Sometimes parents are rushing to get their child out of the crib and into a big boy bed. What parents don’t realize is that moving them too soon can really affect their sleep. It isn’t recommended to transition your child too soon. Removing the rails of the crib, and having the bed open is a very big change for your child. The familiarity and the confinement of the crib provides a sense of security that your little one has had since birth. You know your child best, so think about how much your child understands and can express themselves. Moving a 2-year-old into a bed, when he’s just not cognitively developed to understand the new bedtime rules while enjoying the freedom, will only cause more bedtime issues.
Before transitioning your son into a bed, I would make sure he is already sleeping well. Is he putting himself to sleep without any issues at bedtime? Is he sleeping through the night? Is he waking up at a reasonable time? If your child is having sleep issues, moving him into a bed won’t necessarily “resolve” the issue, it often can make it worse. While before you had a child crying in the crib, you will now have a child running out of the bed and into the living room, where you will find yourself having to bring him back and forth to bed.
Please do not consider moving your little one if and when…
- A sibling is born and you need the crib for the newborn
- Moving, so might as well transition him to a new house in a new bed
- Your friends are doing it, so you should too.
If your child…
- Is at least 3 years old
- Can put themselves to sleep with no issues
- Is sleeping through the night regularly
- Wakes up for the day at reasonable time and does not have early rising.
- Or of course, is jumping out of the crib and you have tried to safely keep him in there with sleep training methods that are now unsuccessful.
Then you can transition him to a bed. Below are 7 recommendations on how to make the transition smoother:
- Involve your child in the room change. Have him pick out the new bed sheets, and any new décor/bed that is involved with his new sleep space.
- Sit down with your child and have a “family meeting” to talk about this new step. Explain to him in a positive note what is happening and what the bedtime rules are. Perhaps leverage in an older sibling or cousin to explain how he too now is a big boy!
- Create a manners chart. Make sure to create this together and keep it on a positive note. Discuss what the reward system will be for the sleep manners in his new bed. For example: At bedtime, I will lay down quietly. Reward: a sticker
- Behavioral Tot Clock. This is great for the toddlers who can’t tell time yet, but know the difference between day and night. These clocks use programmed color lights/images to show the child when it’s bedtime and when it’s OK to wake up and get out of bed. Make sure that as parents you reinforce this daily. My favorite one is the Good Nite Lite.
- Consider putting up a safety gate at the doorway of the room. With the crib railings down, you may want to consider putting the gate at the doorway to not only confine the space safely so your child can’t roam about the house in the middle of the night. But it also creates a crib like feeling to the entire room.
- Make sure the bed has a railing as well. Until your child gets used to sleeping in a bed without the crib rails, you want to make sure you put up a bed rail. You can perhaps put the bed against the wall, so she'll have protection on both sides, and not fall out. The bed rail still allows the child to get in and out of his bed comfortably.
- Respond consistently. With toddlers, unlike babies, they are constantly looking to test the boundaries, while still needing them. It is up to us as the parents and caregivers to provide those boundaries and respond consistently. They will soon learn how to push them and figure out “what is right and what is wrong.” Make sure that as he gets used to his new sleep space, you respond consistently giving him some time to adjust.