Do you know the number one cause of toddler sleep problems? Moving out of the crib too early!
If your baby struggles with sleep, transitioning out of the crib is rarely “the fix.” In fact, it usually makes the issues worse. Before 2.5 years old, most little ones simply do not have the developmental capacity to understand the statement: “You need to stay in bed.”
I know, it can be exciting to create a “big boy” or “big girl” room, but keeping your baby in the crib just a bit longer will actually make the transition much easier. At some point, every little one will eventually need to move to a toddler or more adult-style bed.
Here are the signs that it’s time to move away from the crib and on to a big kid bed:
1. Your baby is consistently crawling or climbing out of the crib
This is simply a safety issue. If a little one is regularly climbing out of the crib, the crib is no longer a safe sleeping space for him.
However, before you transition for ONLY this reason, here are some ways you may be able to delay the transition:
- Make sure the crib mattress is in the lowest position. Some parents choose to lower the mattress all the way to the floor inside the crib frame. Please check with your pediatrician and make sure that there is no space between the top of the mattress and the bottom of your baby’s crib for her to get stuck.
- Consider turning your baby’s crib around. Many cribs are taller in the “back” and shorter in the “front.” Turning the crib around can make it more difficult for your baby to climb over the top.
- If you have crib bumpers, this is a great time to remove them. Babies can use a crib bumper as a “step” to climb out.
- Put your baby in a sleep sack whenever she sleeps in the crib. This will make it more difficult for her to lift her leg up and over the side of the crib.
- Use a “two-way talk” baby monitor and firmly say, “no” if you see your little one beginning to crawl out of the crib.
2. Your toddler is asking for a big girl or big boy bed
Some little ones never crawl out of the crib, but they do eventually want to sleep in a more adult-style bed. Your toddler may have seen a friend or sibling with a toddler bed, or she may have just decided that the crib feels like a baby bed. When she asks, it’s time to start thinking about the transition. We don’t typically see this until at least age 3.
3. Your child is physically big enough that the crib just isn’t a good option any longer.
Maybe the crib size is keeping him from getting comfortable, maybe he’s getting too heavy to lift in and out of the crib for nights and naps, or maybe the crib is keeping him from being able to go to the bathroom. Many children reach this point at around 3 years of age or about 35 pounds. It simply isn’t practical for them to remain in a crib any longer.
If you haven’t seen any of these signs yet, delay your baby’s move to the toddler bed especially if sleep isn’t going well in the crib.
A few words of caution
Please don’t move your little one out of the crib simply because you have a new baby who needs the crib. This can create the impression for your toddler that he is being “pushed aside” for the baby. It can also just create more stress for everyone. Times of big, necessary transition are usually not great times to add any other unnecessary transitions. Instead, consider buying/borrowing a crib for your new baby until your toddler is ready.
Please don’t move your little one out of the crib simply because you believe there’s a magical age when little ones SHOULD be out of the crib. My youngest son was in the crib until he was almost 3.5. Other people teased me about whether he would take the crib with him to college. I just smiled and knew that our whole family was sleeping well because I didn’t rush him when he wasn’t ready.