Some children never do it. Some children are born knowing how. But once they’ve done it, there’s no going back.
The first thing you need to know about cribs is that if your child can stand, the crib needs to be set all the way down, and you need to make sure all blind cords, curtains, furniture and décor is at least three feet away from the top of the crib. You will be absolutely astonished how determined they are to reach anything dangerous. If you don’t believe me, watch this video:
There are a few ways you make the transition to the big-kid bed, but one thing is sure: once they can get out of the crib, they can’t sleep there anymore. I know it sucks. It was safe, they could play themselves to sleep, and it was guaranteed worry-free naptime. Sorry, but that’s over. Grab a glass of wine and mourn it properly, and then get over it.
Toddler rail: Many cribs either come with a toddler rail or have one you can buy separately. This screws right into the crib ends with hardware—it’s not removable. While it won’t keep your child in bed, it will keep them from rolling out while they sleep.
Toddler bed: A toddler bed is a mini-bed that your crib mattress will fit in nicely. This isn’t the best option if you are trying to clear out the crib to make way for the next child though, because you’ll be out a crib mattress. The benefit to these is that they offer the feel of a big kid bed while staying low to the ground.
Big bed with bedrail: If you don’t want to have to transition your child twice, or if you already have a big bed ready to use, there’s no need to get a toddler bed. Bed rails run about $30 and you can get them at any store that sells baby furniture. They also come in a variety of sizes, including extra long. I liked that you can fold them down during the day to avoid injuries from kids playing on it, and also to keep your child’s room from looking like a hospital suite, if that matters (for me it did). There are also double rails if you need them for both sides.
You may have also seen crib tents or crib canopies for sale online or in stores, but Consumer Reports lists them as a strangulation hazard and also reccomends removing baby from the crib as soon as they are able to get out.
No matter what option to you chose to transition your child, going to bed will not be the same. There is no more putting baby down and walking out of the room. We did have issues with our kids getting up. With our first, we chose to keep putting her back to bed over and over and over and over until she fell asleep. With our second, we’ve chosen to cuddle her to sleep as a more efficient option for both time and our patience levels.
Many parents I asked advised me to reverse the locks on my child’s door as a way to keep them in bed when I was having issues. This guy even says it saved his marriage after six months of sleeplessness (he threatened to leave his wife if she didn’t do it, so make your own judgment there). The fire department will recommend against this as a fire hazard. If you have stairs in your home, you will want to make sure you have a reliable and toddler-proof baby gate in front of them in case your toddler does get up in the night. It’s also wise to keep doors to the outside baby proofed as well.
TV is the bedroom is another solution I heard often. I would rather snuggle to sleep than try this because of the fact that light in the form of nightlights or TV disturbs the child’s circadian rhythms. Although it may help in the short-term, in the long run it can lead to lifelong sleep issues. I don’t know any adults who still need their parents to sleep, but I know lots of adults who need the TV on. Not to mention it being a hazard if your toddler gets curious and tries.
My kids still get up some nights. Rather than do bedtime over again in the middle of the night, we just let them get in bed with us. My oldest has already outgrown this need and sleeps through the night most nights. Not because anything we’ve done, but because she feels secure going back to sleep when she does wake up. I am confident the same will be true of our three-year-old. The baby has been sleeping through the night since she was about 10 months old. She’s just weird.
Whether it’s nursing to sleep, waking at night, or during a meltdown, when my children need security, I don’t hesitate. To me it’s important that my kids know that I am there when they are scared and they need me, even at night. It’s my most important function as a parent. And if I do my job right, one day they wont need me anymore, because the security I have given them will be inside them. It will be confidence.
Erin Burt is a freelance writer and mother of three girls who lives and writes in Queensbury, New York.