From Cot to Big Bed

By Nicolette Ferriera

CotToBigBedA personal challenge that I am facing at the moment is the question of when to put your baby in a ‘big bed’ for the first time. Not only when, but how?! The very idea makes me anxious, as our little Alex refuses to sleep anywhere but in his cot and with his blue ‘Smurf’ blankie. Do not try and get him to sleep in your arms and do not try to put him on a mattress on the floor – he ONLY sleeps in HIS cot!

I searched the web for some guidance and also spoke to Erica Neser, the author of Sleep Guide for Babies & Toddlers.

The ‘When’

Most articles or blog entries on the Internet emphasise that you shouldn’t be in too much of a hurry to put your baby in his first-time big bed. Closer to the age of three (when baby will have more emotional maturity and cognitive understanding ability), as opposed to as early as one year, seems to be ideal.

It is very important that you move your child to his first bed when he shows an interest in it and a readiness for this big step. A new baby on the way is NOT a good excuse to take your first baby out of his bed. A new arrival in the house could be an emotional experience for your toddler, and seeing this new ‘intruder’ taking over his cot might just be more than your little one can handle.

If you cannot spend money on buying (consider second-hand or borrowing) another crib, make sure your baby is settled into the big bed about 6-8 weeks before the new baby comes.

In her book Sleep Guide for Babies & Toddlers, Erica Neser agrees that parents should not be in a hurry to move their toddler out of his or her cot: “Let him be a baby a little longer if he wants. Besides, having him in a big bed can be a real hassle if he’s not quite ready.”

The ‘How’

Erica explains that the big move to a first-time bed should be accompanied with great excitement: “Make a song and dance about it. Tell your little one that he or she is such a big boy/girl now and can sleep in a bed just for big boys/girls. Let your toddler help you pick out their own bed linen.”

“It is very important that you put up a rail on the big bed so that your child is and feels safe. My two-year-old son slipped into the garden ‘to pick flowers for mummy’ late one evening, while dad and I were reading peacefully in the living room – the back door hadn’t been locked! You can also give your toddler a dim night-light and show him or her how to turn it on.”

Some More Tips

To ease the transition from cot to big bed, you can try putting your toddler’s new bed in the exact same place the crib used to be. Also, you could wait with a switch to grown-up sheets and use your child’s crib blankets, even if it is too small for the big bed – your child may find this soothing and comforting.

If the switch just isn’t working and your toddler remains upset, you might have made the change too soon. Bring back the cot. You could always try again later – just make very sure you do not present the move back to the cot as something your child did wrong and which ‘reduces’ him to a baby again. Do not let him feel he has failed at something.

Remember, as with all other milestones such as walking and talking, every child is different. It might seem a small adjustment to you, but it could be a really terrifying and intimidating change for your little man or girl. Remain understanding and loving and keep the ‘vibes’ around discussing the big bed optimistic!

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