If you are taking the side off the cot talk about that with them. By gently preparing them it won’t be as big a shock to them when it comes.
6. Be prepared on the night that you are making the transition – I suggest a Friday night! Have your little ones bed ready and everything you need in place. Ward off any visitors and focus in on keeping things nice and settled at bedtime.
7. I suggest bringing bedtime forward by 15 minutes on the night you are making and allow your child some time to get to know their new sleep space. Read books, have some quiet playtime.
8. Go through your bedtime routine as you normally do. Again, this is to make things as familiar and settled as possible. Read your usual books, tell your normal stories, sing the songs you love!
9. When it comes time to leave your child's room and turn out the light proceed as you normally would when they were tucked up in their cot. If demands start coming to reassure your child and continue as you would to leave the room. The important thing to remember is that you are setting boundaries for the future and if you now allow new habits to sneak in around your child's bedtime and settling to sleep they could be around for a long time.
10. In the early days if your child is getting out of bed and coming out of their room I would advise using a technique called Silent Return. This technique is highly effective at setting the boundaries around a new sleeping arrangement like this one. Reassurance your child the first time they leave the room that it is bedtime and that the need to go back to bed. Return them to their bed silently and keep repeating this until your child goes to sleep. Repeat this for any night time wandering! On the first few nights, this can take some time, particularly with a child who is younger than 3, however with consistency sleep will come.
Best of luck with the transition and check out @babogue_sleep on Instagram for how this went for me with my son Patrick when he was 3. You’ll find it in the Big Bed section of my highlights.
Erica Hargaden is a certified Child Sleep Consultant, mum to 3 children and runs Babogue Paediatric Sleep Solutions to help bring the gift of sleep to as many families as possible. For more information check out her active Instagram @babogue_sleep or see www.babogue.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call +353 86 8260887