Making the decision to move your child into a bed depends on your family’s individual needs and preferences. The new-found freedom of being in a bed can both be a blessing and a hindrance to sleep for some children.
Reasons to make the move
You may decide to move your child into a bed because:
- they have outgrown or started to climb out of their cot;
- you wish to move your child from the family bed;
- you have a new baby who will need the cot soon; or
- you are going on holidays soon and a cot will not be available.
Tips for moving your toddler into a bed
Decide with your partner whether your child will sleep in a bed or on a mattress on the floor. A safety rail on the bed to begin with can help, or place a mattress on the floor next to the bed.
- Prepare your child. Tell your child what is going to happen and involve them in the planning, including buying a bed.
- Buy a snug fitting mattress protector.
- Child proof the sleeping area: your child will be able to get out of bed and move around the room. Do a safety check, and check hazards such as blind cords and electrical dangers. Ensure furniture such as chest of drawers are anchored to the wall. Add a safety gate if you are worried about your child roaming. Contact Kidsafe for more information on childproofing.
- Limit the amount of toys and stimulation in the bedroom.
- Have low lighting – make the room as dark as your child is comfortable with.
- Establish or maintain sleep habits leading up to bedtime, including having a quiet time before bedtime.
- Spend time in the room and reassure them that you are there if you need them. Then say “goodnight” and let your child know what you expect.
How to respond if your child does not settle but remains in bed
- Try to put up with whining, calling out or other sounds. You may not need to go into the room if your child remains in bed and eventually calms on their own.
- If your child cries a lot, screams or becomes distressed, enter the room to reassure and calm them.
- Avoid offering rewards – bribes – for your child to settle each time you enter the room. Children will quickly learn to stay awake for rewards.
- If you choose to stay with your child as they calm, do as little as possible to stimulate them. Use a calm voice, few words, and minimise eye contact.
- Repeat this process until they settle and as needed for resettling throughout the night.
How to respond if your child comes out of their room
Some children will not stay in their bed or their room and will repeatedly come looking for you. At their stage of development it is normal, but quite frustrating for parents as your toddler tests and retests boundaries.
- Immediately guide your child back to bed.
- Use a calm voice, few words, low light and minimise eye contact.
- Repeat your bed time message and encourage your child to self-soothe.
- If your child continually gets out of bed use a low, confident tone of voice when returning them to their room and repeat your prepared messages (e.g. “It is bedtime. You need to go to bed now”).
- Avoid offering rewards – bribes – for your child to go back to bed. Children will quickly learn how to ‘earn’ rewards.
- It can be tiring, so take turns with your partner or support person.
- If you have no support person, rest or sleep during the day when your child is napping.
Want to know more?
Raising Children Network – Toddlers sleep
Pregnancy, birth and baby – Sleep and your child