I transitioned my daughter from her crib to a bed too early. I thought moving her to a big girl bed would be exciting and easy, for both her and I. I was wrong. Losing the comfort of her crib rails was scary for her, and she certainly didn’t understand her new bedtime boundaries. To keep her from getting out of bed, I found myself lying down with her every night while she fell asleep. She started to wake up during the night and come look for us, and keeping her in bed in the morning was impossible. This went on for weeks before I decided I had to sleep train her all over again. If I had waited until she was older, it probably never would have been an issue.
If you are thinking of transitioning your toddler from a crib to a bed, make sure you follow these 4 tips to help ease the transition with less bedtime headaches.
1. Make sure they are ready
Many parents are quick to move their child to a big kid bed, often before they are developmentally and emotionally ready. If you have a child who has tried to or is about to climb out of their crib, read my post on how to keep your toddler from climbing out of the crib here. If you are thinking about transitioning your child from their crib to a bed, the best time to do it is once they are closer to age 3. At this age, children can understand boundaries and what’s expected of them around bedtime. Small children shouldn’t be roaming free in the middle of the night, so it’s safer to keep your child in their crib as long as possible. Many children feel more secure and comfortable in their crib, so unless they are asking to move into a bid kid bed or they are able to easily sleep in a bed at Grandma’s house, they might prefer to stay in their familiar environment. If you’re expecting a new baby and your toddler isn’t quite ready to move to a bed, try to get a second crib if possible, or use a bassinet for the first few months.
2. Get them involved in the transition
Help your child get excited to move into a bed by getting them involved in the process. Bring them along to choose their new bed, and let them pick out their new sheets and bedding. If you think it might help, have a “big kid bed” party! Have an unveiling of the bed, make a delicious cake and invite over some special friends. By getting them excited about the change, they are more likely to accept it and look forward to sleeping in their new bed.
3. Make sure it’s safe
Before you transition your toddler into their new bed, make sure the new sleeping arrangement is safe. To reduce the risk of them falling out of the bed and hurting themselves, put the mattress and boxspring directly on the floor, and put guardrails up on the bed. For some added protection, you could put some pillows on the floor next to the bed until your toddler gets used to their new sleeping place. A great way to keep your child safe in their room is to put a gate at their bedroom door right from the start. This allows you to keep the door open without them wandering through the house at all hours of the night. Finally, don’t forget to childproof your toddler’s bedroom. Now that they have the freedom to get in and out of bed, their room becomes a safety risk. Secure heavy furniture to the wall, and make sure there is nothing in their room that they shouldn’t have access to without your supervision.
4. Establish new rules right away
Once your toddler is in their new bed, It’s important to set the bedtime expectations from the very beginning. On the first night, establish a bedtime routine that you would like to continue every night. Try to make it similar to the routine you followed when your child was sleeping in their crib. Be firm and avoid creating habits that you don’t want to continue. If you start lying down with your child while they fall asleep, like I did, then expect to have to do it every night. Establish some sleep rules to help your child understand what behaviour is expected at bedtime and during the night. If your child has stayed in bed and followed the rules, make sure you praise them continuously to encourage them to continue the good behaviour.
If you need help transitioning your toddler from their crib to a bed, visit http://www.babyzzz.ca/ to find out how I can help ease the transition.