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How to Make the Move from Crib to Bed

Moving your child from the crib to a first bed is a milestone event. But more than the bittersweet emotional concerns, your priorities will be safety and a healthy sleep routine.

When to stop using the crib

Sooner or later your child will simply be too big for his crib. Most children will move to a bed by age 2. Here are some signs that your child is ready to leave the crib:

  • You have the mattress at its lowest setting and the height of the top rail is less than three-quarters of your child’s height.

  • Your child is able to pull himself or herself up and over the crib rail.

  • Your child is able to put his or her leg on or over the top rail, even if your child hasn’t yet climbed over.

  • Your child is 35 inches tall.

Tips on choosing the first bed:

  • Pick a bed to which you can add guardrails. These are to prevent falls, not keep your child in bed. Make sure the guardrails fit snugly against the mattress and frame, so there are no gaps.

  • Don’t give your child a pillow before age 2. After age 2, start with a small, firm pillow.

  • Don’t place the bed under a window.

  • Keep children under age 6 on the lower bunk of bunk beds.

  • Place bunk beds in a corner so that the walls enclose two sides.

Toddler sleep tips

Toddlers and preschoolers need 10 to 12 hours of sleep a day. The best approach to getting your child used to sleeping in his or her own bed is to continue with your bedtime routine. Routine is helpful for letting your child know it is time to sleep. These are elements of a good bedtime routine:

  • Set a specific time for bed.

  • Offer a gentle bedtime warning about 30 minutes before it’s time to get ready for bed.

  • Turn off TV and video games at least 30 minutes before bedtime. Don’t allow TV in the bedroom.

  • Make sure the bedroom is a comfortable temperature.

  • Add a nightlight, if needed.

Many parents find that children enjoy other special routines to help them wind down, such as:

  • A warm bath

  • Singing soothing songs

  • Reading a book or two

If your child gets up, return him or her to bed immediately. Let your child know that you’ll be back to check on him or her in a few minutes, but that it’s time to be quiet and go to sleep. Repeat as necessary. The next morning, praise your child for staying in bed.

Additional safety tips

Once you have chosen the best first bed for your child, take a look at the bedroom environment in case he or she wanders at night. Include these safety tips for total protection:

Use a baby monitor or tie a bell on the door to hear if he or she leaves the room.

Put safety gates at the top and bottom of stairs.

Keep dangerous objects such as knives out of reach at night, as well as during the day.