From Crib to Bed: When, How, Why and What If?

It’s 3 am and you caught your toddler trying to climb out of the crib! Or, maybe you’re just wondering when, how or why you should make the switch to a bed. We turned to Dr. Haviva Veler, Division Head of Connecticut Children’s Pediatric Pulmonology and Sleep Medicine team, for answers.

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Q: At what age can my toddler transition out of their crib and into a toddler bed?
A: Can your toddler climb out of the crib? Is their chest higher than the rail of the crib when they stand up? If so, the Sleep Foundation suggests it might be time to move to a bed! Here are some facts:

  • About one third of toddlers change to a bed between 18 months and 2 years old.
  • Another third make the transition between 2 and 2.5 years old.
  • The rest—between 2.5 and 3 years old.

Basically, your toddler should transition out of their crib any time between 18 months and 3 years old.

Important: According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, toddler beds do have a specific size and structure which is not suitable for children less than 15 months old.

Q: How do I know if my toddler is not yet ready to leave the crib?  
A: National studies show that children who sleep in cribs sleep longer and wake up less often at night. If your child is having sleep issues, resisting bedtime or waking up frequently—and is still the appropriate size for a crib—consider holding off.

Also, ask yourself if there are other changes happening at home like starting daycare, potty training, moving or a new sibling. If so, hold off until things settle down.

Q: But what if I need the crib for my second child?
A: If possible, start transitioning your toddler to the new bed a few months before the baby comes home. This gives time to adjust to their new bed without feeling jealous or that their younger sibling is taking their bed away.

 >Related: Age-appropriate Tips for Better Sleep

Q: How can I make the transition from crib to bed easier?  
A: Make it a fun and anticipated change. Here are some ideas:

  • Keep it lighthearted—get your toddler excited for the change by talking about it, reading books about sleeping in bed or even collect photos of family members sleeping in their beds to help your child feel like they are a part of something bigger. Bring up the new bed throughout the day to help build excitement.
  • Have a routine—stick to a similar routine as before because children love consistency and stability, especially when changes happen.
  • Include them—make your toddler part of the process by allowing them to choose the bedding. Go on a special shopping trip together to choose sheets and blankets for their new mattress. You can also encourage them to choose which special stuffed animals will get to sleep with them in the new bed.
  • Finally, reward them—use stickers as positive reinforcement for every night your toddler sleeps in the new bed.


Cute toddler boy in light blue pajamas, asleep in toddler bed

Q: Are there any safety tips to know?   
A: Yes! Once your toddler is in a bed, they have freedom to move around and explore the house. Make sure everything is childproofed, both in their bedroom and anywhere else in the house. Pay special attention to:

  • Hanging curtain cords or wires in their bedroom
  • The bed’s headboard—place it directly against the wall, with enough room on either side of the bed so your child is not stuck between the mattress and the wall.
  • Surrounding objects—keep the bed away from anything that could fall or get tangled, like a lamp or curtain cords. Do not place the bed under a window.

Q: Jumping ahead… when is it safe for my child to sleep in a top bunk bed?   
A: In general, a child should not use a top bunk bed before turning 6. Regardless of age, it’s still important to consider:

  • Sleepwalking—if your child sleepwalks, they are at high risk of injury while getting out of bed at night.
  • Waking up frequently—this is also risky because your child may want to get out of bed when they wake up.
  • Nighttime movement disorders or seizures—speak to your doctor about the risks of sleeping in a top bunk bed.

    Related: How to Keep a Sleepwalking Child Safe

Need an appointment with one of our dedicated sleep specialists? Call 860.837.6643.  

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