My kid was very young when I started the transition to a regular bed, most would say too young.
Don’t judge me!
The kid was WALKING, for crying out loud! He was in the 98% in height and could climb – well – anything. After all, he had a big sister to keep up with. His crib was just a challenge, not a safe refuge.
Most resources I could find say that toddlers move to a regular bed between the ages of 2 and 3 ½. years.
So, how do you make a seamless transition from the crib to a bed?
Here are some pointers from parents who have tried just about everything. Please note – these are not pointers for getting a toddler out of the parental bed. THAT is a whole other philosophical/practicality challenge.
Reasons for Transitioning From Crib to Bed
In many cases, as with my son, transitioning to a bed was a matter of safety. I just couldn’t allow myself to keep him in a crib, knowing he could climb out of it and possibly injure himself. With this in mind, I transitioned him quickly to a twin-sized bed. With my daughter, we moved to a new house and put her crib away. She got to pick out the décor for her new room.
Others are expecting a baby, and need the crib to be vacated. That can establish a different timeline. You actually may have a little more time to make the switchover.
Is your child ready for a bed? You may be surprised. It’s kind of like the pride children feel when they are too big for a car seat. They see playmates in real beds and want that for themselves. Other toddlers want to stay snuggled up in their cribs, where they feel safe. It is sort of a “den” for them.
For those children, you can usually drop the mattress in the crib to its lowest level and remove the drop-gate. This helps them transition to the new sensation without losing their familiar bed.
In some cases, the toddler may not be ready for the change, but you need change to happen. You have another baby on the way, and need the crib for the baby.
Once you know if your toddler is eager and ready for a new bed, you can plan your strategies for the transition.
Also, if you are planning on a trip, try to save the travel until well before you make the transition, or until well after your toddler is accustomed to his/her new bed. The inconsistency of sleeping arrangements during travel could throw a monkey wrench in your plans to de-crib your toddler, and you don’t need all your strategies foiled.
It’s a good idea to avoid too many changes at once. If the toddler is teething or being weaned, this is not the best time to stage the switch to a real bed. Plot your timeline. If you need him in his new bed in 3 months, you have time to get him/her ready and complete the transition.
This is especially important if a new baby is on the way. You don’t want No.1 to believe that No.2 displaced him/her from the crib.
The in-between temporary bed solution
I’ve talked to a few parents about this and an air mattress seems to be the best solution for the transition if you’re having problems “enforcing” the transition. When it comes to choosing one, an inflatable bed that is, it seems that the more color and bounciness, the better.
It’s probably because they perceive is a new toy. But for you, safety should be the primary concern, so here are a few pointers to help you choose the best air mattress for your precious bundle of joy:
- Choose an airbed with safety rails on the side, especially if your kid is a restless sleeper
- Use it on the floor and not by mounting it on top of a regular bed
- Read reviews of the air mattresses before you make your decision (nothing beats the advice of those who have been where you are – they have a nice, comprehensive guide on all things air mattresses at SleepStudies.com).
- Make a point about the airbed being fun and cozy, don’t take the you-sleep-here-now approach
- Go with a reputable and trusted air mattress brand (like Shrunks or Aerobed)
The first decision you have to make is room choice. In many cases, the toddler sleeps in a crib in the parents’ bedroom. When the switch comes, he/she not only leaves the crib, he/she leaves the bedroom, and the comfort of nearby parents, as well.
You can perform this transition in stages. Prepare the toddler’s new room with his/her help, according to their interests and activities. Go ahead and put a new bed in the room, but leave room for the crib.
Play in the room with your toddler, napping on the bed, reading books there, and doing other activities in the room. Then, move the crib into the bedroom. Your first challenge is to get the little one to sleep somewhere besides Mom and Dad’s room, not leave the crib. With this strategy, you can sleep on the bed while your toddler settles down in the familiar crib to go to sleep.
In some cases, the nursery may be a smaller bedroom next to the parents’ room. You need to move your toddler down the hall to make room for a new baby. Again, do this well in advance of the new arrival to reduce confusion and stress. You can follow the same strategy, by preparing the toddler’s new room and moving the crib into it for a while. If necessary, place the bed against the same wall. You can also use the same bedding with a regular bed. Move the bumper pad, if you used them, from the crib to the bed, along with any other familiar items.
Finally, when it comes to room choice, I always recommend spending a few nights in the room, yourself. You will see the shadows and hear the noises your child hears, and be able to handle those night-time frights with more understanding. Even the placement of the bed under an air conditioning outlet can create a change that disrupts the toddler’s sleep.
Keep your regular bedtime routine. How did you put your child to bed when he/she was in the crib? Follow the same procedure with the bed. If your toddler usually climbs into bed with you and your spouse during the night, that is a separate problem to deal with.
Do you read to your child before bed? Keep doing that. If your routine is bath, book, bed, then that routine is your strongest ally. We, of course, had weird routines. My daughter always had to have a good cry in order to sleep well, while my son usually laughed himself to sleep.
Safety is always an issue with our children. When you move your child to a real bed, put rails on both sides – even if one of the sides is against the wall. You don’t want a squirmy 2-year-old getting caught between the bed and the wall. One clever hack I’ve seen is to put pool noodles along the edges of the mattress, with the fitted bed sheet spread over them.
Safety, routine, and familiarity are all crucial in transitioning your toddler from a crib to a regular bed. Hang in there, parents.