When is the appropriate time to move a toddler from a cot to a bed?

In Australia an increasing number of babies and toddlers are sustaining injuries from falling out of cots and beds. This is due to either not recognising the appropriate time to move a baby or young child out of a cot, or a baby or young child being placed too early in an adult bed.

The safest place for a baby to sleep is in a cot that complies with the current Australian Standard and which is made up in accordance with SIDS and Kids’ guidelines for a safe sleeping environment. The cot should be kept free of toys, pillows, bumpers, activity  centres and anything else that could be ‘stacked’ to  assist a young child to climb out of the cot.

For safety reasons, when a young child is observed attempting to climb out of a cot and looking like they might succeed, it is time to move them out of the cot. This usually occurs when your toddler is between 2 and 3½ years of age but could be as early as 18 months.

When moving a child out of a cot, you will need to consider what type of bed to use and how to make it safe.

Babies and young children are at a high risk of injury from falls or becoming trapped between the bed and the wall. Always position the bed away from the wall.

Think carefully about choosing to use an adult height bed; consider instead using a toddler bed as they are lower to the ground and reduce the risk of injury from a fall.

Alternatively, use a clean firm mattress on the floor. Ensure the surrounding area is clean and clear of soft toys, bean bags, plastic bags or similar objects.

If you choose to use an adult height bed make sure the spaces between bars or panels are no bigger than 95mm. Bigger gaps can cause a young child to become trapped. Surround the bed with a mattress or soft flooring material and keep free of hard objects like toys.

If bed rails are being used, beware of gaps – a young child can become trapped.

Pillows and toys must not be placed against the rails as toddlers can suffocate in these situations.

A child no longer sleeping in a cot has greater access to all living areas. Before your child graduates to a bed, check your child’s room and throughout the house for possible hazards.

Remember, to sleep young children safely:

• Safe bed

• Safe mattress

• Safe bedding

• Safe sleeping environment night and day

SIDS and Kids has recently released a free Cot to Bed Safety iPhone app and brochure to help parents recognise the appropriate time to move a baby or young child out of a cot and into a safe new sleeping environment. You can download these resources at www.sidsandkids.org/safe-sleeping/cot-to-bed-safety.

The resources are part of SIDS and Kids’ ‘Sleep Safe, My Baby’ suite of safe sleeping resources. For more information visit www.sidsandkids.org/safe-sleeping.

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