Expert tips on transitioning from crib to ‘big’ bed

Sleep is a funny thing. For us, it's something we LOVE and high fives are furnished on whomever has clocked up the most hours of sleep the night before a big work day. But the wee ones in our lives seem to have a much more complex relationship with sleep, often battling against it (why baby, why?! it’s so good!). One of the big milestones in the world of snoozing is, of course, the transition from cot to big girl / boy bed. But it’s a decision that should not be taken lightly, as the wonderful Sleep Teacher Kristy (a certified child and infant sleep trainer) explains.

As a parent, you become so excited when your child reaches their next milestone, and moving into a big bed is just one of them. But did you know that if you make the transition from cot to big bed too soon, it can make a previously good sleeper, a not so good sleeper! Why? Well, this is because our toddlers don’t have any impulse control. So by trying to hold off as close to 2.5 - 3years of age can make the transition much more seamless. What I often find happens is after a couple of weeks of being in the big bed a younger toddler realises they can get out and with this comes bedtime battles of stalling bedtime, asking you to lay with them until they fall asleep and then waking through the night looking for you to come back and lay with them again. This starts to form a cycle of habits you did not have previously. This is why I recommend holding out until closer to 2.5 years at least.  Obviously, if your child is trying to climb out of their crib before this age, this is a different story and a safety issue. But there are ways to discourage this, you can always try a sleeping bag for your child this will discourage them from trying to climb out of the cot as they will find it hard to get their leg over the rail. Ensuring the crib mattress is lowered as soon as they are showing any sign of being able to move around the cot always helps too, as the crib rail is then above head height and they don’t notice that they can pull themselves up on the cot rail as quickly as they would if it was at eye level.

Some signs your little one may be ready for a big bed include:

  • They are being woken frequently due to the small size of the crib which is causing them to bump their head etc. 
  • They are still managing to jump out of the crib even though they have a sleeping bag on.
  • Will not sleep in their crib all of a sudden.
  • Asking you for a big bed and displaying an interest in one.
  • Is over the age of 3

Like I said earlier on, I completely get how exciting it is trying to your bub into a “big bed” but sometimes we need to look at the big picture and like they say, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. So unless your child is constantly getting out and they are putting themselves at danger then I really would hold out on the transition until they are old enough to understand your expectations of them staying in the bed. Its also so much more fun and rewarding getting a 2.5 - 3 year old involved in the process of getting a new bed as they are so excited to pick their own special doona cover and are usually pretty chuffed with themselves that they are in a big bed which is so lovely to see.