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Is It Time For A Toddler Bed?

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Cara Dumaplin

toddler happy for the camera getting ready for a toddler bed

Do you know one of the most common causes of toddler sleep problems???

Moving out of the crib too early!

It’s true!

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 ½ 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 (I know, I know. If only we could keep those little ones in the crib forever.) So, how do you know if it is time for a toddler bed?

Here are the signs that it’s time to transition out of the crib:

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.

- 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, please delay your baby’s move to the toddler bed ESPECIALLY if sleep isn’t going well in the crib.

Resist the temptation to move your little one out of the crib for any of these reasons:

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 unnecessary transitions. Instead, consider buying/borrowing a crib for your new baby until your toddler is ready. (If you haven’t yet watched the newborn class, it can help set your new baby up to be a great sleeper with no crying involved.)

You think it might magically fix sleep. 

If sleep is a mess, transitioning to the toddler bed simply causes sleep to become more difficult. Often what you’re seeing is that your little one is simply exercising their voice. I’ve got a little trick for you if your toddler is fighting bedtime.  Hint: It does not include a toddler bed.

You believe there’s a "right" age when little ones SHOULD be out of the crib.

My youngest son was in the crib until he was almost 3 and a half...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.

If your little one is still in the crib but isn’t sleeping well, I have classes for you! The 5-24 Month Collection will give you tools and walk you step-by-step through a plan to conquer nights, days, and every bump along your sleep journey. If your little one is an ABCs of Sleep graduate, please know that we offer 1-on-1 support via phone consult that can help you to get your baby back on track.

When you decide that it IS the right time for your little one to transition to a toddler bed, you’ll want to check out this blog! Jennifer, a member of our Taking Cara Babies team, shows you how she walked through this transition with her son and will share our best tips and tricks with you!


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Fair skinned baby girl with bow on head and caption 'Sleep tips for the holidays!' African American baby swaddled tightly to his mother's chest Cara Dumaplin wearing jean jacket embroidered with the words 'tough as a mother' in script font Asian baby boy, standing in crib, arms reaching towards the viewer Happy African American baby sitting in a kitchen sink captioned 'Fun facts about baths.'