One of the most popular questions I get asked as a sleep consultant is “when should I transition my child to a “big kid” bed?
I usually respond with “college should be a pretty good time”.
All joking aside, I do tend to think that people jump the gun when making that switch, often before their child if truly ready.
There are so many other priorities when it comes to your baby’s sleep. Establishing a bedtime routine, teaching independent sleep skills, getting your baby accustomed to a schedule, are all things that should take place before you worry about moving him out of his crib.
Sometimes, parents may wonder if their child “hates their crib” because they seem to fight bedtime. Believe me, it is unlikely it is the crib itself and more likely has to do with sleep skills or perhaps some secondary gain the child is getting for “refusing” their crib. It’s going to be a lot easier to make the transition once you’ve got a good, skilled sleeper on your hands.
Older toddlers may notice that they sleep in a different bed than their parents, or their older siblings, and may ask for a big bed. Once they’ve shown some interest, and they feel ready to transition, I’m all for it. But don’t look at it as some kind of developmental stage that your child should reach at a predetermined age.
They’ll get there when they get there, and there’s no harm if it’s later rather than sooner.
I should actually throw in a little disclaimer here. If your little one has started the “escape artist” routine, and is climbing out of their crib in a dangerous way, there’s potentially some harm if they fall on their way out.
However, if they’ve got the skills to get out of the crib safely, (and some kids I know are exceptional at climbing out of their cribs) then, again, I once again recommend sticking with the crib.
One of the biggest reasons I see for parents moving their kids to a big kid bed, is because they’re hoping it will solve some existing sleep issues. Maybe your smart cookie has decided it is fun to climb out and play with toys or climb in bed and snuggle with his two favorite people, or he’s suddenly waking up and demanding a glass of milk in the middle of the night.
So maybe a big kid bed would help them feel more grown up. Maybe it would give them a feeling of security and comfort?
In my experience, and from the experience from my fellow sleep consultants within my network, few of us have ever seen bad sleep behavior solved by moving baby to a toddler bed.
Now, I recognize that some of you are numbers people and you want an age, even if it’s just a guideline, so I would say 2½ is probably the earliest you want to implement this change. But again! That’s just a guideline, and later is better.
So, for those of you have waited and maybe it isn't going as well as you had hoped?
The first thing you might have noticed is how quickly and easily your little one initially took to the transition. Maybe they climbed right into bed the first night, happily went to sleep and woke up bright eyed a bushy tailed... at first.
Why suddenly are they getting up and out of bed several times a night?
There’s typically a honeymoon period with the big kid bed. Kids initially think they’re great, but then, after a couple of weeks, they start to wake up and leave their room in the middle of the night, asking for mom and dad, snacks, to play...
You may be tempted to comply with this request, but as I am sure you have experienced, if a toddler gets something they want one time, they will fight hard to get it again the next time. If your child starts leaving their room at night, walk them back, tell them it’s not allowed, and let them know what the consequences will be if they do it again.
One of the best deterrents I have found, is to close the bedroom door all the way, and keep it closed for a full minute on the first offence. If your child leaves the room again, make it two minutes. Then five, and so on. Another good one is taking a lovey in the same sequence