As your child grows from baby to toddler, you may feel pressured or tempted to make the transition into the big bed. Cribs are for little babies, right?! Not so fast, mama. The decision to move your child into a toddler bed is a big one: time it right, all is good. Get the timing wrong and all hell can break loose. While some amount of luck will play into whether or not you’re successful, here are a few red flags that could signal that you might want to wait a bit longer to make the move.
1. Your toddler is younger than 3 years old.
Say whaaaaaat!? Three!? Yes! While you may know others who have made the move earlier, I urge you to hold off. Most children aren’t developmentally ready before this time: to them, the four walls of their cribs are familiar friends, as well as much-needed physical boundaries that make them feel secure. Take away the boundaries too soon and risk a major rebellion that could spell disaster for even the best sleepers.
2. Your toddler has existing sleep issues.
If your child cannot sleep through the night, struggles at bedtime or wakes up too early, transitioning to a big kid bed will likely make the situation worse. Before taking the plunge, I strongly suggest that you first work on the existing issues by tweaking the sleep schedule, setting and enforcing sleep rules, if necessary, sleep training.
3. Your toddler seems content in her crib.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but so many parents introduce the big kid bed because they feel like they’re supposed to after a certain age. Don’t buy into it! Even if your toddler has already hit the magical age of 3, there’s no reason to jump the gun. If she’s still under the weight and height limit for your crib, there’s no need to make the big move yet. Rule of thumb: Wait until she asks (begs!) for a big bed.
4. Your toddler is a climber.
No one wants her child to climb out of the crib and roam around freely but, trust me, you don’t want to trade in one problem for an even bigger one. Instead of immediately ditching the crib, try to troubleshoot the underlying problem: climbing. Toddlers love to test out their newfound motor skills, even when doing so scares the bajeezus out of us. Potential solutions for the problem: reintroduce the sleep sack* (which makes it difficult to find traction on the railings) or use a sticker reward chart for staying in bed. If all else fails, try the silent return: each and every time she climbs out, lead her silently back to bed. Pretty soon, she won’t bother getting out because she gets no reaction from you.
*if your little one has mastered the art of unzipping her sleep sack, try putting it on backwards so the zipper can’t be accessed.
5. Your toddler likes to push boundaries.
If your toddler isn’t the best at respecting boundaries during the day, then she likely will struggle to respect them at night (read: stay in bed). Work on boundary-setting during day and at bedtime. Introduce a toddler clock so that she begins to understand that she has to stay in her bed between certain hours. Once you’ve seen some progress on this front, reconsider the big bed. For parents who are considering an early transition because you have a baby on the way, think twice! If you don’t feel that your child is ready yet for such a big move, it’s worth keeping her in her crib--even if that means having two cribs for a while. The last thing you want is a newborn who won’t sleep and a toddler who slips out of her bed into yours all night long.
For parents who have already transitioned your child and it isn’t going well, it’s never too late to re-introduce the crib. If you’ve already ditched it (or a younger sibling is using it), a travel crib will do. Sometimes our kids just need the security of the four walls.
Lastly, if you’ve thought through the potential red flags and none apply to you, go for it! Make the move! Here are my top tips to make the transition as easy as possible.
Photography by Desiree Walters for Well Rounded.
Hadley Seward is a certified sleep consultant and founder of Bonne Nuit Baby. Based in France and New York City, she works with exhausted parents around the world to get their kids’ sleep back on track. Meet her here + follow her adventures at @hadleyinfrance.