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Switching to a Big Kid Bed

Updated: Nov 7, 2021

One of the most common questions a sleep consultant is asked is “When should we move to a big kid bed?”

My answer to this is ‘later,’ and there are few reasons why I say that.

The number one reason is because moving your child to a big kid bed is not your number one priority. It is more important to firstly establish a bedtime routine, teach independent sleep skills, get your child accustomed to a schedule before you start worrying about moving him out of his cot.

Trust me, it’s going to be a whole lot easier to make the transition to a big bed once you’ve got a good, skilled sleeper on your hands.

Another reason to wait is, unless you have another baby on the way and you need to use the cot, there is just no reason to push it. If you go too early, then you risk the process going sideways.

Eventually toddlers will notice they sleep in a different type of bed (a cot) than their parents or older siblings and ask why.

Once they’ve shown interest and feel as though the want to make the switch, I’m all for it. I just don’t want parents to look at it as a developmental stage that your child should reach by a particular age.

Each child will get there when they get there, and there’s no harm if it’s later rather than sooner.

However, I am throwing in a disclaimer here. If your little one is anything like my son Rory, an escape artist, and is climbing out the cot in a dangerous way, you need to make the move. If there’s potential, they will cause harm to themselves if they fall, unfortunately you have no choice but to make the transition into a big bed

If they have the skills to get in and out the cot safely (and some children I know are exceptional at climbing out of their cots) then I once again recommend sticking with the cot.

One of the most common reason I see parents moving their kids into a big bed is because they hope it will solve existing sleep issues. Maybe baby has gotten into a habit of climbing into bed with Mum and Dad or is suddenly waking up in the middle of the night demanding milk.

So, they think that maybe a big bed would help them feel more grown up. Maybe it would give them a sense of security and comfort.

It will not. Full stop.

During my time as a consultant, and with all the other consultants I network with, to my knowledge, none of us have ever seen poor sleep behaviour solved by moving a child to a new bed.

Now, I understand some of you are numbers people and want an age, even if it’s a guideline, so I would say 2.5 years of age is probably the absolute earliest you want to implement this change. Please know, this is just a guideline and later than this age is a much better option.

Okay, so now I’ve told you to wait as long as possible, how about those of you who have waited and are now making the switch?

The first thing you may notice is how quickly and easily your little one makes the transition. Your little one is so excited to climb into their new bed, loves the print on their super cool new doona set and sleeps the whole night through.

Brilliant, maybe you’re in the clear! Or maybe you’re not.

There is typically a honeymoon period that comes with the move to the big kid bed. Kids initially think they’re great, but then after a couple of weeks the novelty wears off. They start to wake in the middle of the night and leave their room, sometimes asking to get into bed with Mum and Dad.

When you’re tired and just want your child to go back to sleep, you may be temped to comply with this request. I strongly suggest you set your boundaries early and you walk your child back to their room, tell them it’s not allowed and let them know what the consequence will be if they do it again.

The best consequence for ‘Wandering Child Syndrome’ is to close the bedroom door all the way, and keep it closed for a full minute on the first offence. If your child leaves the room again, make it two minutes. Then three, four and so on.

Regardless of how sweet the request is, or how easy it might be to just flip back your doona cover and let your little one climb aboard, don’t give in. You really need to make it clear from the beginning that it is not allowed, or else you’ll be dealing with night-time roaming for months to come. Sometimes years!!

Contact our sleep consultant today to book your free introductory consultation.


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