There is no rule for changing the cot for a bed (either a single or a special bed for small children, the so-called junior bed or mini bed). Most children end up making this transition sometime between one and a half and three and a half years old.
If you have no reason to make the transition, you can wait until your child is close to 3 years old. Sometimes, before that, the child is not ready and ends up finding it strange. In some cases, however, the change is necessary: when the child no longer fits in the cot, or is too fussy and decides to jump over the bars, when he or she is more than 90 cm tall or when there is a baby brother or sister on the way.
He jumped over the crib railing. Do I need to change him now?
The concern about children jumping out of their cots is legitimate, as the adventure can result in ugly falls. Just be careful not to make impulsive decisions. It is not because the child has managed to escape from his cot one day that he needs to be transferred to a bed the next.
He may also not yet be ready to sleep in a bed – after all, he will have the freedom to move around the house while everyone else is asleep, which also has its share of dangers. Before you make the move, make sure the cot footboard is in the lowest possible position. Remove anything that can serve as a “ladder” from the cot, such as protectors, stuffed animals, high pillows.
In some countries, there is even a special net cover to prevent the child from escaping from the cot (cot tent), but it is a product that can be dangerous, because the baby can roll up in the net.
Alternative solution: mattress on the floor
Baby rooms without a cot (sometimes from birth!) are becoming more common. They follow the Montessori principle of giving maximum independence to the child. So if you think your child could still fall out of their cot and hurt themselves, you could try putting the cot mattress on the floor, or a larger, single mattress.
This way, if your child rolls out of bed, they won’t be so scared. The experience doesn’t have to be permanent. You can keep the cot in the bedroom while you test the new solution.
I’m having another baby. Won’t he think that the baby has stolen the cot?
The arrival of a baby brother or sister is one of the main reasons to take the child out of the cot. Try to make the transition at least about two months before the baby is born. This way, your child will already be installed in the new bed and won’t think that the baby has arrived to steal his cot.
If the child is still very small, however, it may be worth considering another possibility: leave the transition until the baby is 3 or 4 months old, and in the meantime put him to sleep in a Moses or a removable cot.
Many parents end up regretting having taken the child out of the cot too early just because they needed to free him up for his little brother — it may be that borrowing another cot or using one of those travel cots will be less trouble for the family than making the transition before the time.
There are children who adapt quickly and without problems, proud of their “big kid’s bed“, but others have great difficulty. In this phase, the child is going through big changes — getting out of nappies, new challenges at school, etc. — and if a baby brother or sister is also coming along, he or she may get attached to things from when they were babies, including the cot. When the child has an older sibling, the transition is usually much easier because the child is dying to be like the brother or sister.
How to make the transition
Make the change a big deal, to be celebrated. You can take your child to choose new sheets, or encourage them to tell everyone that they have a new, “big boy or girl!” bed. One idea is to plan a special day, with an outing or even a party for the grandparents. If the cradle has to leave the room, plan an interesting outing while someone else does the moving (all in a lively atmosphere!).
There are special beds for small children (some cots turn into these beds, ask the manufacturer of yours). The advantage of the mini bed is that it is usually lower, preventing falls, and is cosier. But it lasts less, so it is not an essential item.
If the single bed that you already have at home is too high, you can put bars (there are easily attachable bars, attached under the mattress) and leave pillows or a duvet on the floor, or even put the mattress on the floor for a while.
Many parents like to put the bed in the room together with the cot, for a period, and wait for the child to manifest the desire to sleep there, usually starting with the afternoon nap. Until the big day comes when the child decides to definitively move to the new bed, and the cot can go.
If you don’t draw your child’s attention to the fact that he can get out of bed by himself, he may well call you when he wakes up instead of just getting up. Sometimes it takes a while to “catch on” to the freedom that bed represents. And when they do, you’ll have to be patient enough to take them back again and again until your child realizes that there’s no point in getting up at bedtime, because bedtime is bedtime.
I made the change, but he is not sleeping well. What happens now?
If your child is very upset about moving to the bed, try giving him a few more days, with plenty of encouragement. But if that still doesn’t help, maybe it’s time to give up and put him back in his cot.
Some children are simply not ready to leave the safety of the cot. If your child was sleeping well, and suddenly, after the change, begins to have difficulty falling asleep, getting up 500 times or crying and calling you, he wasn’t ready yet.
There is no shame in going back. Don’t get too deep into the issue or punish him. Sometimes you have to take a step back — something that also happens with unfolding.
Remember to take safety precautions
When your child can get out of bed on their own, they will have access to many things while the rest of the household is asleep. Before making the transition, make sure the room does not have any dangerous objects, medicines at hand, loose cupboards, windows without screens… Never underestimate your child’s capacity. You never know when will be the first time she will have the idea to drag a chair and reach the highest parts.
And the problem is not only in the bedroom. If your child does not sleep with the door closed, take the same precautions in the rest of the house, and preferably close access to the kitchen, because that is where most of the dangers are.
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