Crib to Bed Transition Explained

The crib to toddler bed transition can be pretty scary for parents. You are essentially taking away the boundaries that have kept your child in bed. And if done too soon, your child could go from sleeping like a pro to sleeping like a newborn again, with frequent wake ups. And good-bye to the days when you can let your child fuss for a few minutes and fall back asleep because now your child will just get up and come get you. But when you have the right tools and information, the switch from crib to bed can be smooth, exciting, and fun as your little dreamer is getting bigger, becoming more independent, and earning more responsibility.

Photo: @jime.hodson

Today I am sharing the criteria I use to know when it is a good idea to make the switch or if you will be better off waiting a bit longer. Plus, I will share how to make the transition as smooth as possible. After all, sleep is seriously the best.

Your Child is Not Ready to Switch to a Toddler Bed if…

…he is not sleeping through the night. If your child is struggling to sleep with the safety and security of a crib, I can guarantee that sleep will only go downhill when you switch to a big kid bed. Please trust me when I tell you, moving your baby out of the crib and onto a mattress on the floor will not improve sleep. It will make it worse. The only exception to this rule would be the family that wants to co-sleep. If you are not interested in co-sleeping, and your child is not sleeping through the night, then stay in the crib. And instead try this post about why your little dreamer isn’t sleeping through the night.

…your main motive for switching your toddler is to free up your crib for another child or because you want to see your little dreamer as cute as can be sleeping in his new big bed. Both of these reasons have nothing to do with the development and needs of your child who is about to have his world turned upside down. The child may very well be excited about something new, but when the excitement wears off (or earlier), you will end up with lots and lots of wrinkles to iron out. Instead put your new baby in the pac n play for a few months (or a year!) and learn how to curb your excitement until your little dreamer is ready!

…she is climbing out of the crib. Yep, you heard me right. I know everywhere else you will read that if your toddler is crawling out it is time to switch. Just hear me out. I have talked with parents who have a 16 month old who is crawling out of her crib, and there are just a few things I would try before switching to a toddler bed. First make sure your crib is on the absolute lowest setting. Second considering putting the crib mattress directly on the floor, creating even more space between the top of the mattress and the top of the crib sides. Third, make sure your child is wearing something that prevents or delays the child from being able to crawl out. Sleep sacks often work wonders (just start wearing them early!). I even had a client who sewed the sleep sack tighter so her daughter’s legs would not be able to stretch far enough to climb out of the crib. Genius, I tell you! Or perhaps you would like to try a crib tent to help your little dreamer stay put. If your child does crawl out, and you try one of these or another method to keep your baby in the crib, make sure you monitor your child very closely to prevent any injury. And if none of these tips help your child to stay in the crib, then yes it might be time to switch. A child who is capable and willing to climb out of the crib is no longer in a safe environment, and it is time to switch. Hopefully the above tips help to at least lengthen out how long your little dreamer is able to sleep in the crib.

…your child is not yet 3 years old. Two year olds lack impulse control, and a child with low impulse control who gets put into a bed will have a hard time staying in bed while falling asleep and throughout the night. As children get closer and closer to the age of three, their impulse control improves. Not perfect, but much better! Plus, it is much easier to motivate through rewards once a child hits three. Some children even prefer and need those boundaries well after the age of three. If your child is sleeping well in the crib, age alone may not be a good enough reason to make the switch. After all, if it ain’t broken don’t fix it.

…your child is potty training. Potty training is a big milestone for a toddler. It requires responsibility, cooperation, and learning. Your best bet at getting any of those from your toddler is to have a well-rested toddler. Potty training and transition to a toddler bed at the same time will likely overwhelm your child and decrease overall amount of sleep, resulting in a difficult toddler. I am not sure it matters whether you potty train first or switch to a toddler bed first. But spacing them out will make a large impact on the success of both. It may also be helpful to remember that many children take longer to potty train at night; therefore, there may be no need for your toddler to be out of a crib when initially potty training.