All too often I see parents switch their two year old child to a big kid's bed in order to free the crib up for the arrival of a new baby. I strongly recommend parents either buy a new crib if possible or borrow one from friends or family. Getting up throughout the night to care for your newborn is exhausting enough and the last thing a new mom needs is to be having to get up, even more frequently to walk her toddler back to bed. If your child is close to their 3rd birthday and you are soon to transition due to the arrival of a new baby, I suggest making the transition after the new baby arrives. Introducing a new baby into a toddler's life can be stressful enough, so let's keep them in their familiar surroundings as long as possible. If you have to make the transition before the new baby arrives, make the transition at least three months before Baby's arrival.
Transitioning your child to a big kid's bed in an effort to correct poor sleeping habits is never a good idea. If anything, these poor sleeping habits will only get worse once this transition happens. Transitioning too soon is often a recipe for disaster. At first, things may go smoothly, but soon Junior discovers that he can get out of his bed. Children this young don't understand the imaginary boundaries that come with being in a bed. A crib has physical limits, there for the safety of a younger child who can't grasp what it means to stay in bed. It's very common for things to go smoothly for a few weeks or even months, but eventually, the thought crosses his mind to climb out of bed to get a toy or a book, and then it becomes a slippery slope.
Have a little Houdini on your hands? If your baby has mastered the use of the Get Out Of Crib Free Card, then it's time to get creative on keeping him in the crib.
Some tips to prevent Baby from climbing out of the crib are:
When the time comes and the family has decided to make the big transition, I strongly encourage the parents establish Sleep Rules to accompany this new-found freedom. Sleep Rules will set up the expectations that come along with the bed (i.e. When Junior is tucked into bed, he will stay in bed quietly until Mom or Dad come get him in the morning). A lot of cribs convert into 3 different types of bed. I suggest starting by dropping the rail of the crib so the child can get a feel for what it's like to be in a bed. I then suggest going right to a twin size as a toddler bed is the same size mattress as a crib mattress. Bed rails are great if you are worried your child will roll off his bed. Another trick is to put a pool noodle under the fitted sheet to act as a barrier so the child won't roll off the bed. Make this a fun time- go shopping for new sheets and bedding! Get your child involved so they so they know this is an exciting time and know that he's taking an important step forward in his development and becoming a big kid.
Now, if only adults had such exciting things to look forward to with growing up ;)
About the Author
Lindsey Hennigar is an Infant and Child Sleep Consultant, certified by the Family Sleep Institute, and founder of The Sleep Ranch. She works with parents who desperately want to get their children the healthy and restorative sleep they need. As a mother of 2 young children, she knows how important a good night's sleep is for the entire family. www.thesleepranch.com
If you’re reading this in the early morning while trying to rock your baby back to sleep, then parents: we stand with you. We’ve all been there, trying to figure out when our restless munchkins will let us catch a few more Z’s. While you can’t predict the exact timing of when your baby’s schedule will normalize, it can be helpful to get a sense of how long most babies sleep, why they wake up, and how to help them.