It came up in conversation with a few parents this past weekend when it would be best to make the big switch from a crib to a “big kid bed.” Many parents feel that a crib is great because their child has slept in one for months (sometimes years) and they are safe and contained at night (so why move right?), but at some point, it’s time to have your little one move into a “big kid bed.”
Commonly, kids make the move anywhere from 18 to 30 months, but as many parents know, every child develops differently and the adjustment can take more than one night or week. Even if your child still seems content in his crib, he or she may have outgrown it. Generally, if your child is 35 inches tall or the railing reaches mid-chest level, he or she could scale the crib railing at any time, and probably needs more room to sleep comfortably too. On another note – some parents make the switch to a bed impending the arrival of another baby. If this is your situation, make the switch at least six to eight weeks before you’re due. You want your toddler well settled in his new bed before he sees the baby taking over “his” crib.
I looked into some tips to make the change a little easier on you (and catching your “Zzz’s” at night!). By planning ahead and anticipating the trouble spots, you can make the transition trauma-free!
Talk about a bed while your child is still in the crib.
Start the conversation casually. Say something along the lines of, “You’re getting so big. Pretty soon, we’re going to have to get you a big-boy bed, like the one Mommy and Daddy sleep in.” By making the bed a symbol of growing up, you can turn the move into a celebration, and not a loss.
Make the decision.
Whether it be moving your child from a crib or your bedroom to a bed depends on a few variables, including determining if your child is ready to sleep alone. In many instances, the crib or co-sleeping is a nurturing, comfortable place, and you may need to sell your child on the idea.
Children who can pull themselves over a guardrail or shake the railings is a sure sign that the crib is no longer a secure place. Another signs of a toddler outgrowing the crib is when they wake up and wiggle around and hit the crib railings.
Choosing a bed.
During the changeover, take your child’s age into consideration when it comes to selecting a bed and determining its placement. To ease the transition, put your toddler’s new bed in the same place his crib used to be. Get your toddler excited about having a “big-kid bed” by taking your child with you to pick it out, if you’re buying it new, or by emphasizing its previous owner if that person is someone your child knows. For example: “This was Cousin Josh’s bed and now it’s yours! You’re almost as big as him now!” Let your toddler shop with you for new sheets featuring his favorite characters, and encourage him to show his “big-kid bed” to visiting friends and family.
If your child will be sleeping in his own room, a low-to-the-ground toddler bed, which uses the child’s crib mattress and similar bedding is a good option. Adding railings to a toddler bed can also allow an extra element of safety between the bed and the floor.
Be firm about staying in bed.
When it’s bedtime, keep your nightly routine the same, but get your child accustomed to sleeping alone by sitting down or snuggling in the new bed with him or her and perhaps reading a few books as he or she drifts to sleep. If he seems anxious the first night, promise that you’ll check on him in a few minutes — and return when you said you would. If he gets out of bed to come find you, Dr. Shaw recommends saying calmly, “It’s time to go back to bed” and walking him back to his room. If you give your child lots of extra attention or cave in to his demands for a story or glass of water, you’re setting yourself up for weeks of bedtime chaos.
Reflect and celebrate.
Finally, remember that the switch from a crib to a bed is a milestone in your and your child’s life. It’s one more sign that your baby is growing up. It is nice to reflect on when you first set up the crib for your little one, and then go have a private celebration of your own (maybe a glass of vino!). However, stay patient throughout the transition process, and recognize that independent sleep might at first seem scary to your child. Be compassionate to your child’s needs and go with whatever works best for him or her.