This post was written by Devon Bookman, a fellow mom and sleep consultant at Happy Sleeping Baby
There comes a time in most parent’s lives when they begin to question: when is the best time to ditch the crib and transition my toddler into a big-kid bed? The answer is both simple and not so simple, and here is the short answer: wait as long as possible …and preferably not before age 3!
Are you shocked by that answer? Most people are! Curious to what I mean? Keep reading.
If your child is anything like my daughter (soon to be 3 years old) our crib has been pretty well-used and slept-in. My daughter can rely on her crib. She knows it’s there. She knows it means “sleepy time,” but most importantly, she feels secure and cozy inside. The crib is her domain and its physical boundaries (the rails) provide her security both physically and emotionally.
Security is a big one and I wanted to dive a little bit deeper into its root meaning. Babies, but especially toddlers, secretly crave and thrive off of boundaries to make them feel safe. We like to call these "loving boundaries" here at Happy Sleeping Baby. When you set a loving boundary with your child, you reduce their anxiety, in a big, grown-up world filled with so many options. Secure boundaries create predictability. Predictably reduces uncertainty. And uncertainly reduces anxiety. So, in effect, lessened anxiety, makes your child feel more secure.
The rails on a crib set a loving boundary. Sure, my daughter can move how she pleases inside of her crib, but it certainly does not provide her with many options of where to go in the middle of the night. No wandering around the house, no coming into our room to poke our faces, or no playing unsupervised. That firm boundary is there to keep her both physically AND emotionally secure. (We will talk about when it becomes unsafe further in the blog).
That is why I advise parents to wait as long as possible before moving them to a big-kid bed. Before children are 30 months of age, their brains are not mature enough to understand that they need to stay in their bed until the morning. Have you tried reasoning with a 3-year-old lately? Now try reasoning with that same 3-year-old, at 2am, explaining to them that they need to get back into their bed! My point exactly.
Furthermore, if your child is sleeping fine in their crib, and not trying to climb out yet, why take away their ‘safe space’? Please don’t feel rushed into the transition. I have seen too many families making the switch too early, then all of a sudden, their once perfect sleeper is waking up multiple times a night. As the old saying goes: don’t fix something that isn’t broken!
Here’s some Q&A (Questions and Answers) for frequently asked questions on the topic.
**All answers are based off of the experience of a sleep consultant. Always consult with your doctor**
What if my child is getting physically “too long” for it the crib?
This is a great question! Did you know, in Sweden, standard crib sizes are actually much smaller than in the United States? Therefore, your child will likely “out-grow” the crib more quickly than a baby in the US. I would recommend buying a junior bed that has rails (similar to a crib) but it can be converted into a big-kid bed when they are ready. The mattress size is 140cm. Here's a great option or idea that we recommend for parents: Crib to bed option
We are getting ready to welcome a new baby into our family. The new baby will need to use the crib. Therefore, it makes sense to transition my toddler to a big-kid bed, now, right?
Congratulations! This is another great question! And the answer is “not necessarily”. Adding a new sibling to your family is a lot of change for everyone, especially your current child(ren). Now would not be an ideal time to introduce something new and unfamiliar. Your current child will crave the security in their old patterns and routines. This includes their sleep environment. Consider buying another crib, used or second-hand, or upgrading your older child to a junior bed with rails (link above).
What if my child is starting to climb out of the crib? That is a huge safety issue and that does not sound secure.
This is a tricky question and the most common question we get! Obviously, safety is the #1 priority. You, as parent, must always decide what is best for child. If you have already lowered your crib to the lowest setting, there is still hope. Some cribs can be converted to a floor crib (meaning, you put the mattress on the floor). Other cribs will need some augmenting to be safe and functional. Be aware of the gap between the top of the mattress and the bottom of the crib railing. Again, this may require some creativity and/or crib re-assembly/re-configuration. I have seen families get really creative and bring out their tool boxes! It may look funny, but it works. It is a really good solution if you are determined to keep your child’s ‘sleep progress’ intact.
If big-kid sleeping is absolutely necessary, here are some tips:
We hope this helps you understand when to move your child to a big kid bed! If you want more information about helping your baby sleep, use the Happy Sleeping Baby book which has everything you need to know about sleep! Learn more here.
You can also the Parent Resources page for sample schedules and more tips to help your kiddo sleep! Or Contact Us here for more personalized support. We're here to help!