Childhood is full of exciting milestones: first tooth, first solid foods, first steps. Making the switch from a crib to a bed is another sign your child is growing up. For some parents the idea can be a bit nerve-wracking. They wonder what life will be like if the child is free to get out of bed whenever he wants. Will he be roaming the halls at night? Will he ever settle down and go to sleep?
The closer your child is to age three, the better. In My experience, anything younger than 2.5 years old is too early. Very young children do not have the cognitive ability to really understand the boundaries and expectations around staying in bed when they can so easily get out on their own. This can make it hard to enforce the rules and can create power struggles.
If your child is not sleeping well currently and is testing the boundaries around sleep, it is not a great time to move to a bed. I recommend sorting out the sleep issues first and then making the transition from crib to bed.
Make it fun, but not too fun. You can get your child involved with picking out the new bed and choosing new bedding, but it is a delicate balance. You don’t want to make too big of a deal about it because you don’t want to put added pressure on the child. If he gets really excited about the process he might have a hard time settling in and actually going to sleep!
Beware of the honeymoon phase. Most toddlers do well with the transition until the fun wears off. Once the novelty is gone and the child gets comfortable (usually around the two-week mark) then the games usually start up. The key is to be prepared ahead of time so you know what to do when this happens.
If your child comes out of bed, you will need to remain calm and implement a consequence such as closing the door. With consequences, I always like a reward. So reward good behaviour for staying in bed and sleeping the night there.
And of course, if you need help with this transition, I am here to help you make it a smooth one.
Your baby starts to cry when you go to the other room. You can’t seem to put her down at all these days. It sounds like you may be in the midst of separation anxiety. It is a very common developmental stage that many babies go through between 8-14 months. Some experience it a little more often and severely than others. And it may surprise you to hear there is a correlation between sleep and separation anxiety.
I find that children who sleep well, take proper naps and get a solid night sleep are less prone to bouts of separation anxiety because they are well rested.We all know, if we are not feeling rested, we tend to be a little quick to anger and are unable to regulate our emotions well. Our children feel the same. So, it makes sense that a baby who is not sleeping well might be a little clingier through the day, might be quick to cry over the littlest things at certain points in the day. Furthermore, babies who have honed thier skills and abilities around going to sleep on their own, are much more confident with the independence and experience less separation anxiety.
The first step is to have a good look at your child’s sleep schedule and make sure they are getting the sleep they need. Another thing to do is to practice peek-a-boo. I know it sounds silly but when babies are learning, they don’t always understand that when things leave their sight, they don’t disappear permanently. That ís why they tend to cry as soon as you walk out of the room. They don’t yet understand that just because they can’t see you doesn’t mean you do not exist anymore. By practicing peek-a-boo and walking out of the room, they learn that Mommy is still here. It will teach your child that just because you’re gone doesn’t mean you are not coming back. That ís a good thing to practice at any age.
If you need to go to the bathroom or you have to answer the telephone, it is not the end of the world if your child starts to cry when you do that. Because the more you cater to this, the more it typically occurs. If every time you take a step to leave, he starts to cry and so you do not leave, it reinforces the behaviour. He learns that all he has to do to keep her in the room is start to cry and she’ll never leave.That ís definitely not the behavior you want to try to encourage. I always tell parents that you are the parent, so you get to set the rules and boundaries. Your child will follow your lead.
Now, if you are about to start sleep training and you are worried your baby is going through some separation anxiety, then an “in the room” approach will be best because you can be by the crib side. This can be comforting to a lot of parents and many babies as well.
So don’t let separation anxiety delay you from giving your child the gift of sleep. Your child will not only sleep much better, you will likely notice the separation anxiety improves as well.