So if you follow my social media pages, you will see that we have recently just experienced the #cottobed transition with George, so I thought this would be a great time to share my advice and tips from a personal perspective and also as a #sleepcoach of course!
When to do it…
I think I will start by writing about WHEN it's a good time to make this transition because this is really important.
I would recommend avoiding this change before the age of around 30 months. The reason for this is because before this age, little ones may not quite understand the concept of getting into bed and staying in bed to go to sleep - having said that, some littles cope with it absolutely fine but this is definitely something to be mindful of.
If there is any change upcoming such as starting preschool or nursery, a new sibling or a house move etc. I would suggest either making the move well before the change, or give things time to settle and do it after. Too much change for a little one can be quite unsettling for them.
If you are facing #sleepchallenges, it's not a great time to change things unless you feel the specific issue is being caused by the bars. For example, we decided to make the transition because George was shouting so loud in the mornings asking to get out and go to the toilet, that it was waking his sister. We knew he was at an age where it was appropriate to make the change and we knew that making the change would solve this problem. If your little one has always been an unsettled sleeper or sleep has recently become a challenge for whatever reason, it's probably not the right time. Aim to make the change when things are more settled.
You may find yourself in a position where you need to make the change earlier than 30 months if your little one is climbing out of the cot. There are so many options to resolve climbing out of a cot which I will save for another blog post but from a safety aspect, it's important that you eliminate any risk of injury and you could do this by changing to a bed.
Other things to consider…
Other things to consider when you think about this change in addition to the above are:
If it takes your little one a little while to fall asleep or they resist falling asleep, sometimes the cot can be a blessing and completely minimises the distraction of getting out and exploring.
If your little one has a really positive relationship with their warm, safe and cozy cot, do you NEED to move them into the bed? Making this change offers much more independence but that potentially comes with your little one feeling a bit vulnerable so ask yourself if it's necessary?
If it isn't broken, don't try and fix it - this is my advice when it comes to anything sleep related to be honest. IF your little ones sleep is working for everyone in the house, you may be best not interfering!
Where to start…
Some little ones cope well with changes and for others, it can take time. You know your toddler best so have a think about whether or not it's worth having a conversation with them before the change. If they like to be prepared for change, you could use a calendar that you count down daily to the big day - this isn't a good strategy to use if your toddler is naturally a little anxious. If you aren't sure whether it will go down well or not, you could try and use an open floor bed set up for them to nap on during the day as a little test!
As above, make sure you aren't exhausted when you make this change. Try and sort out any underlying sleep challenges before you do it rather than thinking changing the bed will solve it, often it doesn't and you could be faced with more of a challenge.
Make sure the bed is low to the ground with either a soft landing if they fall or a guard to stop them from rolling out - just be sure to follow #safesleep guidelines here.
Baby proof the bedroom as much as you can, make sure changing units and wardrobes etc. are screwed to the wall and remove any loose items that you wouldn't let them touch during the day, out of reach. You essentially want to turn the room into a giant cot and only having things in reach that you are happy for them to touch unsupervised.
Consider getting a #stairgate if they have free roam of the hallway. Some parents choose to put this on the toddlers door and some choose to put it at the top of the stairs. Personally we have ours at the top of the stairs so our little one can come to us if he needs us.
Calm and connection
Avoid the mindset of bedtime being about your child getting to sleep and shift it towards calm and connection being your main goal. Try and lose all expectations especially in the first few weeks of the change because it's highly likely your little one will want to do some exploring and challenge the boundaries. This is completely normal toddler behaviour. Give them time to adjust to their new sleep space and offer LOTS of reassurance if they need it. You may find that you need to be close by for them to fall asleep which you didn't need to do before and that's totally ok. You will not be creating bad habits. You are supporting your little one through a big period of change and encouraging confidence.
I hope you have found this post helpful and I wish you the very best of luck!
Please do reach out if you'd like further support with this transition.