With overnight potty training on our radar and a new baby coming in January, Oliver’s time in his beloved crib is likely to be limited. He’ll be two years old this month, and we consider ourselves fortunate to have been able to keep him in there as long as we have. Amazingly, Oliver has not once attempted to climb out of his crib. Frankly, I’m not even sure he realizes that he could if he tried.

Oliver's crib.

Oliver’s crib.

Transitioning from the confines of a crib to the freedom of a toddler bed can bring about a whole host of sleep issues, even for a toddler who was previously sleeping well. I have just recently finished working with two families who began to experience sleep major disruptions after moving their children to toddler beds, so I thought it would be interesting to share some of my insight into the whys, hows and wherefores of this inevitable milestone.

First, why move your child from a crib to a bed? Following are some of the most common reasons:

1. Climbing out of the crib. This is a safety issue, and if your child can climb out of the crib on his own, it’s safer for him to be in a (low) bed. Sometimes, climbing behaviour can be curtailed with the use of a sleep sack, which inhibits a child’s ability to swing his legs up over the bars. If your child is too young to be able to understand limits (i.e. the expectation that he must remain in bed at night), then it’s definitely best to try the sleep sack first, in the hopes of buying more crib time.

2. Not climbing out of the crib. I have no proof of this, nor any personal experience to draw from, but anecdotally I have heard that moving your child into a bed before he has tried to climb out of the crib may make him less likely to try climbing out of bed.

3. Potty training at night. A child who is giving up nighttime diapers must be empowered to get out of bed and access the potty independently. It isn’t fair to expect a child — who may have been holding her bladder for hours — to wait for a parent to wake up, amble into her bedroom, and help her to the toilet. Even if you are a light sleeper and respond to your child immediately, most toddlers and preschoolers will soon see this as a game, a.k.a. “I yell ‘potty’ and Mommy comes running.” You definitely don’t want to fall into that particular trap!

4. New baby on the way. If your child is on the cusp of being ready for a toddler bed, and you’re planning to use the existing crib for a new baby, you may choose to make the transition earlier than you otherwise would have. The commonly-held belief is that the older child should be moved to a bed before the arrival of his younger sibling, so as not to feel that he is being ousted from the crib by his younger sibling. The trouble with this approach is that the upheaval brought about by a new baby can cause the older child (who may have been sleeping well until this point) to begin getting out of bed at night, due to feelings of insecurity. Instead, the baby should sleep in a bassinet, while the older sibling remains in the comfortable, familiar (and secure) crib during the this transition period, graduating to a bed only once things have settled down at home. The older child should then be moved to the bed a few weeks before the baby is anticipated to need the crib, so that the move to the toddler bed is seemingly unrelated to the baby’s use of the crib.

5. Age/Maturity. Purely from a sleep training standpoint, the longer you can keep your child safely contained in a crib, the better. However, you can’t keep your child in a crib forever, and there is a good argument to be made for encouraging her burgeoning desire for independence and self-sufficiency. Some parents believe that there is a certain age past which a child should be considered too old for a crib — often somewhere in the range of two to three years old. This is a personal parenting choice, and if you believe that your child is ready for the transition — or simply too old for a crib — then it’s time to make the move.

Next: Part Two


  1. Cool. Your first paragraph applies to us too. Isn’t there also a sixth reason, to do with weight? I have no idea what it is though. J is approaching 2.5 & still in her crib, with no sibling on the way. We’re actually dreading the freedom of the big girl bed 😉

    • It never occurred to me that there could be a weight limit on a crib… or at least one that might apply to a reasonably-sized toddler. Isn’t there a YouTube video where a dad crawls into his baby daughter’s crib? 🙂

      I am definitely dreading the freedom of the bed, and also the prospect of nighttime potty training. So basically I’ve been procrastinating both because things are easy right now and I don’t want to rock the boat.

  2. We parent in very different ways, but some problems are fairly common, no matter where/how the baby sleeps. We have done EC with our youngest, and she is mostly dry at night (maybe 1-2 misses/week at 18 months), but she still tosses out the “I need to pee” card and wants to play or do something else when I take her to potty, at 10 pm, midnight or 3 am. To curb this somewhat, I take her before she goes to bed and then once we have lights out, I say no to stalling requests to potty again. However, 4 or 6 hours later, I think it’s fair to need to go again, but removing pjs and the night-time-just-in-case-of-a-miss diaper is a royal pain (and then what to do if she just wants to hear a story while sitting on the potty?!) With the first, we just had to worry about sleeping through the night and we didn’t think of night time potty learning until she was between 2-2.5, so she was more able to take her bottoms off herself. Jeesh. It’s always something.

    She slept with us from birth to a year, and now she sleeps in a toddler bed next to our bed and I haven’t had problems with her getting out of it. My oldest is 5.75 and she always sleeps through the night, and goes to the bathroom herself, and all of those other things, so no matter how sloppy of a job some of us do getting there, it happens! Thankfully they don’t go to kindergarten with a list of their toddler accomplishments–“I was potty trained at 18 months.” “Well, I was 4.” “I was 2” “I was 2.5” “Well, my parents and I haven’t figured it out yet..” 🙂

    • I never considered the younger, EC’d kiddos when I wrote point #3. It definitely wouldn’t be reasonable to expect an 18-month-old to use the potty independently, especially at night. Oliver is on the cusp of potty independence (other than bum wiping, of course), but I still think he’ll need quite a bit of help with nighttime bathroom trips at first.

      When had some of those bedtime stalling requests when we first potty trained Oliver, and we dealt with them by honouring one request, and letting him know that it would be his last opportunity to use the potty before morning. Of course, as you pointed out, it’s not going to be so cut and dried when we’re having to respond to potty requests in the middle of the night.

      I think there are some preschools and kindergartens in Manhattan that require a list of toddler accomplishments for entry ;). I’m just thankful that doesn’t seem to be commonplace in this neck of the woods!

  3. Congrats on the pregnancy! My little guy who shares the same name as yours was 2 in May and is still in his crib. It turns into a toddler bed though, so when his little brother came along 5 months ago we just bought another crib, so now the nursery has two cribs in it… someday they will both be beds. 🙂 They were cheap cribs so we thought, why not!

    • Thank you 🙂

      Our crib is convertible as well, and I’ve contemplated the idea of just buying a second convertible crib, but a toddler bed is less than a third(!) of the price of our crib. I figure that given Oliver’s age, it makes more sense to just move to the next step, despite my great desire to contain him in a crib as long as humanly possible 🙂

  4. Hi. While I am nowhere near this point it’s good to read just to know what I am in for in the near future! Your blog talks about stuff I have never thought about and then I go back looking for it when the need arises ! Looking forward to reading about the transition

  5. Really looking forward to part 2 of this series because I am unsure what to do with my son’s sleeping situation when our next arrives in January. My plan is initially to have the newborn in our bedroom in a basinet, but beyond that I have no clue. Oh and I should mention that we only have a two-bedroom apartment and have no plans to move before the baby comes!

  6. Pingback: Transition to Toddler Bed - Choose My Room·

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