The Big Change – Transitioning Your Child From Crib To Bed
I want out! That’s the message your toddler will send – one way or another – when he’s ready to wave goodbye to the crib and say hello to a big-kid bed. Your child might actually verbalize displeasure, or more likely, simply climb out of the crib.
So, what needs to be done?
First, resist the temptation to move him too early. Most experts recommend doings so around age 3. Unless your child is climbing out of his crib or needs more space than a crib can provide – his body is growing at an astounding rate – it’s better to keep him in the crib, which allows him to feel safe.
This way, your child can feel comfortable taking giant developmental leaps during the day but still regress to the security of his old crib at night.
Moreover, until age 3, toddlers are very impulsive, and your child’s difficulty in understanding and being able to follow directions or rules (like staying in bed all night) will make sleeping in a bed a real challenge. If you transition to a bed before age 3, you can plan on waking up to a little visitor next to your bed pretty much every night.
When the time comes, however, you need to help your child transition smoothly to sleeping in a bed. For that, you need to follow certain steps. These are:
- Create a safe environment: Safety proof your child’s room and any adjacent areas he may be able to visit into the middle of the night. Secure windows, tops of stairs, and any stepstools that can be tripped over. Even better, you can install a safety gate at your child’s door. You can even install a small night-light in his room to help him orient himself and avoid hurting himself.
- Pick the mattress: Go to the mattress store – or any other store that sells mattresses – and let your child help you choose the mattress or bed. With safety in mind, all you need is a twin-size mattress and box spring and some safety rails for the side. You should adjust the height of this new bed accordingly, as it will need to sit low on the floor for some time until your child gets used to it. Get some fun new sheets, some special pillowcases and you’re set to go.
- Disassemble the crib (together): Once the new bed comes home, ask your child to help you to take down the crib. This way, your child will feel part of the transition process and will also be able to say good-bye to the crib.
- Set up the bed: Put the bed in a corner of your child’s room so that the head and side of the bed are flush against the wall for protection. Add a safety rail to the exposed side of the bed. Your child will feel safe this way, just as he did in his crib.
- Explain the rules of bedtime: If your child is verbal before the first night of sleeping in the bed, go over the rules of bedtime with him. Tell him that he is a big boy now who needs to understand that when we go to sleep, we only wake up when the sun is nice and bright.
- Do your bedtime routine: During the first few nights your child is sleeping in his new bed, take an extra 10 minutes of reading time together to make him feel comfortable in his new environment. The idea here is to make your child feel safe. If your child seems excited about the new bed from the very start, you’re one of those luck people who has made this transition easily.
My Child Is An Early Bird – Can I Do Something About It?
Early morning wakings are one of the toughest sleep problems to fix, if not the toughest. If you’re wondering why, it’s because after a decent night’s rest your child has got more energy to fight sleep in the morning. And the truth is, all of us come up into lighter sleep phases in the last hour of our sleep, preparing to take up for the day.
Remember, however, your child is waking early only if he is not getting the right amount of night rest for his age and his body. In other words, if your child sleeps from 7 PM to 6 AM, it’s a perfectly reasonable schedule for him, even though it might feel early to you.
We can’t ask our children to sleep more than 11 hours at night. Their bodies are usually rested after this much sleep, and they won’t be able to do more.
Also keep in mind the following fact: if your child is waking even at 10/½ hours, if he is rested and energetic in the morning and makes it easily till his naptime, then he’s getting enough rest for his body.
Problems arise if your child sleeps from, say, 7 PM to 5:30 AM. In this case, you’ll need to push the bedtime later by 15-minute increments, then watching to see if your child can sleep later in the morning,
A word of caution, though: Making the bedtime later can often have the opposite effect of causing your child to wake up earlier. This is the reason why things need to be done in small steps.
Here are some other ideas to try if your child is an early bird:
- Make sure that your child’s room is very, very dark.
- If there are any sounds that could be waking him – such as garbage trucks, barking dogs, sprinklers – put white noise in the room and make the volume loud enough to protect him from these sounds
- Remove all stimulating toys from your child’s crib or bed, which can be distracting once the sun enters his room.
- If you are checking in on your child within the last hour before his wake time, your interaction may prevent him from returning to sleep. Don’t check on him if it’s less than one hour till his wake time.
- Make sure the bedtime is not too late for your child’s age. Adjust the bedtime earlier by 15-minute increments, and watch what happens in the morning. In doing so, you will allow your child to sleep later, as he is less overtired at bedtime. If he does wake earlier, return to your previous bedtime. If moving the bedtime earlier has no effect on the wake time, you may want to consider using the earlier bedtime anyway to help your child get the right amount of night sleep for his age.
- Make sure your child is not hungry. If you have a child under 12 months and have newly begun to wean feedings, you may want to slow the process down to give him more time to adjust. Moreover, be careful to ensure that you are offering the breast or bottle more often during the day to help him transition his previous nighttime feeds to the daytime, so he won’t be hungry going down for sleep at night.