Moving to a big bed

Making the transition from cot to big-kid bed can be difficult for both children and parents for many reasons. Your baby is growing up, and she can look very lost in that seemingly giant bed! Here's how to make the shift easier for everyone.

Moving to a big bed, away from the safety and security of the cot, can be a time of mixed emotions for your child. Because of this, she needs your help in making it a success. There's no set time when your child should start sleeping in a bed instead of in a cot, but you'll probably consider it when she's around two years old (give or take a few months).
     Pick a time when she's settled and comfortable and no other big changes are taking place. It wouldn't be ideal to move her straight after the arrival of a new baby in the house. If she felt vulnerable, she might view the transfer as a punishment rather than a bonus.

1.   Prepare the way
Talk about the move before it happens and approach the topic of moving from her cot carefully. Suggest that now she's a big girl she needs a big bed, just like a grown-up. Make sure you look happy about it when you say this so she knows you have a positive attitude to the change. Let your child lie on your bed, and encourage her to go under the covers on her own. This will prepare her emotionally for the transition.

2.  Do it together
Get your child involved. If you are buying a new bed for her, once she's used to the idea of having a big bed, take her with you when you go to choose it. Make it a special treat for her and have fun on the day choosing her new bed and bed covers with great care. Make sure she's involved in decision making. If you intend to use a bed that belonged to an older sibling, make a big fuss of cleaning it and preparing it for her. She'll feel more motivated if she's involved in these activities.

3.  Changing rooms
The bed is probably larger than her cot and takes up more space, so changing to the new bed is also a good time to rearrange the bedroom in other small ways, such as moving a bookcase or hanging new curtains. Don't overdo the changes; however, as too many could unsettle her. She'll be very excited just watching the bed arrive and being assembled. If the room is big enough, you could leave the cot and bed in it, so she can sleep in the cot but become more accustomed to the idea of the bed.

4.  Make her safe
Check safety and security. She's used to the support of the cot sides so she'll expect to roll against a strong, solid side-rail. In her sleep, she may roll off the bed. Make sure she has a small side rail with legs that slide under the mattress to prevent her falling out. Ensure it's securely attached to the bed. If the bed isn't against a wall, put one of these rails on either side. Show your child that the safety rails keeps her safe.

5.  Easy does it
Surround her with familiar items. Sleeping in this new bed will seem strange to your child. If it helps, make the transition smoother by giving her some of the bed covers from her cot to use in her big bed. She might want her familiar cot blanket spread over the new covers, or she may prefer her old pillow and pillowcase, let her have them. These familiar props may
be what she needs to feel comfortable.

6.  Take your time
Pick the first night with care. Be prepared to stay in the room with your child the first few nights, reading a book as she falls asleep. She may want you to do this for the first week or so until she feels secure enough to fall asleep in her new bed on her own. Give her time to adjust. Don't be surprised if, 10 minutes after she's been put into the new bed, she climbs out and returns to her cot. This often happens and it's nothing to be concerned about. If you're in the room when she does this, gently lead her back to the new bed, give her lots of reassuring cuddles and stay in the room with her for a while. Be prepared to repeat this process again and again until she settles in her big bed. Your persistence will pay off within two or three weeks at most.

7.  Stay firm
If she protests, stay calm. She may start crying as she pleads to be allowed to return to her cot, saying that she hates her big bed. Reassure her that she'll be safe and comfortable there. Point out that she'll soon get used to it and remind her that it's not all that different from her cot if she's using some of the same bedding anyway. Part of this may stem from her being tired and cranky, so take it with a grain of salt. Surround her in the new bed with as many cuddly toys as she wants. Your aim should be to make the big, new bed more attractive and comfortable for her to spend the whole night in.

8.  Boost her confidence
Praise successes. No matter how unsettled she is when she first tries to rest in the new bed, she'll eventually fall asleep in it. When she wakes up in the morning after sleeping the whole night through, give her a big hug and let her see how pleased you are with her achievement. She'll feel very proud
of herself, and your praise will make her more positive about the change. Every small success boosts your child's self-confidence further, making it easier for her to fall asleep on her own the next night.

9.  One last step
Say goodbye to the cot for good. Once she's comfortable in her new bed, put the cot away in your garage or, if you don't intend to have more children, give it to friends. Unless you're expecting baby visitors, there isn't much point in leaving it indefinitely in your child's room, but let her know in advance that it will be going. Some children like to help dismantle their cot and watch it being taken out of the room.

10. And finally...
Your child may prefer the cot to be removed in her absence. Don't ask her what you should do - decide for yourself what's best for her and then carry it out. She may not even notice that the cot has gone because she's become so used to her new big bed by this time.



As seen in OHbaby! magazine Issue 2: 2008

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