When should I move my child from a cot to a bed, and how?

There is no set time that you should get rid of your child's cot and put him in a bed, although most children make the move sometime between ages 18 months and three and a half.

Many parents switch their child to a bed when they feel he has outgrown the cot, but the arrival of another baby is one of the most common reasons to make the move. If you're having another baby, make the switch at least six to eight weeks before you're due. You want your older child settled in his new bed before he sees the baby taking over his cot. You could also delay the switch until the new baby is three or four months old. The newborn may spend those months sleeping in a bassinette anyway, and your older child will have time to adjust to the new baby, making the transition easier.

You may also think of changing to a bed when your child tries to climb or jump out of his cot. This may or may not be a good time to switch to a bed. You won't have to worry about your child hurting himself, but he will be able to move about during the night.

Lastly, if you're toilet training your child, you may want him to sleep in a bed because he will need to get to the toilet when necessary.

Some children will adjust easily to the change, while others will not. Every child is different. Your firstborn will be the one most likely to resist the transition. He may be very attached to his cot and it's likely that the switch will be made around the time that a new baby is coming. The change to sleeping in a bed will be just one of many changes in his life. It may also coincide with toilet training, starting child care and other pressures for him to "grow up". Later-born children often have an easier time as they want to be just like their older brother or sister. To a younger child, a cot may be "for babies."

To ease the transition, put the bed in the same place as the cot. Your child may find it soothing to continue to sleep with her old cot blanket, even if it is too small. Try throwing a "Big Bed" party. Ask your child to accompany you to the shop to pick out his new bed. Talk up the event a week in advance. On the big day, have a party and invite friends and grandparents. Your child may be so excited about getting a big bed that everything will go smoothly.

For some children, though, you won't need to make a special effort. They are ready to move to a bed and will relish this change in their status. No matter how prepared your child is to move to a bed, though, always put up a guardrail to prevent him from rolling over and falling out of the new bed.

Some parents find that they make the switch prematurely and it's disruptive for the whole family. If so, bring the cot back. Just be sure to present it as another exciting change, not as a step backward in development or a punishment. Your child will take her cues from you.

Lastly, remember that the switch from a cot to a bed is a milestone in your life, too. It's another sign that your baby is growing up. Reflect back to when you first set the cot up for your little one and then have a private celebration of your own.

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