Are you transitioning your toddler from crib to bed? As a pediatric sleep consultant, I’ve coached hundreds of students to help make the switch! In this post, I’m sharing some of my strategies.
I am answering all of your questions about moving from the crib to the big kid bed, and I’m even having my husband Chad help me out in a rapid style Q&A! I surveyed you guys on Instagram, asked you what questions you had, and we took all of those questions and came up with this episode to be able to give you the most insight and the most help on how to make this pretty big transition.
Yes, it can vary by each kid, age to age, all the differences, because as another mom has asked, within these questions, she said that eighteen months they transitioned, and sometimes, yes, you will hear about people who transition much younger. If your little one is under three years old, sleeping in their open bed, eleven to twelve hours, all night long without a fight, then you do you, and don’t worry about it. But the majority of people who come to me and listen to this podcast, want to either prevent the wakings, or they want to be able to solve the wakings, and so if you have a kid under three years old, keep them in a crib.
Well, it’s kind of hard because I don’t know the firmness and softness of every single bed, and actually, I wanted to tie in another question that someone asked recently about a memory foam mattress, and someone said they already had a memory foam mattress, can I just use that? Honestly, yes, at this three-year-old age, if you already have an extra bed, you might as well just save some money and just use that.
I really don’t think there’s any magic to saying you should have a super firm bed or a super soft bed, we’re not concerned about the firmness of the mattress because we’re out of that baby stage where we’re really looking for, especially twelve months and under, a very firm mattress for baby. Now, yes, let’s get comfortable and cozy and I would always do the “you test”. You lay on it. What do you think? Would you want to sleep there all night long? Is it comfortable? Then make that call.
I understand the idea and the thought is it’s a little kid, why do they need a big bed? It’s easy to get in and out, therefore, let’s just put the mattress on the floor. That exact statement is exactly why you shouldn’t have the mattress on the floor. This is actually a Montessori bed, if it’s on the floor. I don’t want you to have the mattress set up on the floor because it is an invitation for your child to easily get in and out whenever they please. However, if you remember Chad, when we first set up that mattress in that room, our oldest said, “Oh look! It’s so easy for Hattie to get in and out of her bed!” I was like, “Bingo! That’s why!” So please, please, please, by all means, just get a $40 frame and prop that mattress up, set it up, because we want to have the right set up for your child, and even if it’s just a foot off the ground, it gives that separation so it’s less of an invitation to go play with all the fun things around the room.
We don’t use bed rails and it’s just because I don’t want to buy them, clearly. I will give you a hack. We used a pool noodle with my first daughter. We didn’t use it this go around with our second. She’s a lot less active in the bed. Our oldest was always moving around. We didn’t use bed rails or this pool noodle with our second, but with our first, we put a pool noodle on the side, under the fitted sheet, so that it kind of kept her in a little more.
The beds are also low enough to the ground that it’s not an issue. In fact, the beds we used for the girls have two different height settings. We have it on the lowest setting. I think we only had one issue ever where she just rolled out of bed for some reason, but she was so low to the ground, I don’t even think it woke her up. We personally don’t use bedrails, I would just put the bed on the lowest setting so it’s easier for your kid to get in and out of.
Good question! I bet you know how I am going to answer this because it gets back to the foundations! If your kid is expecting you to lay with them every single night already, then you have to train them. You have to teach them the expectations of how to stay in your bed.
If you’re making this transition at three years old to go from crib to an open bed and you’re not already laying with them, they’re not going to expect that. If they already expect you to help them fall asleep anyways, then they’re going to want that when you move them to the big bed.
If the question is, you’re currently sleeping with your kid and how can you stop, then that’s let’s connect, and let’s get some support in place.
Let’s get a plan in place because we don’t have to be laying with our kids every night to go to sleep. I was actually talking with some friends last night. They said, their three and four-year-olds, actually ask mom and dad to get out of the bed. They lean over and say, “Goodnight.” I wish our oldest would do this because she latches on for dear life, like “Stay with me, stay with me!” I’m like, “We’ve never done that, goodbye!” It really gets back to the foundation. If your kid is expecting you to help them get to sleep, then we need to sleep train. We need to fix things. If your child knows how to sleep independently, it’s not like they go to the big bed and all of a sudden, they expect you to help them. They’ll have the same expectations.
If you could see our own bed right now! The duvet has been off of the duvet cover for months. I keep washing it, and I don’t put it back on. I would say, make sure you’ve tied them at the bottoms and make sure they’re all situated the right way, but if you’re already worried about that, then don’t go the duvet route. I just happen to like duvets and duvet covers, especially when I set them up properly. I would just make sure you’ve secured them, like double knotted them on the corners, and made sure it’s all fitted nice and tight, and then obviously if you’re frustrated with the duvet, don’t buy a duvet!
I think we chose the full size for our oldest because she was all over the place in her bed. Our youngest, she stays in one spot. We also didn’t want to pay for another bed later. We just wanted to get a good size bed, like I said it comes with two different height settings, so as she gets older, we can just raise it up off the floor a little more, but we shouldn’t have to get her another bed for a while. Plus, the room is pretty big. Somebody actually commented on this on Instagram today, they said, “Your girls’ room is huge!” It’s the third floor of our townhome, and it’s a huge room, which is awesome, but they have their own little bathroom up there too, which is a great spacious area for them, but if it was conducive, we could fit two fulls in there and have plenty of room to walk around.
There are special concerns with that. If we ever downsize or move to a place that has smaller rooms, that would not have fit easily. It worked for us in the room we had. Realistically we could have gotten away with the twin.
This actually goes into a question no one asked, probably because they knew what I would say, don’t mess around with that whole toddler bed thing. It kind of gets into the similar vein of the mattress on the floor. It’s actually way easier for your kid, and more inviting for your kid to be getting out of the crib that now has one of the sides down, like you’ve converted to a toddler bed. I actually bought that Jenny Lind crib before I knew and before I had a sense of “Oh great, we’ll just use this toddler bed eventually.” I actually would rather you set up a real big bed for them. My suggestion is to skip the toddler bed nonsense, because you’re going to have to make the change anyway, and just go straight to a twin or a full. Somebody’s going to ask about a queen because we already have a queen, sure! That’s fine!
First of all, I want to applaud you for reading the instruction manual of your crib. I think it’s phenomenal that you know that stat and that you’re trying to fall in line. That’s three feet tall, almost 36 inches. So, I would say for one, if your crib is saying that’s the max height, I might be checking on the weight, because my gut feeling is saying that’s max height as in they could easily fall out or climb out if they wanted to, but you’d have to check into that. I would also be checking in on the max weight, but because your child is so young, not even two and a half, I would be looking to either move to the 4 Moms Pack N Play if you just want to buy a pack n play that you could use even when you travel in the next year, because it’s a little bit bigger, the height should be better, but just because he’s reached the max height, I would be checking on the weight, but if he’s prone to stand on the edge and try to climb out, but if he’s really good about laying down in his bed and sleeping, that’s fine. He’s got plenty of room all around him. Look into the 4 Moms Pack N Play or search for a crib that’s a little bigger, with different height recommendations. You will seriously save your sanity if you look for another option instead of saying, “He’s too tall for this one, let’s just get him out” because you’re going to open up a can of worms.
We were going through the same thing with a client and her little one, who was sleeping 11-12 hours through the night, but she would come in and find her youngest laying on the floor, and she asked if it was a problem. It’s the same question, and I’ve worked with several kids that would actually prefer the floor which sounds weird to me, but everyone has different preferences. I might then look into the mattress. If you have a memory foam mattress, maybe it’s too soft, maybe we need a firmer mattress. The fact that he’s getting out of bed and laying on the floor, would only be a problem if he’s getting out of bed, playing in his room, coming to get you guys, shouting, talking, playing, and then collapsing on the floor out of exhaustion. If he’s literally getting out of his bed, laying on the floor with a pillow and a blanket, or nothing, just laying down and sleeping a full 11 to 12 hours, it’s not a problem. One day he may decide the bed is a nice place to be, but this also goes to show you, for boys especially, if not until age three, they need to understand rules and boundaries and the expectation is to be in your bed all night long.
Your three-year-old is now saying that she can get in and out and I want you to say, “Yes, yes, you can.” Then I want you to talk about the clock, which I think you’re using the Hatch. I would say, “Yes, you can get in and out of the bed, so when the clock is red, you get in bed to go to sleep. When the clock is green you get out of bed to start the day.” Affirm the fact that they can get in and out, but let’s remember our expectations. You can get in bed when the clock is red. You get out of bed for the day when the clock is green. That gets into how your family works. In our family, I don’t know if our children are just well-trained, they have no concept that they could get out of their bed in the morning. They literally wait till we come into the room, which is fantastic. I love that right now. I definitely tell families, it depends on the way you want to do it. If you want to tell your child you can get out of bed when the clock is green, or wait until I come in your room until the clock is green, whatever you want, it’s totally fine, but I would just praise her for the fact that you can do that, and here’s how you can do it. Just give the guidance on yes that’s a possibility and here’s how you can do that. I also will say, because I know we’ve talked about this, often times the child will say they’re going to do something and then the middle of the night comes and they’re by themselves in the room, and they’re like, “Nope, never mind I don’t want to do that.” Sometimes they don’t have the guts to follow through!
So, we don’t have an age in question, I guess the question is should that be a criterion for moving to a toddler bed? I didn’t know if you were talking about is she potty trained, as in is our daughter potty trained? Our daughter, yes, she’ll be three next week, and she is potty trained, but I have worked with families where the child was not nighttime trained, like still wearing pull-ups, which is okay at this age. I would want you to actually be teaching, especially three and up if they are in a big kid bed now, we may need to teach how to go potty, which we had to do that with our oldest, was when you get out of bed to go potty in the middle of the night, again they have a bathroom in their room which is nice, but sometimes I’ve had clients who have to help the kid go to the bathroom. I would teach, okay you get out of bed, you tiptoe quietly like a little mouse into the bathroom, get up on the stool, go potty, wipe, flush, go back to sleep. You may have to teach that, but if they’re wearing pull-ups and things like that, it’s doable. They don’t have to be potty trained to sleep in a big kid bed if they are over three. But again, that’s the whole theme, let’s wait until they are over three years old.
First of all, I’ll say that Chad did a really good job of telling our youngest, Hattie, a couple of days before. I wouldn’t get into it like, “In two weeks you’re going to have a new bed.” You may be talking about it, but you don’t have to have a countdown because they have no idea of the time. A couple of days before, you started to tell her. She saw it because the mattress actually came rolled up, compressed in a box, so you have taken it out, decompressed it and let it grow to size for about 24-48 hours. The good thing is, there were changes that started to occur in their room, even though we didn’t change their sleeping situation for a couple of nights, they started to see mattresses in there, things started getting moved around, and so they were already prepped and conditioned for something about to happen, and then we just constantly talked to her about how great it was.
Then what we really did last night when it was her first night in it, we really didn’t make a huge deal about it, we just acted like it’s the new normal, like, “Alright let’s get in your bed, isn’t this great, okay time to go night-night.” It was so cute! She just laid down and she kept saying, “This is so exciting!”
With our oldest, and this is our first time doing it, we actually had her help assemble the bed, and she will remember it and talk to us about it, to this day, about screwing all the little rods in. I gave her the screwdriver, and so she took ownership of the bed, and Becca did a good job of letting her help make the bed, all the afternoon prior. All day we were looking forward to, that night, let’s finish dinner, let’s take a bath, get jammies on, and let’s get in the bed.
I haven’t talked about this yet, but I made an accident, I ordered the wrong size bed, so last night was our first night of Hattie being in her big girl bed, but the actual frame is coming next week, and she’s such a little mechanic, she’s going to love helping to put that together.
Good question! You know, I think this has everything to do with what time your child goes to bed. For instance, I am working with an almost-three-year-old right now, who’s still in a crib, and she has a nap in the middle of the day that’s an hour and a half at school, and it’s taking her 45 minutes to fall asleep at night. She’s calling out for mom, calling out for dad, I guarantee if she was in a big kid bed, she’d probably be getting out, and the reason is, her bedtime wasn’t right. They were putting her to bed too early because she was having a good nap. When we had a call today, I said, let’s move her bedtime to 8:30 because she’s getting such a long nap during the day, we need to adjust her bedtime. My statement to you, would be how old is your kid? Are they napping during the day? Usually, three and up they have no need to be napping, but yes at preschools and daycares they will. Just like this client I’m working with, and we need to find the right bedtime.
I would encourage two things. I want you to listen to podcast #18 where I talk about when you know it’s time to drop the nap, and I want you to go listen to podcast #32 where I talk about the ideal toddler bedtime because if your child is refusing to stay in their bed, then we need to evaluate if their nap is too long, maybe they need to get rid of their nap, and what’s the bedtime routine look like? Are they looking for you to help them get to sleep? Do they enjoy a bedtime routine? Was it fear-based that they better get in the bed and be quiet, or else? Or are you able to connect with your child, and they’ve had their fill of you and so they’re able to confidently get in their bed and fall asleep on their own?
Good question. There is no benefit to that. In fact, I would never suggest doing a slow transition. Y’all know I’m all about implementing everything all at one time. In fact, it can really confuse your child if you say, “We’ll do this today and that tomorrow and something different the next day.” That’s so confusing. We want to come all in and say, “This is the new normal, this is what we’re doing, and this is how we do it.” Again, I’m going to point you to podcast #32, that toddler bedtime routine, because I have some bedtime routine cards in there that you can use with your child to help them understand, this is the bed, this is what we do, we’re doing it, let’s go.
Congratulations on the baby coming! That’s a great question. If you have several months out before the baby comes, then yes, go ahead and make the change. I would not make the change to a big bed if the baby is coming in the next several weeks. That is a lot of change all at once, but if you’ve got plenty of time, I would go ahead and do the change to the big kid bed, and especially if she is still sleeping all night long, wonderfully, then it’s not going to be a big deal.
I would say, let’s do either one of those first. You could do potty training and then the bed, or the bed and then potty training. It’s totally up to you. Of course, the whole potty-training thing is different than the bed because potty training, we need to know your kid is ready. Take it from us. You can’t force your child to be potty trained. We’ve had lots of experience in trying to rush our oldest and she wasn’t ready. You can’t rush that. If you know that she is showing signs that she’s ready, then great, do it. The big kid bed, if she’s three years old, just about to turn three, or older, then yes, get her to the big kid bed, and then potty train, if you have plenty of time before baby arrives.
Yes, so this is quite the thing with our children right now because I’ve hinted on Instagram that our oldest actually needs a later bedtime. My youngest needs a little earlier, so we meet in the middle and do a 7:00, sometimes 7:10 bedtime. When we leave the room, this is what we do. We say goodnight to each of them. Each of us says goodnight to each kid, we say our prayers, we sing a song, we switch, say a prayer, say goodnight, and then we leave. I want you to do the exact same thing. This is if your child is fully confident and capable of sleeping independently.
Going back to what Chad was just saying about not making a huge deal about it. I’ve said this on the podcast, like a year ago, the biggest thing that I want you to know and not say, is “Don’t get out of your bed” because I almost guarantee you that kid never even thought about it until you just gave them permission. Don’t be marching out of that room saying, “Don’t get out of bed, stay in your bed.” They probably didn’t think about it until you gave them the idea. I want you to treat it just as you do in the crib situation. Say goodnight, say your songs, say your prayers, do your goodnights and then leave the room. If your child is depending on you to fall asleep, then you need to be looking at some sleep coaching, and if your child is under three, still in a crib, this is the perfect time to do it. Toddler sleep e-coaching is built for this, so we can build their confidence in sleep, and when you do make that transition to a big kid bed, it’s going to be a whole lot smoother.
These are really good questions. I’m so thankful that you guys asked these on Instagram. There were more, but they were all kind of overlapping, so I just chose the ones that were easy to read out loud and could understand. Thank you guys so much for joining us today. If you have any feedback for us, I would love to hear in an iTunes review. Just scroll down, leave us a review, I would love to read your review here. Go ahead and leave us a review, tell us what you think. Sweet dreams, see you next time.
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