Expert Opinion

Transitioning your toddler to a big bed

All too often, I see parents move their beautifully sleeping toddler from their cot to a ‘big kid bed’. This usually occurs around their second birthday and oftentimes, this may cause your toddler – and your – sleep schedule to become a thing of the past.
A lot of the pressure to transition your toddler from a cot will come from society, family, and of course, the pressure of another baby on the way! But, I am here to tell you, If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. Your toddler won’t be in a cot forever and if they are sleeping beautifully, leave them to it and if another baby is on the way, you might just be better off buying a second cot. 
So when is the perfect time to move your toddler to a big bed then? I usually suggest two reasons to move:

  1. If they physically no longer fit in the cot
  2. If they are consistently climbing out of the cot 

Young toddlers can struggle with verbal boundaries (i.e., “make sure you stay in bed”). This, coupled with their own lack of impulse control can mean that being able to get out of bed and walk around whilst they are meant to be sleeping is just too enticing. 
Ideally, the move to the big bed will happen when they are closer to 3/3.5 years old, when they are great at understanding direction. 
As you prepare to move your toddler to a big bed you can consider the following things: 

  • Popping a gate at the door to their bedroom. They are used to being in a cot that has walls and physical boundaries, so a gate can provide a sense of security, but it also means no midnight walkabouts – a safety aspect to consider.
  • Get them involved in choosing linen and decorations for their room. Market their new bed in a positive light and really sell it to them! Discuss your reasonable expectations, and have some practice too. For example, if they are still napping, perhaps their nap can be in the bed so they can ‘practice’ sleeping in it for a few weeks. Keeping the cot in the room for a while is also a great idea if they do struggle to stay in their bed – the cot is there as back up.
  • Grab a bed rail so they can’t roll out, and place a soft landing next to the bed in case they do!
  • No need to take them out of their sleeping bags either. Many toddlers don’t have the ability to pull the doona up over themselves until they are closer to 4/5 years old, so you do need to make sure that they aren’t going to wake overnight because they are cold.

My overall message is there should be no pressure to move your toddler if your current situation works for you and your family. If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it!

About the author

Lisa is the founder of Cherish Your Sleep, Co-Regional Director (Australia/Pacific) of The Association of Professional Sleep Consultants, an experienced certified baby/child sleep consultant and a mother to 3 young children.
She has always loved children and has worked in the industry for over 20 years as a qualified child care worker, working primarily with children aged 0 – 3yrs.
A successful outcome is not only good for the parents and children, but also giver Lisa a sense of satisfaction and happiness – there’s nothing better than hearing from a parent who finally got their first full night sleep since having a child.
Becoming a mum and meeting and seeing other mums struggle with their babies and children’s sleep made Lisa really want to reach out and help. She doesn’t see that there is a one size fits all to helping families – sleep is almost like a Puzzle – you need all the pieces in place to achieve the full picture and those pieces are what she shares with families.
Lisa uses a holistic approach to sleep, focusing on emotional wellbeing of families and ensuring the parent child connection in not only maintained, but enhanced. She knows how easy it is to become overwhelmed and frustrated, so it’s her passion to help find solutions that will work for you, your baby and the rest of your family.