Transitioning from a Crib to a Bed
Daniel Lewin, PhD, Associate Director of Sleep Medicine, sleep specialist, and licensed clinical psychologist at Children’s National Health System gives parents tips about transitioning their child from a crib to a bed.
Switching your child from a crib to a bed can be challenging. Establishing a bedtime routine before the transition is the most important activity to help your child adapt to change.
Routine, routine, routine
Establishing a regular bedtime routine is very important for all children, as well as adults. If your child falls asleep with a parent present, she or he often will need the parent to be present when she or he wakes up in the middle of the night. If your child falls asleep alone, then there is a much higher chance that your child will not get out of a toddler bed repeatedly, looking for a parent. If your child does not already have a regular routine, establish a 10 to 15 minutes routine (reading together, cuddling, consistent light and sound in the bedroom) over three to five days and then transition your child from a crib to a bed.
Any change can be stressful, particularly for children who are in the process of developing their self-regulatory capacity. The rails of a crib provide security, and the new freedom of a toddler bed may create insecurity and activate the child’s natural tendency to test limits. Creating some excitement and rules about the change as well as what is expected, can help calm and contain the child.
Have a good reason to transition your child out of his or her crib. The main reason parents may want to transition their child to a bed is if she or he is a climber. Once your child can verbally communicate and can engage in verbal reasoning, it is easier to transition him or her to a toddler bed.
Additionally, since your child is accustomed to having the limits of crib rails, establish clear rules that your child is not allowed to leave the room or call out to you. Instead, begin the transition process by checking in with him or her on a frequent basis, and let him or her know that “if you stay in bed I’ll come back and check on you quickly.”
There are no real risks of transitioning to a bed too early, but the primary risk of transitioning too late is your child climbing out of the crib and falling and injuring his or herself.