My son is an escape artist and won’t stop climbing out of his crib!
My daughter refuses to fall asleep in her crib – she’ll cry for hours! – but if we bring her into our bed, she’ll sleep all night…
I think we should transition her to a toddler bed, because I don’t know what else to do!
These are all statements I’ve heard over the past few days from parents who are are their wits end.
Their kids were all between 14 months and 2.5 years of age, and in most cases, these issues have been going on for months (in one case, for 2 years!)
Do any of these ring true at your house?
Before you chuck the crib out the window and head to the furniture store to buy a bed, here are some things to consider:
It’s likely a combination of a negative association and a learned behavior.
In the past, have you rocked your child to sleep or drowsy and laid her down in the crib asleep? Then when she wakes up, she’s in a different place and you’re gone. Imagine if you fell asleep on the couch and woke up somewhere else. Pretty disconcerting! But more than that, now that she’s up, she thinks she needs you to put her back to sleep…because that’s how she always falls asleep.
The learned behavior is that she knows if she wakes up in the middle of the night and cries, you’ll come back in and rock her or bring her into your bed. She’s learned that if she wakes you up when you want to sleep, you’ll do anything to get her back to sleep – so you can get back to sleep yourself!
2. Transitioning to a bed too soon will wreak (more) havoc
Kids generally aren’t developmentally ready for the increased independence that comes with a bed until at least 2.5 years (and usually much closer to 3 years).
Moving them before they’re ready will result in frustrating situations (walking your child back to bed 87 times) and you not sticking to your plan and caving (ie that 88th time you cuddle in the rocking chair or bring him into your bed).
When you move them at the right time – sometime after they’re potty trained and are over 2.5 years – they’ll understand the situation better and what your expectations are.
3. This age is prime time boundary-pushing time
Does your child stall every night – one more hug, one more drink of water, one more trip to the potty, etc.? Has your child said he’ll sleep better in a big bed? Be careful with giving into these requests. The stalling techniques are completely normal at this age…but that doesn’t mean you should give in! Children need to know that there is a limit when they push boundaries. Even though they’re pushing, they like to know you’re there as a “wall” to say enough is enough.
Is your child climbing out of the crib every night? How do you react when he does? Some nights you enforce the rules and take him back (repeatedly!) but some nights you let him win and just bring him in your bed? Remember that he’s watching how you’ll react. If he pushes the boundaries and sometimes gets his way, he’s going to keep doing that behavior!
If your child asked for cookies for dinner, you’d say no, right? Same goes for other unhealthy requests – you know it’s not safe and she’s not ready to be in a big bed yet, so stand your ground on this one.
The key to creating a pleasant atmosphere around the crib and sleep is to teach your child how to fall asleep on her own (so put her in the crib awake!), make sure she isn’t getting overtired (overtiredness makes it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep) and have a plan of what you’ll do (and not do) in the middle of the night if she wakes up. Consistency is so important – you don’t want her thinking one parent is the weak link and cry until that parent comes in to “save” her! You and your spouse need to be on the same page and decide how you’ll react to these behaviors so every behavior gets a consistent reaction.
One more point about transitioning out of the crib. I always get asked what to do when baby #2 is coming…transition to a bed sooner than we should or buy another crib.
I bet you can guess the answer! You know having a newborn will be an exhausting experience. Do you really want your toddler coming in and saying hello while you’re doing a night feeding with the new baby? Then you’ll have two kiddos to get back to sleep! My best advice is to keep baby in a bassinet for a couple of months if your older child is close to being ready to transition to a big bed. If they’re closer in age, spring for another crib. It’ll be worth it every night that you don’t have middle of the night visits from your older child!
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Photo credit: Deposit Photos | anatols