The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers and Preschoolers


Moving From Crib to Bed

When your child moves from the crib to a big-kid bed it’s a milestone in his life as well as yours! There is no precise time for making this move, and it is different for every child, though typically it’s between your child’s first and third birthday. The key to success is to be patient and allow your child time to adjust to the change.

What are the reasons to move a child from crib to bed?

If a child sleeps well in his crib, it’s best to wait before making the change. Switching to a bed gives a child new freedom and brings new issues for parents, such as the yo-yo syndrome (in to bed, out of bed…) or early morning wanderings. The most common reasons to make the switch:

  • Your child learns how to climb and could hurt herself by falling out.

Move your child out of the crib when the rail is up to the level of his nipples, since climbing out is more possible.

  • Your child outgrows the crib.

Don’t assume it’s time to move! You may think that he’s uncomfortable, but he may be content in his little nest.

  • Your child asks for a bed.

If she’s old enough to handle it, then go ahead and take the leap.

  • Your child is learning how to use the toilet.

Even if your child uses the toilet during the day, it’s often a long while before bedtime dryness happens, so don’t feel you must push nighttime independence.

  • A new sibling is on the way.

 If your little one loves his crib, then ousting him to make room for the newcomer may add stress. If, however, you feel that the time is right, make the change two months or more before the newborn arrives, so that your older child doesn’t feel that “his” crib is being taken over.

Making the move

Think about how your child usually approaches changes or new things. This will help you decide how to introduce a new bed. If possible, arrange the move to occur when other parts of your child’s life are fairly stable – no vacations, moves, or other big events happening.

What kind of bed should my child move to?

There are a number of options for a child’s first bed:

Toddler bed
These are small, low and toddler-sized. They have built in guard rails on all sides, and come in playful designs.

Regular bed
A mattress, box springs and bed frame is one option. Make sure all sides are protected from fall-outs. Consider a double or bigger size to accommodate the night-reading ritual.

Mattress on the floor
A common choice is a mattress or futon on the floor. This provides your little one with a big-kid bed, but one that he is capable of getting in and out of on his own and that prevents falls out of bed.

Bunk bed
Avoid having a bunk bed in the house until your child is 6 years old, when it is considered safe.

How do we make the change?

There are many ways to make the transition. Which one is best for you will depend on your reasons for moving your child out of the crib, your child’s personality, and the size of his bedroom. Here are a few options:

Big-kid bed hoopla
Some children enjoy having an official Big Kid Bed Day party. Set up the bed, decorate the room and add a few sleep-related presents like books and stuffed animals.

Take the mattress out of the crib and place it on the floor in the same place as the crib was. This gives your child the same sleeping surface and the same view of the room as he’s accustomed to. Place guard rails around the sides to create a crib-like enclosure. Use his usual bedding and crib toys. This is a mid-step between the crib and a real bed.

The gradual introduction
Set up the new bed in the same room along with the crib. Allow your child to play on the bed, and even nap there. Do your bedtime reading, night nursing, or back-rub in the new bed. This will help your child get used to the bed over time.

Patience and encouragement

No matter which path you choose try to be patient and make it a pleasant experience for your child. Keep in mind that big steps toward growth sometimes happen in spurts, and your child may be excited to welcome the change one day, but wary of it the next. Maintain your nightly bedtime routine and help your child develop a positive association with his new bed, since he’ll be sleeping there for many years to come.

Excerpted with permission by McGraw-Hill Publishing from The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers and Preschoolers (McGraw-Hill, 2005).

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