Natural Resources Blog

Success! Transitioning Your Toddler to a Big Bed

Filed under community, guest post, sleep

Are you curious or anxious about moving your growing toddler from the crib to a big bed? The struggle is real! Some say the transition from crib to big kid bed can be even more difficult than that first year of baby sleep! But success will be yours! The following article is written by Infant and Toddler Sleep Consultant, Teresa Morris, who shares her wisdom and guidance. While there is no "perfect time" for any change in a toddler's life, Teresa has some helpful advice to foster greater ease around this big change. Happy Reading!

-- Ginny Zeppa, mama, coach, blog editor, and President of NR All Families Foundation

Success is Yours: Transitioning Your Toddler from Crib to a Big Bed


Surprise! After a quick journey from babydom to toddlerhood, you are now considering a big bed for your little one! But wait! Is your toddler is ready? Toddlers seem old enough and many even ask for a big bed, so it must be time, right? Maybe and maybe not. Let’s take some time to figure out if the timing is right -- and let’s think about what it will take to succeed. There are many crucial factors to consider before taking the leap from crib to big bed and TIMING is one of the biggest factors to consider.

Timing is everything! Timing the transition from a crib to a big bed can be fraught with challenges. Spend a minute to think about what a big change this might be for your little one. Carefully consider the questions below. If you answer yes to any, or especially to more than one, of the questions, it is best to wait to transition your child to a big bed.

1. Is your child clinging to you lately?
2. Is your child going to have a big change soon? New daycare/school, travel or potty training?
3. Is your child going through a developmental milestone? Language burst, gross motor skill, or maybe some teething?
4. Is your child sensitive to changes or somewhat slow to warm to changes in general?
5. Does your child need your help to fall asleep?

Increase the probability of success by waiting to make sure you time the transition for as calm a time as possible. You will be happy you did. The year between one and two is what I refer to as the push and pull of asserting independence while clinging to dependence period. Maybe you are familiar with this push and pull toddler roller coaster ride? One minute your child wants you and the next they say, "go away!" That’s because this is a very up and down time for toddlers. The year from two to three is a great time to allow for appropriate decision making, encouraging the advancement in skills and to allow more room to try new things. It is an adventurous time. Yet, it is not a great time for big changes to the familiar foundational aspects of your child’s life, at least not more than one big change at a time.

I recently advised a family who attempted the transition from crib to bed. The family had just returned from a vacation where the entire family slept in the same room. While they were away, grandma transformed their 2.5 year old child’s bedroom from a crib with twin bed to one with only a twin bed. During their trip they excitedly talked to their child about the change. He was excited too, and said he was ready. However, things did not go as planned. It turned out their son was distressed by the change. He cried and clung to them at bedtime. Screaming and crying and asking them not to leave him. They thought it could be a reaction to coming home after traveling, so they decided to press on. After many nights things were still in an uproar and meltdowns and wee hour wakings were as persistent as the first night. With no success on their own, they called me. We discussed the problem, and decided to try a few more nights with added bedside support. Ultimately, it did not work so we decided to revert back to a crib. Immediately, things were better with the crib. He slept through the night and did not cling to them as they left the room. He was not ready for the big changes they planned for him! He still needed the security of his crib.

Do all children struggle with the change from crib to big bed? Definitely not! Some transition without incident. Your child might be that easy child. You never know for certain until you give it a try, but why not maximize your chance for greater ease by creating a plan and timing the transition optimally? In addition to finding the optimal time for your child, find the optimal time for you. You will need to be resourced and feel spacious in order to support your child as necessary through such a big change. If you try to rush the change or your time commitment to it, things may stall or feel out of control.

If you cannot determine the best timing or develop a plan on your own, you might want to find some help. Help can be in the form of a book such as The Sleep Easy Solution by Jennifer Walburger and Jill Spivack. Their book provides developmental timing tips as well as how to handle the transition. Elizabeth Pantley’s No-Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers and Preschoolers also includes a section about this big transition. If books don’t provide the help you need, you may want to consult a sleep consultant. The sleep consultant needs to be experienced with toddler sleep challenges, toddler behaviors and making transitions. It is even better if the consultant can meet you and your child. An experienced sleep consultant will be able to provide a comprehensive plan to help you have success with the crib to bed transition. With the right planning and timing, your toddler will be happily sleeping in a big bed and you’ll happily be doing the same.

-Teresa Morris is an infant/child sleep consultant with a vast background helping families with their babies and young children. Her education in psychology, holistic health and child development greatly influence her work. In addition to teaching classes, Teresa provides private sleep consultations and developmental support throughout the Bay Area.

Learn more about Teresa.  

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