One of the most common questions I get asked as a baby sleep consultant is "When should we move her into a big kid bed?"
My favourite answer to this is, “Later,” and there are a couple of reasons why I say that.
Number one is because there are so many other priorities when it comes to your baby’s sleep. Establishing a bedtime routine, creating opportunities for independent sleep skills, getting your baby accustomed to a schedule, are all things that should take place before you worry about moving him out of his cot
Believe me, it’s going to be a lot easier to make the transition once you’ve got a good, skilled sleeper on your hands.
The other reason I tell parents to wait as long as they can is because, unless you’ve got a new baby on the way and need to make some space in that cot, there’s just no reason to push it.
Toddlers will inevitably notice that they sleep in a different bed than their parents, or their older siblings, and will ask why.
Once they’ve shown some interest, and feel like they want to make the switch, I’m all for it. But don’t look at it as some kind of developmental stage that your child should reach at a predetermined age.
They’ll get there when they get there, and there’s no harm if it’s later rather than sooner.
I should actually throw in a little disclaimer here. If your little one has started the “escape artist” routine, and is climbing out of their cot in a dangerous way, there’s potentially some harm if they fall on their way out.
However, if they’ve got the skills to get out of the cot safely, (and some kids I know are exceptional at climbing out of their cot) then, again, I recommend sticking with the cot. .
One of the biggest reasons I see for parents moving their kids to a big kid bed, is because they’re hoping it will solve some existing sleep issues. Maybe baby’s gotten into a habit of wanting to climb into bed with Mum and Dad, or they’re suddenly waking up and demanding a glass of milk in the middle of the night. or settling to bed has become a nightmare.
So maybe a big kid bed would help them feel more grown up. Maybe it would give them a feeling of security and comfort.
It will not. Full stop.
In all my time as a consultant, and with all of the other consultants I network with, to my knowledge, none of us have ever seen bad sleep behaviour solved by moving baby to a new bed. (although I have seen posts on Facebook stating this has helped, I actually get lots of queries about good sleepers who are now up several times a night once moved to a toddler bed)
Now, I recognize that some of you are numbers people and you want an age, even if it’s just a guideline, so I would say 2½ is probably the earliest you want to implement this change. But again! That’s just a guideline, and later is better.
So, now that I’ve told you to wait as long as possible, how about those of you who have done that already, and are now making the switch?
The first thing you might notice is how quickly and easily your little one makes the transition. Your little one climbs into the new bed, loves the cool print on the new sheets, and sleeps happily straight through the night.
So maybe you’re in the clear! Or maybe you’re not.
There’s typically a honeymoon period with the big kid bed. Kids initially think they’re great, but then, after a couple of weeks, they start to wake up and leave their room in the middle of the night, asking to get into bed with mum and dad.
You may be tempted to comply with this request, but if it is not your long term goal then I would recommend to you set a limit around that and If your child starts leaving their room in the night, walk them back to their own bed.
The best deterrent I know for WBS, or Wandering Baby Syndrome, is to set the limit and then bring the limit, what happens if your child jumps in and out of bed all night what is the natural consequence for this? well this is a hard one for your child to understand, that you are super tired and unable to play with them the next day. So what I find useful - and this is age dependent - close the bedroom door all the way, and keep it closed for a full minute on the first offence. If baby leaves the room again, make it two minutes. Then five, and so on.
Again, regardless of how sweet the request is, or how easy it might seem to just flip back your covers and let your little one climb aboard, don’t give in if this isn't your long term goal or this process will drag out for weeks rather than a couple of days and/or you’ll be dealing with nighttime roaming for months.