Last week, our daughter, who sleeps through the night, woke us up, screaming and crying. When I looked over at the baby monitor, I realized that all the lights in her room were on, and I couldn’t see her in her crib! She was gone! I was bleary eyed, out of my mind and convinced that she had been kidnapped.
Obviously, i freaked out, yelled a bunch of things out at my husband and we ran to her room….only to find her standing there, trying to get out of her room. She had gymnastic-finagled out of her tall crib (using her sofa as leverage) and plop landed in the middle of her room, in the middle of the night.
Okay, she’s tried to climb out of her crib for a while now, but I’ve always been able to distract her from trying, or tell her how super dangerous it is mommy-will-be-so-upset stuff……so I have been avoiding this transition into a toddler bed for while. But almost all of her friends have made the switch to the toddler bed, and truth be told, she is maxing out the space in her crib. Between her long legs and the 985412 stuffed animals she has in there (all ‘essential’ for a good nights sleep, she says) she’s about ready for a toddler bed.
I’m just not ready. As every mom facing this crossroads will tell you, the reason is purely selfish – I DO NOT WANT HER TO STOP SLEEPING THROUGH THE NIGHT AND WAKE ME UP FROM MY OWN SWEET SWEET SLUMBER. So after this midnight gymnastics incident, I reach out to my friend Natalie Willes, Baby Sleep Trainer for advice. Now, Natalie has successfully helped me sleep train Olive as an infant as well as given me rock solid advice for how to get your toddler over international jetlag… so I knew she could help me with this too.
Here are a couple of questions I asked Natalie, and I thought I’d share them with you.
1. Is there ever a “right time” to move my child into a toddler bed from a crib? If there are, what are the signs?
I would say, the older the better and as close to 3 as humanly possible. In fact, I kept my kids in cribs until close to 4 years old! They were both fully potty trained at 20 months and 2.5 years respectively, but stayed in pull ups overnight with zero impact on their potty training during the day.
The only time you have to move them to a toddler bed is if your child is child is climbing out of the crib and you can’t find a way to keep them in. If you do find your kiddo trying to climb out, try to either sternly startle them by telling them, “NO! We do NOT climb out of the crib!” Granted, most kids could care less and will keep trying to climb out, so if that’s your toddler you’ll want to lower the crib to the lowest level, remove all pillows and bumpers (that they step on to get out), and place them in a sleep sack. Yes, they do make sleep sacks for three year olds! They may absolutely loathe the sleep sack, but dealing with their frustration over the sleep sack is preferable to them climbing out of the crib. Anything is preferable to them climbing out of the crib. Finally, if you have the type of crib where the back is taller than the front (think sleigh-style crib), rotate the crib so that tall side is facing the room and the lower side is facing the wall. Also make sure no dressers are next to the smaller sides of the crib – kids will use the dresser to help themselves climb out.
The RIGHT time to move your child to a toddler bed is when you think they’re obedient enough to stay in the room even if they wake up early in the morning. If they can read a toddler clock or learn to wait to leave the room until their musical alarm goes off, then they can go into a toddler bed. Any earlier than that and you run the risk of disaster.
If you do find yourself in the situation where you simply must transition your child to a toddler bed, then on the same day you put them in a bed also put a safety-style door knob cover on the inside of the bedroom door. You simply have to turn their entire room into a crib. Get on your hands and knees and make certain their room is 100% baby proofed, strap all dressers and bookcases to the wall (children climb those and can have serious accidents if the furnitures falls onto them). Your child may be able to roam freely in their room, but they should not believe that they are allowed to leave at will. It shouldn’t feel that restricting to them since they have never had the freedom to leave their bedroom at will during sleep times anyway.
2. Are there different kinds of toddler beds? What works best?
This is purely personal preference. It seems as if most cribs today transition easily into a toddler bed by simply taking of one long side of the crib. Many of those same cribs later turn into twin or even full sized beds! Using a side rail and checking in with you pediatrician should suffice when deciding what type of bed is most appropriate for your toddler. Keep in mind, however, than their legs are small and you may want to choose a bed that keeps them closer to the ground.
3. Ok, lets be real – how is this change going to affect her sleep? What typically happens?
This all comes down to 1. How early you make the change, and 2. How consistent you as a parent are. Regardless of age, once your child is in a bed they must also be expected to remain in their bedroom until a pre-designated time in the morning. If you can be consistent through the protests that may occur for the first 1-2 weeks then this change should go smoothly. If, however, you allow your child (of any age) to leave their room at will, I can almost guarantee that you will have problems. Interestingly, many toddlers transition in just fine…at first. Their parents wisely pick out fun bedding with their child’s input and make them excited about the change. For some kiddos it almost seems as if it doesn’t occur to them that they can leave their room. And then the inevitable happens and they begin to make regular and repeated appearances throughout the night and the morning.
As long as you can manage to teach your child that they must wait to start their day and remain in their room all night, this shouldn’t be an issue.
If your child needs to leave the room to use the bathroom, again, this should be a liberty given only to kids who are obedient and responsible enough to leave the room to use the restroom, then return back to their rooms. If they can’t handle that expectation, they should be in pull ups or diapers.
Finally, it is as imperative now more than ever that you use a video monitor to watch what your children are doing and to make sure they are safe in their rooms all night.
4. Are there any ways to minimize the loss of sleep when it comes to this change?
Remain consistent with the expectation that they remain in their rooms and sleep all night and give the whole process about 1-2 weeks.
I’ve heard that some kids just won’t sleep on the bed, instead she sleeps on the floor next to the bed. What do I do?
If she’s happy sleeping on the floor, leave her be!! You can even start encouraging it by making a little bed on the floor with a pillow and blankets. Where she sleeps is less important than that she simply sleep.
Thanks Natalie! Okay, now just to sack up and make this change………….. wish me luck, guys