Let’s talk about the crib to bed transition. It’s often a topic that parents experience some stress over. Their child may have attempted to climb out once but stopped, or was successful once or twice. Or there may be a new baby on the way and mom and dad are considering using that crib instead of buying a second.
My response is usually the same— wait as long as possible! Your child has spent many months in that cozy crib. Switching too early or out of convenience could create a bigger problem down the road for your entire family.
If your little one has attempted to or successfully climbed out of the crib one or twice, it could just absolutely be a fluke. There are a few things that can be done first before you switch to a bed. First, if the back of the crib is higher than the front, turn it around. This will make it a lot harder for your child to swing his leg over the front. You can also drop the mattress so that it’s at its lowest setting. Never put the mattress on the floor, as your child could get a limb stuck between the gap of the mattress and crib. If your child still makes these attempts, you can stand outside the room while watching the monitor, and if you see your child swing his leg over the side, you can say a firm "NO" either at the door or through the monitor if it has the microphone function. If your child does successfully climb out of the crib, go into the room and without any talking or eye contact, place him back in the crib and leave the room immediately.
As I mentioned, sometimes those first few climb outs are just flukes. Your child has just learned a new, albeit annoying, skill and is testing i out. Bring the least amount of attention to it while you make your attempts to end that behavior. Of course, if the situation does not improve after a few days and your child is extra brave, you should consider graduating to a toddler bed. It is important to be prepared that while there may be a honeymoon period where your child does amazing and loves the new bed, it is entirely possible that some sleep training will be required if and when he realizes he has the freedom to get out of bed and leave his room.
In a situation where there is a new baby on the way, it is always better not to disrupt your child's sleep space within 6 months of baby's arrival. A new baby is a major change for any household and can be extra tough on a young child. Keeping a crib for your toddler allows there to still be that familiar and comfortable sleeping space for him. Additionally, you risk having even bigger sleep problems if your toddler does not do well in a bed, and decides to get up all night long or require someone to sleep with him in order to fall asleep. This plus having a newborn to tend to can create a very chaotic environment for the entire family. Especially when it's so important for mom to be resting and healing.
If your child is older than 3, they are getting to an age where they can begin to grasp the idea that even though they have the freedom of moving in and out of their bed, they are not allowed to until it’s okay to wake up. You will most likely have to put some rules in place even in this case, and explain when your child is allowed out of bed (for instance, to use the bathroom) and when they are not. An “okay to wake” clock is a great addition to your child’s bedroom when they have graduated to a bed. These clocks allow you to set it to what time your child is allowed out of bed in the morning so you can avoid bed early wake ups. But if your child is 3 or older, and is still very comfortable in his crib, it is totally fine to leave things the way they are. The older the better!
If you think you'd like some one on one support with the crib to bed transition or any other sleep issues you're experiencing with your child, please reach out. I offer different packages that are based on the amount of support parents feel they need and want, because one size does not fit all when it comes to children and their sleep.