The smart parents guide to moving to a big bed

How to go from bassinet to cot to toddler bed to big bed to teen bed - without losing your mind.

Choose convertibles

There’s a lot of furniture out there which can be added to or changed around to convert from a bassinet to a cot to a toddler bed and more – with some cots you can even use one side as a headboard for a bigger bed. Look for a bed which will last your child for more than a short time. It may cost a bit more upfront, but will pay dividends in future when you can just keep converting it to the next stage rather than needing to go out and spend more on all-new furniture.

Safety first

Secondhand cots and beds are great money savers, but you need to be absolutely certain that they’re safe for your children to sleep in. Does the cot comply with Standard AS/NZS 2172:2003 Cots for household use – Safety requirements? (Check out standards.govt.nz for more info about this). Is the mattress clean and mould-free? Is the bed sturdy and in good repair?

Borrow if you can

Bassinets are great for newborns, but are quickly outgrown. So take a friend up on the offer of borrowing their bassinet, because chances are your little one won’t be in it for long. Or invest in a portacot with a bassinet setting, or a cot which has a bassinet attachment, as they can be more economical.

Take it in stages

Some kids aren’t ready to move into bigger beds when you are ready for them to do so! A classic example is shifting from the cot to a big bed, when kids who have been used to being contained in a cot can’t handle the freedom of having open sides. Invest in side-rails or bed bumpers, or try a toddler bed
in between the cot and big bed – toddler beds and shorter and lower to the ground, so easier for little ones to deal with. Or simply take one of the sides off the cot (if you can do this safely) and put something soft on the floor next to it, like sofa cushions, for when they fall out (and they will, until they get used to the invisible boundary at the edge of the bed).

Involve them in the decision

For older kids and especially those on the cusp of teenhood, let them choose their own bed and bedding– or give them a choice of, say, three acceptable alternatives. This way they may feel more excited and interested in moving to a bigger bed (or for older kids and teens, they’ll feel like you are listening to them and what they want, and are treating them more maturely by letting them have a say).

Focus on the positive

If your toddler is getting evicted from their cot because of the imminent arrival of a new baby, they might feel like they’re being kicked out – and it’s the baby’s fault. Instead, focus on how big they are getting and how much fun it will be to have a big bed, where they can fit more stuffed toys and get into and out of on their own. Talk about what a great big brother or sister they are and how they need to teach the new baby about where big kids sleep.

Go to ground

Another tip when moving from a cot to big bed is to start your child out sleeping on the new mattress placed on the ground, and then when they get used to it (and stay put on the mattress when they’re asleep rather than laying half on the floor), move it up to the big bed.

Keep something consistent

For babies and toddlers, struggles with moving to different beds (bassinet to cot, cot to big bed) can be because it’s such a unfamiliar spot for them to sleep – it feels different, smells different, and is maybe even in a different room. This is where a “lovey” such as a soft toy or blanket can come in very handy – if your child has a special sleep toy or item, make sure this goes into the new bed with them too.

Don't go cold turkey

Start sleeping your child in their new bed one nap at a time, starting with their day sleeps and building up to overnight sleeps. It’s okay to take a little while of going back and forth before your child will sleep comfortably in their new bed. This is especially important if you are transitioning a child from your room to their own room (like if you are going from a bassinet next to your bed to a cot in the nursery).

Size is important

Make sure the bed your child is sleeping in is big enough for him or her to sleep comfortably. This is particularly true for bassinets, which babies tend to get too long for very quickly, and teen beds (you may want to invest in a king single so you can get the extra length they might need if they turn out to be tall!). For bassinets, cots, and toddler beds, check the manufacturers’ recommendations around height and weight, and don’t use these if your child is too big – it’s not safe.

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