There’s something so enticing about introducing your little one to their brand new bed. But do it too soon and you risk regular night visits when your toddler discovers that once those bars are off, the rest of the house is fair game.
If you don’t mind being woken at 3am to play ball with a toddler or can deal with little visitors sneaking into your bed every night, then excellent! But if you want to minimise the impact of change on your child’s sleep (and yours!) then read on for my top tips on switching your toddler into a big bed:
1. Wait as long as you can – children under two-and-a-half generally can’t understand the concept of ‘staying in bed’. Lots of parents tell me their child stayed in bed for the first few months and then, suddenly, they didn’t. This is so common: it can take toddlers a while to realise they can get out, but once they’re out, they need to be able to understand that they have to stay in.
2. Got a climber? Don’t switch to a bed just because they’ve learnt to climb out. Use a sleeping bag until they’re mature enough to understand the concept of ‘stay in bed, darling’. This will stop them from getting their legs far enough apart to scale the bars. If they can still get their leg up, sew up the back to narrow the skirt of the bag. Zips can be easily navigated so go for popper closures and if they can Hulk their way out of poppers, then sew them shut. I’m a hopeless seamstress but even my stiches are still in place eight, determined months later.
3. Already switched and now have a bedhopper? Plan for your little escapee to do their worst: turn their room into a giant cot by removing all potential hazards and putting a stairgate across their door to keep them safe. Depending on your child’s temperament, you can either silently return them to bed each time they get out – they will get bored, I promise – or you can stay nearby and gently reassure them.
4. Whenever you respond to your mini-Houdini at bedtime and throughout the night, make sure you do it in a consistent way – don’t shift strategies midway through as this will simply give your child mixed messages which leads to mistrust: to maintain that trust and attachment your child needs to know what you expect of them and you need to act in a way that they can predict. Even if they’re not getting what they want, your stalwart consistency will show them that they are loved and you are there.
Struggling with your little one’s sleep now they’re free? Don’t despair: there are solutions for everyone! Book a free fifteen minute sleep evaluation with me now and let’s see if we can’t get that little monkey sleeping in their own bed all night, every night.
Lucy BArker is a certified sleep consultant and mum of two under three based in the beautiful Test Valley. She work with babies from the age of 18 weeks right up to children who are starting school, resolving a whole range of sleep challenges including regular nightwaking, negative sleep associations such as rocking or feeding to sleep, and bedhopping. Lucy decided to retrain after a successful career as a PA after using a sleep consultant to solve her 2 year old son’s sleep problems which were dominating the family's lives. The change she brought to the family once her son was sleeping well was incredible and Lucy knew that she had found the vocation for her.
"Working with families to bring harmony back into their homes is one of the most rewarding things anyone can do – I feel very lucky that this is my job!"