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.
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