It may seem like battles over sleep are a never-ending cycle in your house. Just when one phase ends, another one begins. As your baby becomes a toddler, determining when to transition him out of his crib is the next step on his sleep journey. By timing it right and using a few helpful tips, you can make the transition to a toddler bed smooth and painless both of you.
How to Know When It’s Time
There’s no set time when a child must leave the crib for a toddler bed. However, parents may start thinking about the transition when their child is around 18 months. If your child is asking for a bed or has started trying to escape from his crib, it’s time to set up the toddler bed. Some parents also decide to make the switch when the next baby is on its way and they need the crib for baby number two.
Easing the Transition
Begin the switch to a toddler bed during a time when your child’s life is relatively stable. While he’s starting a new day care or in the middle of potty training are not ideal times to throw another new routine into his day. Also, if you are expecting another baby, don’t tell your child that he has to give up his crib for his new brother or sister; it can cause resentment.
If you have to purchase a toddler bed, consider letting your child accompany you when you shop for it to build excitement about the new bed. If picking out a bed is not an option, perhaps he can help choose new sheets, a blanket or even a new stuffed animal to sleep with. Once the new bed is set up, maintain your child’s existing bedtime routine. If he always has a bath and goes to bed at 7:00 p.m., maintain this routine.
Staying in Bed
Once children are no longer sleeping in a crib, they are free to get out of bed when they please. Your child may start wandering to your room and asking to sleep with you. Help your child stay in his new bed by creating a fun nighttime routine. This could include snuggling up together for a bedtime story or letting him pick out a new nightlight for his room.
If your child still gets in your bed in the middle of the night, remind her that she’s a big girl with her own bed now. Be consistent, and walk her back to her own room every time. If she won’t go to asleep without you, agree to sit in her room for a few minutes and gradually decrease the time over the coming weeks.
Some children respond well to having a digital clock in their room and knowing the hour they can may get up. It may help to cover up the minutes and show your child the number that the hour must be before she can get out of bed.
If your child is still struggling to stay in bed, consider an incentive program. She can earn a sticker for every night she stays in her new bed; then, let her cash in the stickers for a larger reward such as dinner at a favorite restaurant or a new toy.
Once your child has the freedom of a toddler bed, you may need to place a baby gate across his doorway. The gate will prevent him from wandering around during the night and potentially getting hurt. If your child’s room is upstairs, installing a gate at the top of the stairs is essential to help prevent falls.
Depending on the type of bed your child has, you may need bed rails to keep him from falling out. Some rails slide under the mattress, or you may need just one rail if the bed fits snugly against a wall with no gap. You also should carefully inspect your child’s room for other safety considerations. Look for objects he may trip on, drawers that need latches and bookshelves that should be secured to the wall. Move the bed away from electrical cords and lamps, and lock all the windows.
If your child has become an expert escape artist from his crib or has started asking for a big-kid bed, you know it’s time to make the move. Although you may encounter a few hiccups during the process, with some careful forethought and consistent messages, your child soon will be sleeping like a pro in his toddler bed.