How’s that process going to affect her sleep habits?
Some toddlers will enjoy their new found freedom and jump out of the bed and roam around; some will feel afraid being taken out of the safety of their familiar crib; and some will transition easily to their new beds and sleep there from day one.
Sleep training and sleep adjustments are different for every one of us. Keep in mind that your child will eventually sleep in her bed. Make a plan of how the transition is going to go and stick to it.
When should you do it?
Making the transition to a ‘big boys/girls bed’ can be difficult, and many parents stress about this process. Our advice is to keep your toddler in a crib for as long as possible, this means waiting until your toddler is around 3 years old.
There’s no one-size-fits-all recommendation to tell parents when a child is ready to make the move from a crib to a bed. Every child is different and you know yours better than anyone. Wait to make the transition once you feel she’s ready and she’ll be able to do it without major complications. Some signs that she’s ready are:
- She’s been trying to climb out of her crib consistently at night and naps (cribtents and mattress on the lowest position didn’t work).
- She understands directions and boundaries.
- She shows interest in other friends or siblings’ beds.
When shouldn’t you do it?
When there’s another major change or event going on (i.e. new sibbling, new house, potty training, new daycare, new caregiver…).
How do you do it?
We advice you to break it down in two different phases:
During the preparation you should talk to your child about moving to a ‘big bed’ and how great that is. You should make it sound like a big accomplishments to her. Tell other family members and friends what a big girl she is, and that you trust her so much that you’re going to give her a ‘big girls bed’. Your goal is trying to get her to feel proud about the transition, create anticipation. You can mention older friends, siblings or friends who sleep in a bed. Remind your child how big and grown she is now, and remind her of other milestones she has reached (i.e. potty training, giving up a pacifier, drinking by herself, brushing teeth, dressing herself, etc.)
If possible, try to involve your child in the process. Let her pick up the bed, the sheets, choose between two different locations where the bed would go in the room, decide what to do with her crib, decide how she wants to ‘say bye’ to her crib, take pictures of her in the crib, etc.
Make sure her bedroom is ‘safe’ before making the transition. As she will be mobile, you have to make sure that she won’t be able to harm herself if she decides to move around at night or during naps.
Pick a date in which you will make the transition, and make a fun countdown with your child. She could cross the days in the calendar, write the number of days left on a board, etc.
2. Mixing it up:
During this phase, you should let her familiarize with her new surroundings without making the transition. This means, letting her use their new sheets and pillow while she’s still sleeping in the crib.
Remeber to celebrate and take pictures of every step towards the transition.
There are many different approaches of how to do the transition. However, we believe that the most effective for most kids is the ‘cold turkey’ approach.
On the day you and your child decided the transition would take place, talk about it from the moment your child awakes in the morning. Set the new bed (or take down the side from the convertible bed), have her help you make the bed, arrange the pillows… You would remove the crib and you could throw it a ‘goodbye’.
Start the transition at nap time that first day; and celebrate after the nap is over, even if she fought it a little bit before falling asleep. Remember to have your same routines in place!
- If you think your child is ready, and you decide to make the transition, stick to that decision (no going back!).
- Take the crib away once the transition is done (out of sight means out of mind).
- Celebrate your child’s accomplishment in the morning.
- Make a big deal out of it.
- Keep your bedtime routine in place. You can also incorporate the bed into the routine (i.e. reading time now is on the bed).
- Do not put ‘bad associations’ on your child’s head. She might not think that it’s going to be scary, so don’t suggest it by saying ‘You don’t have to be scared’. She might not even think of coming out of bed, so don’t tell her ‘You can’t come out of the bed’.
- If your child has a convertible crib, the transition should be easier, as she would still be in her familiar ‘crib’.
- If your child comes out of the bed, bring her back, calmly but firmly.
Remember that moving to a ‘big bed’ is one of the many milestones your child will accomplished in the first years of life. Our experience tells us that the attitude the parents have towards the transition determines how easy or hard the process will be. So, try to be relaxed about it, feel proud of your child, think you both can do it, and do it!