As any new parent knows, from the very first day your baby comes home with you, their sleep
is of the utmost importance since it affects everything from their moods to your sleep.
As your child grows from baby to toddler, establishing a good sleep routine remains just as crucial and one of the big questions facing parents is how to make the transition
from cot to 'big girl' or 'big boy' bed - without disrupting your little one's precious sleeping patterns.
According to research from Britain's bed specialist retailer Dreams
, 66 per cent of UK parents move their children from a cot
to a bed between the ages of two and three. While 40 per cent chose to move their kids into a toddler bed, 24 per cent opted to move them straight into an adult-sized bed and to skip the middle stage. According to a spokesperson from Dreams, while half found the move easy, the other 50 per cent felt that it was 'difficult,' 'time-consuming' and even 'impossible.'
More mobile toddlers, for example, may have already shown their readiness by climbing out of their cot
Sleep expert Mandy Gurney from the Millpond Children's Sleep Clinic
, which specialises in babies' and childrens' sleep issues, explains that while there is no set age to move your young child into their own bed, by the age of three, most children are ready to make the change.
According to Gurney, there are cues to watch out for that could speed up the transition - especially if it becomes a safety issue with toddlers trying to escape their beds
"More mobile toddlers, for example, may have already shown their readiness by climbing out of their cot," she says. "Other children, particularly those with older siblings, will have anticipated the change and begun to talk about having their own 'big bed.' And of course, if you feel your child is too big for their now-snug cot, you may choose to move them."
Lucy, mum of Eva, two, found that a family move spurred on her decision to move her little girl from cot to bed. "Moving house with our two-year old daughter encouraged us to make the transition from cot to toddler bed," she explains. "We chatted about her 'big girl's bed' in advance and involved her in setting it up and choosing fun farmyard bed linen, so that she was excited rather than upset by the change."
Gurney warns that some children will find the move from cot to bed more difficult than others; often this might be the case for first children who feel more attached to their cots (as opposed to subsequent children who are keen to follow their big brother or sister and move into the big bed).
She recommends preparing your child for the move by discussing it beforehand, giving a sense of occasion to the transition (putting pictures on the wall by the bed, choosing some new bed linen together) and maintaining the usual bedtime routine.
Some children love their newfound freedom and you may find they suddenly appear by your side after you've said goodnight or are shaking you awake in the small hours
"If your child is being moved out of her cot because you're expecting another baby, you can prepare her for the change," says Gurney. "Don't leave it until the last minute, take it down a few weeks before he is due and replace it with a bed in the same position, so that your older child is certain of what is happening, knows there is no going back and has time to adapt and identify with her own space."
Gurney advises discussing the change, mentioning friends who have transitioned to beds and showing pictures of big children in beds and small babies in cots to help explain. Talking through the new set-up is also helpful: Where will the new bed be? Where will you both sit for a bedtime story? What colour bedclothes will you pick out?
"Discussing this will help the child in the process of acclimatisation," Gurney adds. And if you haven't moved your older child into a bed before the birth of your new arrival, no worries - just leave it until after your child is used to their new sibling.
One thing to remember when you do decide to make the move is that putting your child to bed will no longer mean being able to snatch five minutes' of peace and quiet. "Some children love their new found freedom and you may find they suddenly appear by your side after you've said goodnight or are shaking you awake in the small hours," Gurney says.
Mum-of-two Karen, who has over 20 years' experience in the child care industry, found that since her son was in a bunk bed, her nine-month-old daughter was more interested in sleeping in the bottom bunk rather than her cot. "It was bye-bye cot, safety rail on the bed and gate on door. She never fell out of bed and she never escaped; however she did trash the bedroom every day."
The bonus of the safety gate barring the door means that your child will probably get up to less trouble in their child-proofed room than wandering through the house (and opening the fridge?) Or worse...
When it comes to investing in cot beds as opposed to going straight to adult beds
, it's largely a matter of comfort and affordability, and comes down to what parents are looking for. Gurney recommends choosing the bed that's going to 'last the longest for that child and is the most comfortable one that the parents can afford.'
Even baby's first cot can be a somewhat economical purchase if you choose a cot bed option that can last up until a child is five (or even older). When choosing a bed, keep in mind that extras - sleigh bed styles, under-bed drawers - will add expense.
For some parents, having a child still sleeping in a cot is the one time they can feel like their child is safe, in an enclosed space and not going to get into too much trouble (until they're hurling themselves over the top, that is). As with all things parenting-related, the change in scene potentially means a lot of work for the parents - in the beginning, anyway. As mum Karen puts it: "There really isn't a right time to take your child out of a cot - it depends on how much chaos you're willing to cope with."