moving from cot to bed

A step-by-step guide to moving your toddler from the cot to a bed

When is the best time to move a toddler from a cot to a bed?

Moving from cot to a bed marks a significant milestone in your toddler’s development.

There is no set time that is right to move a child.

Often the decision is prompted by them climbing out, or you need the cot for a new baby.

If your child is ready to come out of nighttime nappies, they will need to move to a bed, so they can use the potty or toilet. 

Most children move out of the cot and into a bed somewhere between the ages of two and three and a half. If they are happy in the cot, it is big enough for them, and they’re still in nappies, there is no reason to move them.

If you are moving your toddler out of the cot to make room for a new baby, leave a few weeks between moving your older one out and the younger one in. 

babies plying

Making the move

Explain to your child that they are going to sleep in a big bed and let them help you move the cot from the room and put the new bed up.

Or if they are in a cot bed, let them be involved in converting it to a toddler bed. 

Involve them in choosing their bedding and any other bed-related objects such as a cup for their bedside water. Allowing them to take ownership of their new bed will give them positive sleep associations around it.

Make it fun!

During the day, before your child sleeps in the new bed themselves, encourage a game where they put their toys into the new bed. Leave the room and let the toys go to sleep alone. Then praise the toys for lovely sleeping in their bed! Through this little play, they will receive the subtle message that you will be happy if they do the same. 

kid from from a cot to a bed

Other changes you can make

If there are any other changes that you’d like to make, such as getting rid of their dummy or their white noise device, this is your opportunity!

It is also a good time to drop their bedtime bottle if they’re still having one.

A change in environment can help with a behaviour change or a change in routine. If you’ve been used to staying beside them as they fall asleep in their cot, this could be a perfect opportunity to change that!

If they usually wear a sleep bag, you can replace it with a toddler duvet, or sheet and blanket. 

They can also now have a small flat pillow if you like. However, from a physiological point of view they don’t really need one.

Get rid of the cot

Avoid keeping the old cot in their room if you can, as this can cause confusion and night-time bed swapping. If their room is the only space for the cot, fill it with their stuff and use it as a toy box. This is unless the cot is being used for a younger sibling!

Keep everything as simple as possible and don’t give too many choices at night-time. This helps toddlers cut down on bedtime procrastination, tears and delay.

Putting them into their new bed

On the evening of the new bed change, keep up your usual, reassuring bedtime routine before saying goodnight to them just as you normally do. Don’t expect any changes, and if you can demonstrate by your manner that all is as normal, your child is more likely to feel ok about the new bed.

Leave the room on a very positive note, even if they do seem to be a bit unsure, over excited or very wakeful. If they don’t want you to leave, tell them that you will be back very soon to check that they are cosy. Return to them shortly afterwards and praise them for being in bed. [If they are still in it!] Only stay for a few moments before leaving again, “I’m going to wash my hands now [for example] but I’ll be back in a minute.” 

If they get out of bed

If they get out of bed and come to find you, it is very tempting to laugh or hug them, as they will look so cute. But if you do this, they may keep on doing it to get the lovely feedback and entertain you. Quite understandably, they will then be upset and confused when you are no longer finding it funny.

It is better to show them that you are surprised [not angry] that they are up. Quickly and quietly take them back to bed and then, give them the good feedback and praise them warmly. 

Leave again even if they are not happy about it but reassure them that you’ll be back.

If they don’t stay in bed

If they don’t go back to bed, go into their room and close the door behind you. Stand with your back to the door, facing your child. Tell them just once to go to bed and then wait quietly until they move towards the bed. Don’t get sidetracked or involved in any delaying requests. If they ask for more stories/cuddles/food, you can respond with, “We’ll do that/see to that/get that/you can tell me about that…….in the morning.”

It might take them a long time, but they will go back to bed if you wait quietly. Don’t repeat the instruction, but you can say, “I’m waiting, my love.” Then when they show even the slightest signs of going back to bed, praise them warmly. This will encourage them and let them know that you are proud of them. 

 If you’re in a couple, it’s a good idea for both of you if possible to alternate going in and settling/praising them. This is to reinforce the message that even though their bed has changed, the “sleep rules” are the same.

Safety gates

If your child continues to not stay in bed, and you are worried about them wondering about at night, you could fit a safety gate to their bedroom door. Introduce it in a positive manner, “This is your gate, to keep you safe!”

It is better to have a safety gate than closing the door and not letting them get out.

You will also need to have a dim light to keep them safe if they DO wander in the night. Choose one with a red glow which will not limit their sleep hormone [melatonin] production.

If they wake and come to you or call for you during the night, help them back into bed as you did at the beginning of the night. Go to them every few minutes if they are upset.

If they keep getting up or are standing at the gate, take them back to their bed each time. Try not to be in the room as they go to sleep, as this is very likely to become a habit.

Moving from a cot to a bed

It might take them longer to get to sleep

You can expect it to take longer than normal for them to go to sleep, and this is natural because children like things to be predictable and familiar. The changes that you are making may make them unsure and wakeful at first. 

Don’t panic and stay in the room with them to speed things up. If you do this, they will think it needs to happen every night. Unless they are upset, it’s better to let them settle alone, even if it takes a long time.

Once the novelty has worn off, they will be able to fall asleep more quickly.

Praise them in the morning

In the morning, offer them lots of specific praise, for example, “You slept in your big bed!” “You went back to bed when I asked you to!” This will affirm the positive bed/sleep associations for your child.

Further help

If you’re struggling with toddler bedtimes or any other sleep problem, I am here to help you.

My books

My bestselling books give you the tools to help your baby and yourself get a good night’s sleep. They are full of expert, practical advice and case studies. Each book teaches you to create your baby or child’s personal sleep plan and is written in a clear and accessible style.

They are available in all formats from Amazon and other booksellers.

My Courses

My courses are a mix of video, graphics and easy-to-read text. They are a great way to access my expert help – from your phone, tablet or laptop. The courses have no expiry date and are updated frequently. The Gentle Sleep Course is very comprehensive, easy to dip in and out of and is very empowering.

The Early Waking Course is concise and accessible – it takes around an hour to complete and it may be the best hour you’ve ever spent!

Both of the courses contain helpful schedules for day and night time sleep.

My 1:1 Consultations

If you choose to book a one-to-one consultation with me, you will receive my expert advice along with an individual sleep plan for your child. You will be in very safe, experienced hands and I treat every parent and child with kindness. As a qualified health professional, I can help families with medical and developmental issues. My success rate is outstanding, with over 15,000 face-to-face sleep consultations with families from all over the world.

See my reviews on Trustpilot

Tags: No tags

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *