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The transiton to a bed is a huge change. Parents especially wonder whether they should transition when their child starts climbing out of the crib or when there is a new baby on the way.
But is your child ready for the big kid bed?
Let’s first discuss the issue of climbing out of the crib. Even though safety can be worrying when you see your toddler climb out of the crib, now is not the time to make the transition to a big kid bed. It is important to wait for as long as possible.
Instead, try to prevent them from climbing out with a few different techniques:
1) If possible, turn the crib around so the high side is on the outside,
2) Put the crib down to the lowest setting. But please don’t put it on the floor as that’s unsafe,
3) Use a sleep sack to prevent lifting their leg high enough. You may need a tighter sleep sack to help, and
4) Watch through a video monitor if you have one, or a slightly open door, and use a firm “No” when they lift their leg over.
Transitioning to a bed when a new baby is on the way or has just been born, is also not the best time. If your toddler isn’t ready for a big bed this can result in more issues and increase the amount of sleepless nights parents have because of two kids instead of just a newborn. You may find the first weeks go well but then they realize they have freedom and start getting out constantly and end up not napping or falling asleep at night. You should also think of it from your toddler’s perspective. How would it feel to be moved from their cozy and comfy crib because of their new sibling? Having a sibling is a BIG transition, bringing with it anxiety and insecurity, without adding a new big bed as well.
How to make the transition and handle any subsequent sleep challenges..
Now you know when not to make the transition, let’s move on to when you should. The ideal time to transition to a big kid bed is from 3 years onwards. Wait until your child asks for the bed. This is when they are at an age where you can really discuss having a big kid bed in detail, including the responsibility that comes with it (e.g. staying in bed the whole night and for naps). When transitioning, it is important to get your child involved in as many of the decisions as possible. Ask them to help you pick out the bed, pillows, sheets and quilt covers. Decide together on a day that they will start using their new bed. Maybe even have it sitting in the bedroom for a day or two before the big day. Together draw up some sleep rules on a poster that they can hang up in their room. The rules can include: 1) must stay in bed, 2) be quiet and focus on trying to sleep, 3) only get up when mommy and daddy come in the morning or their ok to wake clock changes, etc. Always be sure to continue the same bedtime routine they had before the big kid bed as the only change should really be the place your child is now sleeping in.
At some point, after transitioning to a bed, you may find your child starts getting up regularly when they should be trying to sleep. Be consistent with responding to this behavior. Remind your child nightly about the sleep rules, and consider providing rewards for following them. When your child does get out of bed return them consistently to the bedroom. Responding consistently will end this behavior. A gate can also be useful if you are comfortable with one. If using a gate, childproofing the bedroom is very important first.
As parents, we need to remember that the transtion to a bed is monumental for kids. Children go from a small cozy crib to a bigger spacious bed. This will likely take some time to get used to and we need to acknowledge this with how the big transition is handled.