Avoid These Crib to Bed Transition Mistakes

Preschooler boy sleeping in a toddler bed | Bella Luna Family | Avoid These Crib to Bed Transition Mistakes
Christine Brown

Christine Brown

Your baby isn’t a baby anymore (cue waterworks!) and now you may be thinking “should I transition my toddler from their crib to a toddler bed?” This is a HUGE milestone and one that you want to plan carefully! Why? Because sleep can quickly derail if you don’t go into it at the right time and prepared!

You want to avoid these crib to bed transition mistakes…

Crib To Bed Transition Mistake #1: Transitioning To A Big Kid Bed Too Soon

Parents get all excited about transitioning their little ones to a big kid bed! So excited that sometimes we transition our little ones too early.

If your little one isn’t developmentally ready to transition from their crib to a toddler bed, they won’t stay in their bed!

So those peaceful bedtimes with hugs, kisses, “sweet dreams” and then you leave the room, will be a thing of the past. Your sweet cherub will come out of their room a gazillion times looking for you. Your Netflix time will quickly be replaced with Googling “how to keep my toddler in bed when transitioning from crib”! Or when your little one wakes at night, they’ll scream for you or come into your room and stare at you, which is so creepy!

What’s happening is that your little one is still working on their impulse control so if they aren’t developmentally ready for the change, they’ll have a hard time saying “no” to the impulse to get out of bed.

The Fixes

  • Try to wait until your child is 3 or older before making the crib to bed transition so your little one has more time for their impulse control to develop
  • Don’t transition just because a sibling is arriving – get a second crib or use a pack-n-play for the baby until your big kid is really ready for the transition. A newborn + a toddler up all night sounds like my personal hell!
  • If your child is a climber, try to do everything you can to keep your child in the crib. Read these suggestions to stop your toddler from climbing out of the crib.
  • Bring back the crib! If you transitioned too soon, don’t worry that bringing the crib back will be taking a step backwards or creating confusion. Bringing the crib back will give your child the security they crave, while they are developing impulse control.

Crib To Bed Transition Mistake #2: Transitioning To A Big Kid Bed At The Wrong Time

Kids hate change. There I said it!

So, if you’ve got lots of transitions going on and you attempt to move your toddler to a big kid bed, it can really backfire. Ensure that when you are making the change, it is a calm time in your child’s life and they aren’t undergoing a lot of other changes at the same time.  Too much change all at the same time can overwhelm your toddler/preschooler, cause anxiety and make the change unnecessarily more difficult for your child.

I did an Ask Me Anything session with a family recently that was having difficulty keeping their 3 year old in her bed. In the prior 3 months, the child started preschool, she welcomed (tolerated!) a new sibling and they moved to a new house. That’s a lot of change for a little person, who despises change! Their sweet girl’s world was turned upside down and she was having a difficult time adjusting to all the change.

When they moved, the parents wanted to create a big girl room and they transitioned her to a toddler bed. All of a sudden bedtime was a mess and their little one was waking up all night long, wanting a parent there with them. The overtiredness built and this sweet family found themselves in a downward spiral of exhaustion. Don’t worry…there is a happy ending!

The Fixes

  • An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure! To help prevent this situation, wait until life is calm and predictable again before making the transition to a toddler bed.
  • If you’ve already made the transition and it isn’t going well, like the family above, it may make sense to bring the crib back and try again when life is calmer. They did this and their daughter went back to peaceful bedtimes and sleeping through the night again. I heard from them a few months later and they had successfully made the transition!

Crib To Bed Transition Mistake #3: Transitioning To A Toddler Bed Trying To Fix Sleep Problems

Sometimes change is the right choice when you are trying to fix sleep problems, but in this case, it is 100% *not* the right answer! If your child is already having sleep challenges, transitioning them to a big kid bed can make the sleep challenges go from bad to worse.

If your toddler is screaming when you put them in their crib, it is likely because they don’t want to be separated from you, not because they hate their crib! There are peaks of separation anxiety that happen around 12 months, 18 months, 2 years and 2.5 years, which also correspond with sleep regressions.

If your toddler is waking up at night upset, there are many reasons why that may be happening, but it isn’t because your toddler doesn’t like their crib.

The Fixes

  • Ensure your child is meeting their current sleep needs:
    • For 2 year olds, they need 11-12 hours of consolidated nighttime sleep and 1-2 hours of daytime sleep for a total of 12-14 hours.
    • For 3 year olds, they need 11-13 hours of consolidated nighttime sleep and 0-1 hours of daytime sleep for a total of 11-13 hours.
  • Determine the cause of your sleep challenges and work on helping your toddler learn to settle to sleep and sleep through the night so they are well rested BEFORE you make the transition to a toddler bed. We can help with that!

Crib To Bed Transition Mistake #4: Not Setting Sleep Rules & Having A Plan

It’s our children’s job to figure out how to navigate the world, which means that they will test us to find their boundaries. It’s our job to make sure that we let our little ones know the rules and our expectations, plus come up with logical or natural consequences for not following the rules.

This means that your toddler may get up a thousand times after you say good night, trying to see if they can come back out. You want your toddler to know your expectations and their sleep rules.

The Fixes

To set yourself up for success BEFORE making the transition from the crib to a big kid bed, I recommend that you:

  • Prepare your child for the change by talking/reading about it – pick up a book that talks about the change that is coming
  • Pick a transition day
  • Have a family meeting and develop sleep rules, discuss expectations and consequences for not following sleep rules

Crib To Bed Transition Mistake #5: Not Being Consistent

Chances are, your little one is going to try to come out of their room after bedtime at first. Or they make wake up in the middle of the night and want to come into your bed.

If you don’t have a consistent response, your toddler will continue to push the boundaries, trying to get what they want. Remember, that’s their job!

Our job in this situation is to stay super consistent, even if you are EXHAUSTED in the middle of the night or just ready to hit the couch after bedtime. Because if you say “just this one time” to coming back out for more snuggles or pull them into your bed, they’ll know that there is a chance. They will continue to try to make that happen, night after night. This is where a pattern starts and it only takes 3 times of doing something to form a new habit and up to 21 days to break that habit! It’s easier if you never start!

The Fixes

  • Have a parenting plan if things don’t go as planned. How will you and your partner handle it if your child gets out of bed?
  • My recommendation is to silently and emotionlessly put your child back to bed if they get out

Learn More & Get Sleep Help

Check out this post if you want to learn more about successfully transitioning from a crib to a bed!

If you’ve attempted the transition and it isn’t going well or sleep is a hot mess all around, we’d love to help you get back on track! Our team of certified sleep consultants are here to provide you with insight and a customized sleep plan, plus support if you need it! Check out our list of consultation package options here.

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