Sometimes when a young child starts to climb out of the cot and as a result may present a danger to themselves, parents introduce a big bed.

When the child is under a certain age – under 2-2.5 years, for example, this may be a premature adjustment and create more problems than it resolves.

Developmental leap

When it happens, it may be as a result of a developmental leap of sorts and as a result, they have discovered how to get out of the cot or may not want to be there as they are not feeling as safe or as ready to sleep or be separate from you, as they did before.

Moving into a big bed is rarely a workable solution with children under the age of 2.5 years as they do not have the developmental impulse control to stay in the bed.  When something like this shifts the sleeping patterns and behaviours at bedtime; some areas may now need to be addressed- I like the idea of asking a few questions such as:

Why is your child climbing? Do they feel secure at bedtime? Is the bedtime routine long enough? Are they over or under-tired? How can we help them to feel safe and secure, teach them not to climb and to safely stay in the cot..?

Safely and secure

Firstly, let’s think about returning to the cot and in turn, we can help your child learn to stay there safely and secure, without being a danger to themselves.

Typically climbing out is representative of something else; all we need to do is discover what will now help.

From 18 months onwards I anticipate a single nap and to ensure that nap is around 1pm start time for 1-2.5h depending on the child- then we like to observe a not more than 4-5 hour wake period before bedtime- being over or under tired can lead to so aiming to calibrate the day on this basis can be helpful.

A good starting point

Think of your child’s mood and behaviour in the evening and if you feel they may be tired within 4 hours then prepare for bedtime about 3.5h after the nap has ended. This is generally a good starting point when troubleshooting and this can be adjusted later as the sleep stabilises and the issues are resolved.

That then leads me to the bedtime routine, sometimes when children climb, it is (a) because they can and (b) because they are not tired enough and (c) because they did not get a long enough wind- down. (d) Don’t want to be separate from you.

I suggest a bedtime routine of at least 20-30m in the bedroom that your child will sleep in. This is a lovely connected time that also takes care of some of the potential separation anxiety that may play into this particular issue.  I also propose that you indulge in lots of one to one time by day too; to further help and also to ensure that your child is getting lots of age-appropriate exercises too.

Bedtime routine

By providing plenty of opportunities to climb and explore by day, lowers the want and need to do this at bedtime and then the bedtime routine aims to relax and connect with your child before sleep time as well.

Whilst you are working on the challenges I will encourage that you stay beside the cot and use my stay and support approach and to discourage the standing and attempts to jump out – by lowering the cot to the lowest level as appropriate, removing any loose bedding that helps to gain purchase on climbing out and when they start to climb, that you would be right beside your child and gently push their knee and explain “no climbing”.  You can use all the other stay and support strategies too to help re-establish the cot sleep.

If you are totally against the re-introducing the cot, use all the suggestions as above but you can expect that you won’t be able to move through the stages to sleep outlined in my book as they may not stay in the bed when you try to move away until they are older and understand what we are asking of them

I am generally confident that you can help your child overcome this issue and safely be in the cot for another year or more until at least 3 plus – which may be considered the ideal age range to make the transition to a big bed.

Lucy Wolfe, is a Sleep consultant, Co-creational Parent and Relationship Mentor, Author of The Baby Sleep Solution and All About The Baby Sleep Solution, creator of “Sleep Through”, a natural bed and body sleep spray and relaxing rub, and  Mum of four. She runs a private sleep consulting practice where she provides knowledge, expertise and valuable support to families around the world. See www.sleepmatters.ie |+35387 2683584 or |lucy@sleepmatters.ie