How far should we go to safely transition our child to a big bed ?

Many people have written about this important milestone over the years and from the research I’ve done there are lots of really good ideas put forward as to how to make this transition to a big toddler bed as smooth as possible.

One area that I’ve found where the is widely differing advice  is that of using a stairgate across the door to stop your child getting out.

For example Dr Greene, a well known American paediatrician writes

  • You might want to install a sturdy, metal child gate that swings open. Do not use a wooden, accordion style gate — both for your convenience and her safety. Let your child see you assembling the gate. When it’s in place, make a game of opening the gate and walking through it, then closing it and opening it again. Next close the door with you both inside. Explain to her that the gate is there to help her stay safely in her own room. When she’s comfortable with this, leave the room and stand just outside. Remind her that while she is in her room, she will be safe. Walk out of her sight and come back so that she gets used to being alone, inside her room, with the gate in place. You have just re-created the safety of her crib — only larger.

So his perspective is one of ‘its for her own safety’.

Some may say that installing a gate is to stop a child getting out and disturbing their parents during the evening/at night, rather than for the childs own safety, and I must admit that we resorted to a stairgate over the door with our eldest child who just would not stay put in his bed BUT I will also admit that I did not try a softly, softly approach of a gradual withdrawal, or patting, or allowing him a stories/songs to listen too or any of those other lovely ideas that other (much more patient) Mummys have tried and tested successfully.

Starting a quick thread on Mumsnet revealed that some Mums were putting their child back into bed over 30 times a night and it was these Mums that were horrified by the idea of shutting them in with a stairgate. I have to say though that the vast majority were in favour of the stairgate either across the door or across the stairs. The stairs option seems a really sensible, and non controversial option, as it basically protects your child from falling down the stairs during the night. It gives tham a little freedom to wander but makes it clear that coming downstairs after bedtime is not OK.

So what do we think? We protect them in a cot with sides when they are babies/toddlers, on holiday in travel cots, with bed guards once they are in their ‘big bed’ so should we use a stairgate across the door too as an additional safety measure?