At What Age Should You Move a Baby from a Cot Bed to a Toddler Bed? Tips for Transitioning a Baby to a Toddler Bed
Babies should sleep in a cot bed (or a “crib”, as referred to by Americans), but once the baby gets older, they should transition to sleeping in a toddler bed. Toddler beds are often considered a transitional bed for infants, as they are bigger than a cot and smaller than a standard single bed. But when should you move a baby from a cot bed to a toddler bed?
You should move your baby from a cot bed to a toddler bed between the ages of 1 and 2 years old, when they are close to 35 inches tall. This will prevent them from jumping over the side of their cot bed and potentially endangering themselves.
Some toddlers are especially enthusiastic and may try to get out faster (in which case, they should switch to a toddler bed), whereas less adventurous ones will not start climbing out at all. If your child is comfortable in their cot bed and they aren’t trying to climb out, then it's fine to let them sleep in their cot past the age of 2—as long as you're mindful of them. For more information on when to move your child to a toddler bed, see this article by Laura Broadwell for Parents.com.
This article aims to highlight the differences between cot beds and toddler beds, and to give some tips for transitioning a baby from a cot bed to a toddler bed.
Differences Between Cot Beds and Toddler Beds
Cot beds are intended for newborn babies, so they are designed to give the baby maximum protection while sleeping. Typically, Cot beds have guard rails on all sides and are designed to keep your baby inside. You might enjoy these tips on using a cot bed from birth onwards.
In some cases cot beds might feel too large for your baby, we have some tips on making cot beds feel smaller here.
Toddler beds are compact beds that are approximately 140 cm x 70 cm, compared to a standard 90 cm x 190 cm single bed. Cot beds such as this one can be converted to toddler beds and even day beds as your child gets older. Toddler beds tend to be lower to the floor and have less fencing to protect children from falls and bumps. Safety rails can be installed to ensure full protection and peace of mind while also giving your child the freedom to travel in and out of bed as they want. Read about how to assemble a cot bed here.
Toddler beds are usually less expensive than a full size bed, but they are crucial to helping your child develop good sleeping patterns and safety when they start climbing or crawling out of their bed. Some toddler beds will also use the crib mattress, which means that you can use the original mattress and move it with your son or daughter as they develop.
How To Transition a Baby from a Cot Bed to a Toddler Bed
Based on the information above, you may have decided that it is time to move your child from a cot to a toddler bed. However, you may not be sure how to make this major transition.
To transition a baby from a cot bed to a toddler bed, follow these steps:
- Step 1 - Take off the cot railings and put the cot mattress on the floor in the same place for a couple of days, or a week.
- Step 2 - After a few days, put the toddler bed in the same spot that the cot was in with one railing off, and carry your toddler to their new bed. Then, read books on their new bed for a while before having them sleep in it.
- Step 3 - Make sure to tuck your toddler in when they go to sleep, and make sure they know that you want them to sleep in the bed.
- Step 4 - When your toddler gets out of bed, take their hands and bring them back to bed quietly and comfortably, without any eye contact or interaction.
- Step 5 - Repeat this routine regularly for at least 3 weeks, or until a new sleeping pattern is formed.
- Step 6 - Take off the remaining railings so that the transition to the toddler bed is complete
Have a relaxed and calming pre-bedtime schedule established before you make the transition. It isn't a good idea to transition your child to a toddler bed when they are being potty-trained, when you are preparing to move to a new home, or when a new sibling is on the way.
Having this big change occur along with other changes may put more stress on you and your child. If you’re expecting another baby, transition your toddler to their new bed at least 2 months before or after their new sibling arrives. For more information about how to transition your child to a toddler bed, see this article from Today's Parent.
- How do you store a crib mattress once your baby transitions?
- Cot bed accessories and why you need them
Problems You Could Face When Transitioning a Baby to a Toddler Bed
Some problems you may face when transitioning a baby to a toddler bed include: your child may cry at night, wake up in the middle of the night and come to you, or get upset when you are trying to put them to sleep.
Your child may come to your room because they may discover that they have more freedom when it comes to bedtime. They will likely get out of bed at times when they should be asleep, and they may wake up and come find you right away. If your child gets out of bed frequently, lead them calmly back to their room and tell them that they should stay quietly in bed and fall asleep alone.
Your child may cry because they don’t want to sleep. Without bed rails, it may be hard for them to understand the difference between awake time and sleepy time. If your child cries and becomes sad about moving from a cot bed to a toddler bed, here are some tips to help them with the transition:
- Give your child the ability to make choices - but don’t let them decide when they will go to sleep. For example, let them choose which book they will read at night, or which toy they will sleep next to.
- Don’t get upset with your child. Maintain the ground rules and your child’s bedtime routine—it will be easier for them that way.
- Reduce the number of your child’s daytime naps, or make them shorter. That way, your child will be more tired at bedtime, and much less likely to cause a fuss.
- Cuddle them from the side of the bed but don't pick them up. Explain lovingly that it is bedtime, and that they must lie down and go to sleep. You can also lie down with them, and leave the room once they’re asleep.
For additional tips and suggestions for dealing with problems at bedtime, see this article from Parenting Science by Gwen Dewar, Ph.D.