There are many reasons that parents feel compelled to transition their children from their crib to a bed, but most often that transition is premature. The most common reasons I hear are listed below, along with my explanation for why this is not the best idea.
A new baby is on the way
It’s very common for families to transition their older child to a bed when a new baby is on the way. The toddler is usually sleeping just fine and comfortably in their crib at this point. Lots of changes are happening in the household, such as mommy’s belly getting bigger and lots of new equipment is coming into the house. The child knows that big changes are coming and is likely to feel a touch anxious and unsure about what is happening at home. Couple that with taking away his safe sleep space and you have a recipe for disaster. Rather than transitioning the older child to a bed, I always advise parents to let him sleep where he is comfortable. The baby can sleep in a bassinet, pack n play, or the parents can buy an inexpensive second crib.
My child just seems ready
I hear this one all the time. Parents have a toddler or preschooler that is sleeping wonderfully in her crib, but perhaps they think it would be exciting to buy her a bed for her second or third birthday. Unfortunately this often results in a major sleep disruption. Transitions can be hard for children, and sometimes the newness of a bed is simply too much for a child to handle.
My child is a horrible sleeper, maybe the crib is uncomfortable
This is almost always a bad idea. If your young child has poor sleep hygiene in a crib, giving him the freedom of a bed is going to only make things more difficult. Fix whatever is going on at night first, then transition to a bed!
Of course there are times when it’s necessary or appropriate to transition your child from a crib to a bed. If your child is climbing out, then it’s no longer a safe sleep space and transitioning to a bed is absolutely necessary. Or alternatively, once your child is about four years old, it’s likely that the transition to a big kid bed will be a smooth one.
Regardless of when you decide to transition your child from a crib to a bed, it will be most important to communicate effectively with your child. Explain that your expectation is for the child to remain in bed at bedtime and through the entire night. Explain that it’s not safe for them to get out and roam the house without help. You can even roll play this with some baby dolls and stuffed animals. Have your child tuck in their dolls and see if they “sleep through the night” during play. When they do, your child can reward them with a sticker or a treat. Be sure the child gets a reward too! This is a big transition for children regardless of age, so be sure to have a solid plan and be 100% prepared!