Choosing the right time to move your sleepy head from a cot to a grown-up bed is a major decision and an important developmental milestone, so it’s not surprising that it can be nerve-wracking for parents. Perhaps you’re a lucky one whose tot has always slept well so you’re reluctant to tempt fate, or maybe you’re worried your already-disrupted nights would become unbearable if the little horror could physically pester you.
Helen Gillespie, a nurse and health visitor at Infinity Clinic, says choosing the right time to make the change largely depends on the individual child. Some may simply outgrow the cot and need a bed to be comfortable, others may be coerced into it if the cot is needed for a new arrival. The important things to consider are your child’s safety and comfort.
‘As the child grows and achieves greater mobility, it becomes more difficult to keep a child in the cot and he could be injured if he’s climbing out,’ says Helen. ‘With some cots the side can be removed and the mattress lowered so that the transition becomes easier. If this is not the case then a proper bed is necessary.’
Switching to a bed is not the time to use surprise tactics. Discuss the move with your child and let him help choose his own bedding. ‘Have his new bed made up in the room he already uses and allow him to practise getting in and out for daytime naps or story time,’ says Helen. ‘In this way he will get used to the bed and it will become familiar to him. Decide on a date to change and then take it from there.’
It doesn’t matter if you choose a cute kiddie bed or an adult-sized single, but make sure the bed is placed against two walls, well away from the window. Put a rug or other soft floor covering on the exposed side and ensure that hard toys and furniture are away from the bed so if your little wriggler falls out in his sleep, he doesn’t land on anything sharp. ‘Some children will need a small rail until they get used to the new experience, and remember that bunk beds are unsuitable for children under six years old,’ says Helen.
Many parents fret that a heavy duvet coupled with constant squirming will be dangerous for tots, but Helen says that at this stage the risk of sudden infant death syndrome is very much reduced. ‘Now your child is in a bed and able to move freely, he is able to move the covers and pillows at his discretion – often onto the floor.’
Cool and comfortable
It’s tricky to know how to dress your child for bed – or the bed itself for that matter – in Dubai climes. You don’t want them to melt, nor be blasted by chilly air conditioning. ‘Cool is better that hot,’ says Helen. ‘In the summer months, air conditioning should be on but not blowing directly onto the child, and set at a temperature that is comfortable to both adults and children.’ A sheet, light duvet or blanket is usually sufficient if the child is dressed in one layer more than the parents, perhaps a vest and pyjamas. ‘That way, they will remain comfortable but not overheated.’
Wait ’til the time is right
The cot is your child’s haven, and making the switch is a big step, so there will be times when it’s best not to disturb them. ‘The change should be made when he is well and there are few disturbances such as moving home or visitors. If there are too many changes all at once he will be unsettled and less likely to adapt to the change. ‘If there is another baby arriving it may be better to allow some months between him leaving his cot and the new baby using it. Perhaps even dismantle it and remove it from the room completely once he is in his own bed. In this way it can be reassembled later on, back in the parent or baby’s room, without too much fuss,’ she adds.
Bump in the night
Your child’s discovery that they can come and go as the mood takes them will inevitably lead to nocturnal visits to your room. Make a vow to calmly put him back to bed, regardless of how tired you are or how tempting it is just to roll over and let him climb in. ‘Children can be roused from sleep for all sorts of reasons: toileting needs, noise disturbance, thirst and illness to name but a few,’ says Helen. ‘However, in many cases we prolong these rituals until they become established learned behaviour. If your child learns that by making a fuss and screaming you will return to him, or take him into your bed, there is little incentive for him to quietly go back to sleep.
If your child is well and comes through to your room in the night, quietly, firmly and with the minimum of fuss, return them to their own bed, say good night and leave,’ advises Helen. Finally, take another look at home security and make sure you close stair gates and lock medicine cabinets and cupboards. ‘An unsupervised child at night can be exposed to lots of dangers within the family home,’ she adds.
You can make an appointment to see Nurse Helen Gillespie by calling 04 394 8994 or visit www.ihcdubai.com