Is Your Child Ready for a “Big Bed”?
- Your child has found a way to ‘escape’ the crib – flinging themselves over the side can be a huge shock to parents and also a danger to the child.
- The crib appears too small (your child has issues settling or bumps into the rails often).
- Your child takes an interest in a big bed (often seen with older siblings or friends making the change).
- Your child shows negativity towards his crib.
Don’t make the mistake of moving to the big bed to fit your own schedule or when big changes are afoot such as a new baby, moving to a new home, or changing or starting daycare. No matter the age, it’s best not to make changes to sleep when other big things are happening (such as potty training) or when your child is ill. One thing that I have noticed with the change is that a lot of children will feel vulnerable once there are no sides, and they are more exposed so two big changes at once could spur some anxiety.
Making the Transition
You should anticipate that bedtime will not be easy for a few days. Your child will need to know that getting out of the new bed and chasing you down the hall is not a game. To make the transition smooth, you can:
- Get your child involved by picking out the bed or bed linens.
- Make your child comfortable on the bed by cuddling on it, reading on it, prior to you leaving.
- Talk about the rules with your child in a firm and loving tone. Tell them it’s not ok to get out of bed (unless it’s for the potty, and an in-room potty will help) until morning, when you can have a big snuggle. If he gets out of bed, put him right back, minimizing interaction (be quiet but loving)
- If your child is older, you can use a toddler-friendly alarm clock to teach him when it’s “ok” to get out of bed.
- Re-inforce his progress by telling him how amazing his new skill is.
- A bedtime between 7-8pm is good for a child under 3; any later and your child will have difficulty winding down.
- For children who are still napping, over napping or napping late into the afternoon will make an early bedtime difficult – the average awake window with one nap a day is 5-6 hours either side.
- Dont have your child’s crib and their bed set up together in the same room – they will want to sleep in their crib as that is what they are used too.
You may need to dedicate a couple of weeks to making the change. At first, you can check on your child and re-assure him every few minutes. Keep water by the bed for any calls for water, but calls for pains suddenly at bedtime or hunger are just stalling tactics. You don’t want these to become habits you need to break.
If you run into problems, some form of gradual withdrawal will help you move forwards. Once you make the change, do not go back to the crib – that only makes things more confusing for your child.
If you need some support moving forward, have questions, or have run into difficulties, I offer phone packages from 15-45 minutes or full sleep training support. Check them out here.