“I am expecting a new baby in a few months and I need to figure out the best time and way to transition my toddler to a big bed.”
Crib or Bed?
As a parent, you may feel inclined to transition your little one from a crib to a bed as soon as possible, but this is not always necessary or appropriate. We recommend using the crib for a child until they are at least 2.5 years of age. Some reasons for using the crib up to this age include:
- The crib can help with common sleeping problems like resisting to fall asleep and taking a long time to fall asleep
- The crib is a safe and cozy place for your little one
- Before 30 months of age, toddlers often do not completely understand that they need to stay in bed until morning
- A child’s adjustment from crib to bed can be a taxing process on your child, and on you as a parent. It requires a patient and calm attitude to go smoothly
“So, What Can We Do?”
A new sibling is a transition in itself! The pressure may be on to switch your toddler to a bed so you can use the crib for the new baby, but your little one will likely feel most cozy and secure remaining in their crib. If your child is under 30 months, our recommendation would be to get a second crib for the new baby. This is especially important if the toddler will be sharing a room with the baby, as the toddler will likely be curious about their new sibling and could waken the baby in the night. If climbing out of the crib is a concern, see our Guide to Preventing Climbing out of the Crib. If you do not wish to purchase another crib, switching your toddler to a travel bed may work or you can consider borrowing one.
“My Toddler is Older than 30 Months.”
If you feel ready to transition from crib to bed we have some suggestions to help you out. Make sure you and your child are not sleep-deprived before you start this process. If you are doing sleep coaching for your little one we recommend you do not make this changeover until you have found a bedtime and sleep routine that suits your family and are at or near your sleep goals. Once you are satisfied with your toddler’s sleep we can move forward with the crib to bed transition. It is also fine to keep your child in the crib longer. A lot of children transition to a big bed between 3 and 4 years of age.
“Where do we start?!”
- Make sure the bed is low to the ground
- Baby proof their room as much as possible. Consider using outlet covers, remove or bolt dressers to the wall, remove furniture and items they may get into such as diaper cream, etc. Basically, you will need to turn the room into a playpen so you don't need to worry about what your child is doing when you are sleeping
- Gate the door to prevent your child from roaming the house. Place the gate high enough so they are unable to climb it but low enough that they cannot crawl or get stuck underneath. You can also purchase an extra tall gate
- Be okay with your child sleeping on the floor. Sooner or later they will learn that their bed is more comfortable than sleeping on the floor. Don’t make sleeping in the bed a power struggle
- Make sure your child is not anxious about sleeping in a bed or in their room. You can test this out by putting them on the bed during the daytime while you are close by and see what their reaction is. The good news is that if they are not comfortable about the bed (or in their crib for that matter), there are things you can do to help with this. If you would like to discuss this further, you can book a free 15-minute sleep consult above.
When is the Best time to Transition to a Big Bed?
If you are planning to make the transition to a big bed so that the crib is available for your new baby, doing it before the baby is born will help. Ideally you give yourself enough time to help your child adjust to the new sleep environment and to forget that the crib is THEIR special place. Giving your family a few months for this change before your new little one comes along will be helpful.
It is important to reassure your child during this transition. This is new territory for your little one, and too many things changing in their life at once can be overwhelming and stressful. You may need to offer more support at bedtime until your little one is feeling confident in their new bed. Quality time with your child during the wakeful hours, encouragement, and soothing words go a long way.
Article by Nina Knox and Andrea Strang