My tips for a smooth transition!
An enormous amount of milestones are reached in your baby/child's first couple of years, and one that is often overlooked is transitioning your little one from a cot, to a bed. As with many other milestones, this milestone happens in their own time, and varies for many children.
Is my child ready?
First and foremost, we look at safety. If they are climbing out their cot then it is a clear health and safety risk for themselves, and I always recommend making the move to a bed immediately. However, in the majority of cases, when they aren't making their own way out of their cot, then I always encourage keeping the cot as long as possible- ideally as close to 3 years old as possible.
Why 3 years I hear you ask? Well, most children under 3 years old are usually not ready for this level of independence because they often have limited control on their impulses. I feel we have to be realistic with what we can expect from them if they are in a bed sooner, and it can make a frequent night time visitor for you, and obviously sleep issues that can be avoided.
Often, parents are keen to make the move sooner, if, for example, they are expecting a new little one who requires the cot, however, bear in mind they will be in your room in their crib for the first 6months, and it is better to have two babies in cots than one that leaves their bed all night for you!! Equally, I often recommend no other major changes around the transition, and a new sibling plus a new bed may mean those newborn days could be even tougher with a toddler who likes to leave their bed overnight- and often!
That's not to say some under 3's will absolutely sail through it- my eldest daughter managed the move around her second birthday, and apart from a rough week of testing the boundaries, it worked well for our family at the time to make the move, as well as safest for our little climber, and we were prepared for the week or so of leaving her bed and remaining consistent with the boundaries and what was expected. She actually handled it so well and often does take anything in her stride- but I know, for example, my younger daughter, is more effected by changes, and at nearly 2.5years old, she isn't ready to make the move, and I don't anticipate she will be for some time to come.
Of course, moving them to a bed, it's so important ensure everything is as safe as possible in their bed/ room- wardrobes, chest of drawers all fixed to the wall, no gaps down the back/side of their bed that can be hazardous for them etc, and anything out of reach/put away that could be dangerous for them - don't forget button batteries on toys etc too.
Key tips to approach the move:
Spend a few days talking to your child about what is to come
Use role-play to demonstrate the new bed/ bedtime process for them
Keep to clear boundaries with bedtime and be consistent with these
Give your child some input as to how the bed / bedroom is decorated- i.e. which bedding or even cuddly toys etc to make them feel as though they have some control
Keep to a relaxing, calm and consistent bedtime routine
You may wish to add a night light (think amber or red light so it doesn't interfere with sleep hormones!), so they can safely get in/out their bed if needed
Check any bedding is age appropriate
Above all make sure their room is safe