Are you considering moving your child from a crib to a big kid’s bed?
Here are 5 reasons why you may be thinking about saying bye-bye to the crib – and some important things to consider before making the transition.
1. My child is too old for a crib
If your child is content, sleeps well and doesn’t exceed the height and weight limits of their crib, it’s perfectly fine for them to continue sleeping there until they physically outgrow the space. Many children rely on the security and coziness of a crib and can sleep in it comfortably until they’re three or four years of age. Don’t feel pressured because your friend’s children have made the move or you’re worried that staying in a crib will have a negative impact on your child’s emotional development. A good night’s sleep is the best way to assure that your child will continue to grow and thrive.
2. My child is climbing out of his crib
If your child has started climbing out of their crib, don’t automatically assume that it’s time to give it up. Although climbing is a serious safety concern, most children don’t have the cognitive ability to understand “stay in your bed all night long” until they’re two and a half or three years of age. Expecting them to stay in their bed may be asking them to do something they’re simply not capable of doing, and you may find yourself taking them back to bed over and over again for months on end. Add the possibility that your child may injure themselves “exploring” in the middle of the night and you may decide that discouraging them from climbing out of the crib is a better plan.
Lowering the mattress and removing pillows, stuffed animals and bumpers that can be used as a launchpad may help to deter a budding escape artist. So can dressing them in a sleep sack to keep them from lifting their leg up over the rail.
For children who manage to climb out anyway, try standing at the door (preferably out of view) and catching them in the act. As soon as they start their escape say “no climbing” with a firm voice, put them back in the crib if necessary and repeat the process until they stop. Try to respond quickly in the middle of the night – use a monitor or camp out in the hall if you’re worried that you’ll sleep through their attempts. Catching them immediately is crucial if you have an unsteady climber that may hurt themselves on the way out.
Installing a gate at the bedroom door and completely child-proofing the nursery is a must for climbers (and all young children, for that matter.) Place pillows on the floor below the crib, secure furniture and window treatments, and be sure that electrical outlets are protected. Have patience, stay calm and remind yourself that getting angry won’t help. A clear, consistent message over time can put a stop to the behavior and, at the very least, buy some time until they’re more ready for the change.
3. I need the crib for the new baby
Cribs are expensive, and it may seem crazy to invest in another one, but try to make your decision based on your child’s readiness for a bed, not the need to have the crib available for a new arrival. Use the following guidelines to weigh the decision:
If your due date is more than two or three months away and your child is over 2.5 years of age you have time to work on transitioning them from crib to bed before the new baby arrives.
If, on the other hand, your due date is only a month or two away or your child is younger than 2.5 years of age, think seriously about purchasing a second crib for the new baby or, at the very least, using a bassinet for the first few months. Allowing your child to stay in his crib will help to minimize sleep disruptions for the entire family and reduce the possibility that they’ll feel displaced when their new sibling arrives.
4. We’re moving
Moving to a new home may seem like a good time to say goodbye to the crib, but too much change all at once can be overwhelming for some children. Think about waiting until they’re comfortable in their new environment before changing sleeping arrangements unless you’re absolutely sure that your child is ready to take on all that change at once. Even adults find that sleeping well in a new house takes time. Switching right before your child starts daycare or pre-school is also a dicey time to shake things up. Major life changes are challenging enough without throwing a new way of sleeping into the mix.
5. We’re starting potty training
There’s really no such thing as potty training at night – your child is either developmentally ready to stay dry or they’re not. Making the bathroom more accessible won’t make a difference. Although there are lots of opinions on the subject, most experts agree that working on daytime potty skills and using pull ups at night until your child is demonstrating the ability to stay dry is a good battle plan, and minimizes the chance that they’ll use “I have to go potty” as an excuse to get out of the crib or the bed.
If you’re sure your child is ready, invite them to take part in the planning and celebrate! Allow them to choose new sheets, or a stuffed animal to share their new bed with. Maintain a consistent bedtime routine and give extra hugs and assurance if needed. Expect that there will be an adjustment period – it may take a week or so for your child to settle in completely. And remember – if the transition is bumpier than expected there’s nothing wrong with bringing back the crib and trying again at a later date.
Alison Bevan – Sleepytime Coach
Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant – The Center For Advanced Pediatrics