From cot to bed

Most children move from cot to bed sometime between 2 and 3½ years.

There’s no hurry, though. There are even one or two advantages to leaving your child in a cot if he’s happy there. For example, your child can’t fall out of the cot while he’s sleeping. And you can put off the cost of buying a new bed and bedding for a while longer.

It’s also best to wait until your child is emotionally ready to move to a bed and physically able to get in and out of the bed safely.

Sometimes the shift to a bed brings a few new bedtime battles, and you might want to choose when you deal with these.

Some reasons for moving from cot to bed

It might be time for your child to move to a bed if:

  • your child has started climbing out of the cot
  • your child is toilet training and you want her to be able to get to the toilet easily during the night
  • you have a new baby who needs the cot
  • you’ve decided to move your child out of your bed and into her own bed.

If you need advice, talk with your child and family health nurse.

If you’re moving your child into a bed to free the cot for a new baby, try to move your child either a few months before the baby is born or when the baby is a couple of months old. This way your child won’t feel that the move is because of the new baby, which could cause resentment towards your child’s new brother or sister.

Making the bedroom safe

When children move from a cot into a bed, they can also get out of bed more easily. This means they can do whatever they want in their bedrooms.

A safety check of the bedroom will help to prevent accidents. For example:

  • Install safety locks on windows, so the window can be opened only a little. Make sure the gap isn’t big enough for your child to climb through.
  • Wrap curtain and blind cords around cleats attached to the wall at least 1.6 m above the floor. Keep hanging mobiles out of your child’s reach. These things could strangle your child.
  • Use powerpoint covers. Ensure electrical appliances like heaters meet Australian safety standards. Keep them a safe distance from the bed so your child won’t trip or get burned or electrocuted if he gets up in the night.
  • Attach furniture or other heavy objects to the wall with brackets so they don’t fall on your child.
  • Keep choking hazards and anything poisonous out of the bedroom – for example, massage oil, medicines, cleaning fluids or small objects like batteries and coins.
  • Take away anything your child could climb on, like chairs and ladders.
  • Think about installing a safety gate in the doorway of your child’s room. Or you could shut the door at night, as long as you can still hear your child. Otherwise you’ll need to make sure the rest of the house is safe for your child as well, in case she gets up during the night.
You can read more in our article on home safety and in our illustrated guide to indoor safety.

Choosing a bed

When you move your child from cot to bed, you have a few options:

  • Put a cot mattress or a single bed mattress on the floor, rather than moving your child straight into a bed. This reduces the risk of your child falling out of bed and being injured.
  • Start with a toddler bed. Toddler beds are usually the same size as cots, and some cots even convert to toddler beds. They reduce the risk of your child falling out of bed and being hurt. And you can keep using your cot mattress and bedding.
  • Use a single bed. An advantage of a single bed is that it’ll last a long time, although a single bed increases the risk of injury from falls.

Making a safe move from cot to bed

Whichever cot to bed option you choose, some simple precautions and planning can help keep your child safe:

  • Keep the bed or mattress on the floor away from walls to reduce suffocation risk. Remember that pillows are also a suffocation risk for children under two years.
  • If you choose a single bed, use bed rails to stop your child falling out of bed.
  • Check the bed frame and the bed rails for gaps that your child could get stuck in. Make sure the rails and the bed frame fit tightly against the mattress. If there are lots of gaps, a mattress on the floor is a safer option until your child is older.
  • Keep the area on and around the bed or mattress clean and clear of soft toys, bean bags and anything else that might suffocate your child.
  • If your child wears a baby sleeping bag in the cot, think about whether you’ll keep using it once he’s sleeping in a bed. There’s a higher risk of falls and injuries when children wear baby sleeping bags in bed.

Helping your child settle into the new bed: tips

Here are some tips for making a successful change from cot to bed:

  • Tell your child how proud you are. After all, moving into a bed is an exciting step towards being a big kid!
  • Tell your child all about the plans to set up the new bed – and make sure she knows it’ll be fun.
  • Get your child to help you set up the new bed. If it seems like a fun idea, take him shopping to choose the bed or bedding. Let him watch while you move the furniture in the bedroom. Children feel happier if they’ve had a say in the move too.
  • Why not throw a big-bed party and celebrate the move to the big bed?

Using a new bedtime routine: tips

Moving into a big bed can be unsettling for your child. A new bedtime routine might ease the change:

  • Have ‘quiet time’ before bed. Pack away toys and prepare the bedroom as a place of quiet rest, rather than somewhere exciting.
  • Encourage your child to climb into bed if possible. Also, when children can pull up their own bedcovers and arrange pillows the way they want, they sometimes feel more settled.
  • Let your child take a blanket from the old cot – this might help her feel more secure and comfortable.
  • Say goodnight. Tell your child what you expect and what’s going to happen next. Say something clear and positive like, ‘It’s time to go to sleep – see you in the morning!’ This can make bedtime seem less scary.
Some children will get out of bed, just because they can! If this happens, help your child back to bed straight away. You can say something like, ‘It’s time to go to bed – see you in the morning’. Then leave the room. You might have to do this several times until your child stays in bed or settles.