Should We Switch To A Big Boy Bed Just Because Baby Is Coming?
Everyone who knows our family or who has read this blog knows that we've struggled to keep the Captain in his own bed at night. You see, shortly after D was born, just after the Captain turned 2, we decided that he needed his own "big boy" bed. We put him in a different room, in a twin bed with bedrails. It worked pretty well. D was not in the crib yet, but everything I had read suggested to give the older sibling time to adjust to the new baby "taking over" his old bed. Hubby and I were house parents at a children's home and would be going back to work shortly, so we wanted to hurry up and get it done, in case the Captain had trouble adjusting. Well, the Captain adjusted dreamily. There were no problems, (except for that he rarely actually wanted to go to bed.) But, he slept through the night in his big boy bed and was well rested, which was great, because we were getting newborn sleep.
Then we resigned from our jobs and moved in with my parents for a few months. The Captain then moved to a full sized bed with rails. At first, he did well. He was excited about his second new room in only two months, and he was happy he was a "big boy." But then he started crying in the middle of the night, screaming and crying at bedtime, and just not happy. It could be that it would have happened anyway, and moving itself is a lot of stress, but he was upset, we were upset, and we felt it would never end.
Fast forward to moving to our current house. After living about 4 months with my parents, the Captain was able to return to his old twin bed, but in another new room, in another new house. He had finally realized that the bedrails were only meant for him to not roll out of the bed and were not to keep him in bed. We would wake up with him inches from our face in the middle of the night. He would crawl into bed with us. We negotiated with a mini couch in our floor. It was every single night. We read the books and advice, did all we could, bribed him, and it just got worse. He was almost three at it's worst. The truth is, he should've still been in a crib. Cribs give kids boundaries. Yes, we would've had to get up and console him, and maybe he still would have guilted us into bringing him to our room, but I can't help but think that we moved him to a "big boy bed" too early. Only in the past two months has he consistently stayed in his bed all night long, so this had been going on for TWO LONG YEARS.
D will turn 3 in December. We recently moved him from his own crib in his own room, to sharing a room with the Captain, in a new (used by his cousin) crib. The side rail can be removed to transform into a toddler bed, but he is such a wild and crazy sleeper that we figured he wasn't ready for that yet. And you know what, he can get out of his crib by climbing on to his brother's bed, but it isn't easy, so he doesn't do it often. In fact, he gets up at an appropriate time in the morning and crawls out, but at naptime, I still have to go in and get him. And the other morning, he stumbled into our room at 6:30 and I had to take him back. But those rails on that crib provide security and boundaries and comfort, I honestly believe.
Every family is different, I realize this. Every child is different. But I cringe every time I read about a 12-18 month old being moved from the crib to a "big boy" or "big girl" bed. This is far too young for most kids, in my opinion. Unless you don't mind them sleeping on the floor or in your bed, maybe it's best to wait. I've heard of parents "locking" their kids in their rooms, but that just seems sad….to me. And yes, a baby climbing out of the crib IS scary and dangerous, but there are ways to fix it:
- lower the mattress to the lowest setting
- remove anything and everything that could be used to climb on…including pillows, toys, bumpers, etc
- crib tents – I haven't personally tried one, but I have friends who swear by them.
- Make it known to your child that it is unsafe to crawl out. Kids understand more than we give them credit for. Tell them to call for you if they're ready to get out and you will come help them.
- If there's truly no way to contain them, stand by and help them practice safely climbing in or out. They don't have to move to another bed just because they're climbing out. Really. Just show them where to climb out and put a soft couch or chair for them to land in on the other side. They still get the security of sleeping in a crib with boundaries, but the freedom to climb out when they're awake.
- Install a baby gate in the doorway, hallway, or at the beginning of the stairs. If they can climb over that, I highly suggest some sort of alarm or high door lock on doors leading outside, because sleepwalking happens out of the blue sometimes. Kids can become confused and disoriented in the middle of the night and that's far more dangerous than just crawling out of one's crib!
I don't know how some parents make it work. I know they do, but for us and our boys, this is what has worked. Same thing goes with bottles, breastfeeding, pacifiers, carseats, potty training, cosleeping, sippy cups, and other "baby things." I know, sometimes it's a matter of money and necessity. If you have a baby 10 months after your first baby, some things will have to be sped up so your family can adjust and cope. It's all up to what is best for your family, of course. If you want to tandem nurse, go for it! If breaking your 10 month old from the bottle because you're pregant with another baby breaks your heart, then don't do it! And if you're like us, with an almost 3 year old who is addicted to his paci for night time….hello! Don't make him stop just because another baby is on the way! That sounds like an utter nightmare to me. I'm trying to avoid tears and middle of the night visits from my 3 year old and if a paci is going to help him sleep better so I can sleep better with my newborn, so be it! As people always say….he won't have a paci when he goes to college…and the saying I love to hate: "This too shall pass." Check out more tips for sleep challenges, too!
And for the love of everything……please don't move your older child to a booster seat or a carseat that isn't as safe too early, just to save money so little Brother or Sister can have the old carseat. That's one area that's essential you just can't rush. There are cheaper, just as safe carseats available. Don't risk your child's safety!
Do you regret rushing your older children when Baby was on the way? Do you have any stories to tell? I'd love to hear them!
Update: We took the side rail off of D's crib when he was 3. He has never given us any problems, except for a two week stretch when he would just wander into our room in the middle of the night! The big boys have upgraded to a bunk bed…and "Baby" Brother is now 2 and in a crib. I don't see him moving any time soon and honestly, he doesn't have to, because he's our last baby!