How do I move my baby into their own room without tons of crying? My baby hates the crib, how can I teach her to love it? Is my toddler ready for a big-kid bed?
These are questions I receive over and over in my Inbox & through Facebook; all parents wondering how and when they can move their new infant to the crib, his or her own room, or if a toddler whom has been escaping the crib is ready for a big-kid bed (or when the appropriate time would be to move them into one!) If you’re ready this, you are not alone- at some point we are all ready to have our rooms back, or finally put up that crib on Craigslist for some extra cash, right?? Keep in mind that I always recommend crib acclimation in conjunction with a customized sleep behavioral method (sleep training), so if your child isn’t already sleeping all night contact me here to find out more about accomplishing this first. So let’s break it down by age:
Newborns 0-3 Months: I would agree with the AAP (American Association of Pediatrics) here and recommend all newborns co-sleep NEXT to their parent’s bed for the first three months, or at the very least in the same room. If your newborn is especially noisy, some white noise such a fan can help you sleep while baby is sleeping (ha…ha….what’s sleep with a newborn?) Some couples, especially those on their 2nd+ kid, choose to sleep baby in their crib from Night #1, but I’m guessing if you’re ready this particular paragraph that’s not the case (it’s hard work navigating down a dark hallway every 2-3 hours am I right?) So there you have it, co-sleeping at this age, especially for BFing Mommas, is your answer.
Infants and Toddlers Moving to a Crib/Their Own Room: Starting from 4 months old and up, your child now has the increased ability to self-soothe, and our good friend Melatonin secretes quite regularly now, giving your child the ability to sleep longer stretches at night. For these reasons, 4 months is the age I recommend moving baby into their nursery, or the room you’d like them to be sleeping indefinitely. Really think to yourself if you want that sweet noisy angel sleeping in your room when they are 2, 3, 5 years old…..if this isn’t your ideal of paradise, the younger the better to move them to their own room. So if you’re ready to make the switch, know that infants under 1 year of age usually get used to their rooms at night in 2-3 days, and toddlers over 1 year of age take a little longer (around 7-14 days). Remind yourself that with change comes protest, and consistency is what will prevail to your preferred outcome. Below are three steps on how to make it happen:
1) If your child is under 2 years old, expect some protesting the first few nights. Therefore begin your bedtime routine about 30 minutes earlier and make sure it’s calm, soothing one where your child is drowsy and ready for sleep.
2) If your child is over 2 years old, expect some additional manipulation tactics the first couple of weeks. This could come in the form of “needing one more hug” or crying or the worst- your child coming to find you (aack!). My rule for this is ONE more drink/hug- not two, not 10. Keep your bedtime routine super consistent. Do not engage in additional questions or arguing. I encourage loveys/favorite blankets at this age, and nightlight that they can quietly look at books with if they aren’t ready to close their eyes just yet. If they leave the room, silently return them to their room as many time as it takes. Don’t give in, you can do iiiiiiittttt!
3) End your bedtime routine in child’s room. This means pajamas, last bottle (children under 1 only, move last milk/feed to before teeth brushing in toddlers), story time, prayers- all take place now in the nursery or child’s bedroom.
o For the quickest results: Lay child in crib drowsy but awake (about a 9 on a scale from 1-10 using soothing techniques or wind down routines for older ones), and provide a lovey that the child can hold. Say “Goodnight my love” or “It’s time for sleep, I love you…” quietly and leave the room. If crying ensues (this crying is product of change, usually not because they are in pain or scared), go ahead and wait at least 15 minutes before quickly checking on child with minimal interaction, using only your words from above as reassurance. Do not pick child up, and only go in to lay down a standing/sitting toddler ONCE. Loveys & pacifiers can also be replaced if child has thrown it overboard. Leave again and try not to visit again for another 20 minutes and so on. If your child has been sleeping through the night already, this process should go fairly smoothly, but know that the first few nights will be the toughest. It’s always the darkest before the dawn, folks.
o For the gentle-approach: Lay child in crib drowsy but awake, and provide a lovey that the child can hold. Say “Goodnight my love” or “It’s time for sleep, I love you…” quietly and stay in the room until child falls asleep. If crying ensues, go ahead and pick up child to calm them down only ONCE, and sit beside crib using soothing methods such a humming a song or repeating your words above. Know that your presence alone may be stimulating, so if your child is noticeably more upset with you being in the room, then try the tips above for quicker results. Every 2-3 nights, repeat process above but move 3-4 feet farther from the crib/bed until you are no longer in sight. Expect every time you do move, for child to be somewhat upset, but remind yourself that this type of protesting is a product of change, and you’re allowing it, not making it happen (similar to allowing them to cry in a car seat, of course you’re not going to hold them on your lap and drive around instead.)
4) “What if my child wakes up randomly in the middle of night and cries out for me?” Super common, and very likely, so prepare yourself. I advise my clients to wait at least 10 minutes (NOT 9 minutes and 59 seconds, 10.) before checking on child, and make sure you have a video monitor where you can reassure that nothing is really wrong. If crying lasts over 10 minutes, go ahead and use either the “quick approach” or “gentle approach” above. If baby has a BM diaper, go ahead and change him or her in the room with minimal lighting, placing them back down once they are clean (wet diapers can usually wait).
Toddlers moving to a Big-Kid Toddler Bed: Also a super common questions out there! I recommend that toddlers stay in their cribs until at least age 3, or until they actively (or successfully) attempting to escape the crib, which poses a danger threat. As for potty breaks, children’s bladders do not fully mature until age 5, so let them know that using a pull-up at night or diaper is perfectly fine (we tell our son it keeps his “booty warm at night”- works like a charm). Keeping the diaper/pull up on a night will also prevent bed wetting at 3am- and if you find yourself in this situation, double up on sheets and mattress pads so you can pull off the top layer and avoid changing the entire bed half awake. When your toddler is finally able to move into their own bed, talk about it and let them know the change is coming- children are creatures of habit and structure, they like to know what’s coming next- and how wonderful their new “big-kid” will be and how happy YOU will be that they are now in one. Most children actually transition fairly well, and you can also invest in side rails, lay pillows on the floor surrounding the bed in case of a midnight fall, or install a baby gate on the doorway to prevent wandering around the house at night if you are worried.
Remember when it comes to the idea sleep environment for our littles, keep those temps 68-72 degrees, have white noise going all night along, and dark dark DARK for infants (I use this custom sized black out shade in my own house, under $50!) , nightlights ok for toddlers. Good luck everyone, and as always, contact me if you or someone you know may need a little bit of help in the child sleep department. Have a great day and thanks for visiting!