Many parents cross their fingers that their baby will “grow out” of their sleep issues, but often the sleep problems continue as their child ages. The good news is that it is never too late to get your child on track with healthy sleep habits.
While there are many issues that can arise concerning toddlers sleep, the biggest one I encounter with my clients are the challenges they face transitioning their child from a crib to a big kid bed.
Moving to a big bed is a significant milestone in your child’s life. It’s important that you don’t underestimate how much this change may impact your little one and their sleep.
When you think your child is ready to transition to a big bed, there are a few things you can do to help ease the transition.
Is your little one is ready?
One of the most common reason that the transition from the crib to a bed goes terribly wrong is that parents make the switch too early. Remember, there is no rush. If your child is sleeping well and is happy in their crib, keep them in there. It usually becomes clear when your child is ready for a toddler bed (e.g., they are climbing out of their crib!). Try to keep your child in the crib as close to age three as possible. Children any younger simply cannot understand the imaginary boundaries of staying in a bed when they can so easily get out. This can make it hard to enforce the rules.
Make it fun by involving your child
Let your child be part of the process by letting them help pick out new bedding or a new bed. This will help your child feel like they have some control over the situation and make them feel comfortable and secure in their new space.
Keep your child’s room and routine the same
Like I mentioned above, moving to a toddler bed is a big change for your little one, so it’s best to avoid too much change at once. Keeping your child in the same room will help them adjust and feel secure. It’s also important to keep a consistent bedtime routine to help your cue your child that is it time for sleep. And don’t forget to let them bring along their favourite lovey or blankie so that they feel safe and familiar in their new bed.
Beware of the “honeymoon” phase and be prepared for set-backs
It’s common for toddlers to do well with the transition for the first few days/weeks but once your child gets comfortable, they make start to play games. The key is being prepared so you have a plan when this happens. Which brings me to my final point…
Be consistent and firm if your child keeps getting out of bed
If your child gets out of bed to come and find you, silently return them to their bed. It is very important that you make it unrewarding to leave, so do not give them any attention. If your child is potty training, you may want to consider a “hall pass” – a one-time pass that your child can use to go to the bathroom one last time. If your child continues to get out of bed, you may have to start giving a consequence, such as closing their bedroom door all the way, for leaving their bed.
Just like anything when it comes to parenting, it will take consistency and patience, but before you know it, your child will be comfortable with and happily sleeping in their new big kid bed.
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