We are delighted to introduce Andrea Grace - Child Sleep Expert and author of Gentle Sleep Solutions as our special guest blogger! In this special sleep expert series, Andrea will talk us through some of the main sleeping challenges facing parents kick starting with knowing the right time for a big bed...
There is set right time to move a child from the cot to a bed. Often the decision is prompted by your toddler climbing out, or you needing the cot for a new baby; but usually, it is simply the feeling that your little one is growing up and is ready to move on a stage.
Understandably, parents can feel a bit of trepidation about making the move. What if he or she falls out of bed? Won’t go to sleep? Wanders around the house during the night?
Follow the steps below to make the whole process both positive and easy for both you and your child:
1: First of all, if you are moving your toddler out of the cot to make room for a new baby, you must leave a few weeks between moving your older one out and the younger one in.
2: If they are old enough to understand, you can cheerfully explain to your toddler that they are going to sleep in a big boy/girl bed. Allow them to see you remove the cot from the room and put the new bed in place. Encourage a little role play game where they tuck their toys into the new bed and then leave them to go to sleep. With your child, praise the toys for going to sleep. Through this small ritual they will receive the subtle message that you will be happy if they do the same.
3: Keep up your usual bedtime routine - this will help them to feel settled and secure and routine is especially important given the change in their sleeping environment.
4: After any rituals such as milk and stories, you should kiss goodnight and then leave the room on a very positive note. Do this even if they seem unsure about you going. Tell them that you will be back very soon to check that they are cosy.
5: Return to them very shortly afterwards and praise them for being in bed. [If they are still in it.] You should go back a couple of times even if they are not crying or calling for you. Only stay for a few moments before leaving again, “I’m going to do some jobs, but I’ll be back in a minute.”
6: If they get out of bed, you should stop them at the door and show surprise that they are up. Keep a straight face - even though they might look so cute and funny appearing on the landing, you don’t want to encourage them by laughing and smiling! Quickly take them back to bed in silence, and as soon as they are back in bed, you can reward them with your smiles and praise. Leave again even if there are objections.
7: Until your child gets used to sleeping in a big bed, they might struggle to go off to sleep and need a little extra time and reassurance. It is perfectly ok to pop in and out to them several times and when you are out of the room for you to call to them from the corridor or landing, “I’m coming in a minute!” You do need to avoid staying side them as they go to sleep however. If you do this, they are likely to wake up in the night and call for you to come back.
8: Expect it to take longer than normal for them to go to sleep. This is natural because children like things to be predictable and familiar, and the changes you are making may make them uneasy and wakeful at first.
9: It’s a good idea if possible, for both parents to alternate going in and settling/praising them.
10: If your child really does struggle to stay in bed, and you are worried about them wandering about at night, you should consider fitting a safety gate to their bedroom door. This will keep them safe and contained, and provided you introduce it in a positive manner, there is no reason for them to feel imprisoned or punished.
11: You will also need to have some kind of very soft lighting to keep them safe if they DO wander in the night.
12: If they wake up or get up in the night, you should go to them and help them back into bed as you did at the beginning of the night. Go to them every few minutes if they are unsettled, give them time but once again, try not to be in the room as they go off to sleep.
13: In the morning, offer them lots of praise. “You slept in your lovely new bed!”
If YOU are able to see the move from cot to bed as a positive step and are able to handle it with confidence and a cheerful manner; your child will feel happy about the move too.
Andrea Grace for Simba Sleep March 2017