One of the most common questions I get asked as a child sleep consultant is, “When should we move him into a big kid bed?”
My favorite answer to this is, “Later,” and there are a couple of reasons why I say that.
Number one is because there are so many other priorities when it comes to your baby’s sleep. Establishing a bedtime routine, teaching independent sleep skills, getting your baby accustomed to a schedule, are all things that should take place before you worry about moving him out of his crib.
Believe me, it’s going to be a lot easier to make the transition once you’ve got a good, skilled sleeper on your hands.
The other reason I tell parents to wait as long as they can is because, unless you’ve got a new baby on the way and need to make some space in that crib, there’s just no reason to push it.
Toddlers will inevitably notice that they sleep in a different bed than their parents, or their older siblings, and will ask why.
Once they’ve shown some interest, and feel like they want to make the switch, I’m all for it. But don’t look at it as some kind of developmental stage that your child should reach at a predetermined age.
They’ll get there when they get there, and there’s no harm if it’s later rather than sooner.
One of the biggest reasons I see for parents moving their kids to a big kid bed, is because they’re hoping it will solve some existing sleep issues. Maybe baby’s gotten into a habit of wanting to climb into bed with Mom and Dad, or they’re suddenly waking up and demanding a glass of milk in the middle of the night.
So maybe a big kid bed would help them feel more grown up. Maybe it would give them a feeling of security and comfort.
It will not.
In all my time as a consultant, and with all of the other consultants I network with, to my knowledge, none of us have ever seen bad sleep behavior solved by moving baby to a new bed.
So, now that I’ve told you to wait as long as possible, how about those of you who have done that already, and are now making the switch?
The first thing you might notice is how quickly and easily your little one makes the transition. Your little one climbs into the new bed, loves the cool print on the new sheets, and sleeps happily straight through the night.
So maybe you’re in the clear! Or maybe you’re not.
There’s typically a honeymoon period with the big kid bed. Kids initially think they are great, but then, after a couple of weeks, they start to wake up and leave their room in the middle of the night, asking to get into bed with mom and dad.
You may be tempted to comply with this request, but I strongly suggest you nip this in the bud early on. I also speak from experience, even though those snuggles feel good, they don’t last too long, you are pushed to the edge of your bed and you feel like you are sleeping with an octopus. But most importantly it becomes harder to get your little one into their bed and the boundaries get blurred. Again, regardless of how sweet the request is, you really need to make it clear that it’s not allowed, or you’ll be dealing with nighttime roaming for months.
If your child starts leaving their room in the night, walk them back, tell them it’s bedtime, and let them know what the consequence will be if they do it again.
The best deterrent I know, is to close the bedroom door all the way, and keep it closed for a full minute for the first consequence. If your little one leaves the room again, make it two minutes. Then five, and so on.
I should actually throw in a little disclaimer here. If your little one has started the “escape artist” routine, and is climbing out of their crib in a dangerous way and there’s potentially some harm if they fall on their way out that may be a sign to switch them. Book a call with me today!