Moving from a Crib to Toddler Bed: Tips from Real Moms

Moving from a Crib to Toddler Bed: Tips from Real Moms

Not sure when to transition to a toddler bed?

If your toddler is getting too big for their crib, it might be time to make the move from crib to toddler bed!

Toddlerhood is filled with interesting developments.

One big milestone to get ready for is the move from crib to toddler bed.

So if your toddler is suddenly starting to feel like a very big fish in a very small pond, it may be time to upgrade their sleeping arrangement.

But how do you know when it’s time for this prestigious promotion?

And how do you make it happen smoothly?

We’ve got hints and tips from real moms so you can make the right decision for you and your (not so) little peanut.

Sweet dreams, mama!

In this article: 📝

  • What’s the difference between crib and toddler bed?
  • What to expect when switching from a crib to a toddler bed
  • Tips for transitioning to a toddler bed
  • How long does it take for a toddler to get used to a bed?
  • Can any crib be converted to a toddler bed?
  • At what age do switch from crib to toddler bed?
  • When do other moms move their children from crib to toddler bed?

What’s the difference between crib and toddler bed?

When your baby is born, they will sleep in a crib or bassinet for at least the first year.

To prevent SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), both the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend newborns up to 6 months old sleep on their backs in a safety-approved crib in the same room as you.

You might think it’s time to move to a bed when your toddler is “too big” for their crib.

The interesting thing is that cribs and toddler beds are not that different from each other.

In fact, when it comes to mattress size, toddler beds and cribs are generally pretty similar.

So how are cribs and toddler beds different then?

In two key ways—the firmness of the mattress and the design of the bed frame.

Firmness of the mattress

Newborn crib mattresses need to be very firm to prevent suffocation.

Once babies gain good control of their heads (definitely something to be proud of), it means that they have more control of their sleeping positions and can start sleeping on softer surfaces.

Toddlers’ mattresses, on the other hand, can be anywhere from firm to medium-firm ‒ a little softer than standard baby crib mattresses.

Bed frame design

The other important difference between the crib and toddler bed is the frame type.

The frame of a crib is built with two major elements in mind.

It’s raised so you can get to your baby easily, and it has rails to prevent your infant from rolling off the mattress onto the floor.

Toddler beds, on the other hand, are generally low to the ground and have only a small guard rail so your toddler can climb in and out on their own.

And they are sometimes very creative in their design.

(Yes, you can have a fire engine bed, if you wish.)

What to expect when switching from a crib to a toddler bed

Like many other toddler milestones, you will want to do your research to determine what type and style of toddler bed best fits your living situation, preferences, and your child’s needs.

There are tons of different options, but ultimately, you’ll want one that is sturdy and well-made, low to the ground, has rails, is certified by the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA), and is designed with round edges (fewer injuries!).

You can also anticipate your toddler having some strong opinions about the process and prepare for tantrums or defiance (just another day in toddler life).

If you haven’t started the potty training process yet, moving to a toddler bed could be a sign that’s the next step for your babe, since sleeping in a toddler bed provides easier access to the bathroom.

Try to keep an open mind and allow your toddler to feel whatever they feel throughout this process.

Talking about it helps, but try not to suggest what they might be feeling.

Instead, let them communicate to you how this big change feels, however they communicate.

Anticipate bumps and growing pains along the way, but know that they will eventually feel comfortable in their new bed and tackle problems one at a time.

Also, plan for some additional safety measures, such as putting safety door locks on closets or other rooms you don’t want your toddler to get into overnight, and double-checking your home for potential hazards that could pose serious risks if your toddler goes exploring at night.

Make sure the floor area next to their new toddler bed is plush and soft by covering it with a thick rug or a pile of pillows to give them something soft to fall on in case they roll out of bed

Tips for transitioning to a toddler bed

  • Consider the timing. Just because your child turns two or three doesn’t mean they’re automatically ready for a toddler bed. Likewise, just because you’re expecting another baby, doesn’t mean your toddler is ready to transition to a toddler bed either. Carefully plan the transition and don’t jump to a toddler bed simply because your toddler climbs out of the crib once.
  • Set expectations. You don’t need to prep your child for weeks before you make the switch. However, you should definitely let them know that they are going to start sleeping in a toddler bed so it doesn’t come as a major surprise. You can also use this conversation as an opportunity to set the stage with a few simple ground rules that will keep them safe and ensure the transition is a smooth one.
  • Stay consistent with the bedtime routine. When you decide to switch to a toddler bed, it’s important to stay consistent. Otherwise, your toddler may feel unsettled or nervous when too many things change at once. Maintain consistency with the same bedtime and routine you two have always had.
  • Encourage naps in the toddler bed. Your toddler may still want to take naps in the crib, but encourage them to sleep in his toddler bed for those daytime naps, too. This will help them to associate the toddler bed with daytime and nighttime sleep.
  • Let your child pick out the new decor. The transition from a crib to a toddler bed can be a special time for a toddler! Let your child take ownership of the process by letting them pick out a set of sheets and a blanket.
  • Talk it up. Make sure to speak of the transition highly and with productive words so your toddler views it as a positive experience, not something to be nervous or worried about.
  • Make space for favorite blankies or stuffed animals. Although the toddler bed will be brand new, your toddler will still likely want their favorite blanket or stuffed animal to keep them company.

How long does it take for a toddler to get used to a bed?

It may take your toddler two to three weeks to get used to a toddler bed, depending on how well the switch goes over.

On the other hand, some kids will adjust right away!

If the transition doesn’t go as well as planned, it’s always okay to revert to a crib for a little while and try again later.

However your toddler responds to the process, try to be patient and remember that there’s no set time frame for this transition.

Every child is different, and that’s okay!

Can any crib be converted to a toddler bed?

It depends, many cribs on the market grow with your child—from convertible crib to toddler bed to twin bed.

To accommodate the shift, the mattresses that come with convertible beds are often firmer on the one side and softer on the other.

But not all cribs are convertible, so it’s worth checking with the manufacturer.

If your bed has a different design, it is possible to transform it from one bed type to another with a conversion kit sold at most major retailers.

(We’ve picked a few of our Peanut mamas’ favorite convertible cribs here to help you choose!)

And if you love an interesting DIY project, ditch the conversion kit and dive in there yourself.

At what age do switch from crib to toddler bed?

Knowing when to transition to toddler beds is not an exact science—but there are some guidelines.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends you make the move when your child is about 35 inches tall.

While all babies grow at different speeds, they generally reach this milestone at around the 2-year mark, or anywhere from 18 months to 3 and a half years.

The reason to make the move to toddler bed at this time?

You may have an escape artist on your hands ready to take a plunge from their crib.

Also, if you’ve started potty training, it’s time to upgrade so they can get to the potty at night.

Or they might not fit in their crib anymore.

If things are getting a bit cramped, it’s time to make the move from a crib to a toddler bed.

Another telltale sign could be that your toddler simply asks to move to a bigger bed—simple!

You may also just have another baby on the way, which is another reason lots of moms make the switch.

But if another babe is coming but your toddler still isn’t ready for a toddler bed, try not to force it!

They will move in their own time.

Can I move my 15-month-old to a toddler bed?

Sometimes, yes, it’s totally fine to move your 15-month-old baby to a toddler bed.

This is usually when they’re about 35 inches tall or they’re able to escape from their crib, but ultimately, you know your baby best.

Is 18 months too early for toddler bed?

Not at all, no!

While for some babies, 18 months old might be a little too early to transition from a crib to a toddler bed, for others who are about 35 inches tall or quicker to climb out of their crib, it can be worth making the move.

Should a 2-year-old still sleep in a crib?

2-year-olds can still sleep in cribs, if you feel they’re not ready for a toddler bed just yet.

In fact, this study by medical journal Sleep Medicine suggests that toddlers should stay sleeping in cribs until the age of about 3 years old.

But if your child is clambering out of their crib and you feel they’re ready for a toddler bed, then feel free to make the move.

You know your child best ‒ there’s no one-size-fits-all way to do this.

Is it OK to keep a 3-year-old in a crib?

Yes, it’s totally fine to keep your 3-year-old sleeping in their crib instead of a toddler bed.

But you might find that it’s around this time that they’ll be getting too big for their crib ‒ they might be climbing out of it or too wriggly to find a comfortable position.

So if you choose to keep your toddler sleeping in their crib, that’s totally fine ‒ after all, they might be sleeping better there than transitioning to a toddler bed.

Is 4 too old for a crib?

Not at all.

Many moms choose to keep their child sleeping in their crib until 4 years old, and it doesn’t seem to have any detrimental effects.

But there’s no single way to do this whole parenting thing, so if you feel your 4-year-old is getting too big for their crib, make the move to a toddler bed.

Or you could skip the toddler bed altogether and go for a bigger-kid bed at around this age, depending on your child’s height.

You’ll be able to see when they seem to be spilling out of the current arrangement.

Until the age of about 5 years old, it’s best to keep those guard rails on and the bed low to the ground to avoid accidents.

Should a 5-year-old be in a crib?

While it’s not as common as for children under 3 years old, there are many moms who choose to have their 5-year-old sleep in their crib still.

As long as your child is comfortable and able to sleep in their crib, and you’re happy for them to sleep there, you do you, mama.

When do other moms move their children from crib to toddler bed?

To help you make the right decision for you and your family, we asked our Peanut moms when they moved their toddlers from cribs to toddler beds.

Here’s what they said:

  • 21 months ‒ only because she figured out how to escape and was hurting herself. Put it off as long as you can!” ‒ Bridget
  • “We just did last week, 2 years old and a couple of months. The Portacot he was in was getting a little small for him and we are expecting in December, so thought we’d better do it now so he thinks it is because he is a big boy, not because he’s being booted out for baby!” ‒ Adrienne
  • “We are at 2 and a half still in the crib. Putting it off until he figures out how to climb out of it.” ‒ Kirsten
  • 16 months. I put pillows on the floor while she got used to the side being gone.” ‒ Pahola
  • “About 12 months, we bought a low frame single bed and ditched the crib. But we only used it for naps until 2.” ‒ Ella
  • “About 2 years old… I think you just have to gauge it with your little one and see if they’re ready. Every baby is different.” ‒ Diana
  • 18 months or less as he kept climbing over! We did keep a side on the bed though so he didn’t roll out and it made him feel more secure.” ‒ Natalie
  • “About 18 months, she climbed over the cot rail and out and came into my bedroom to say hello” ‒ Karline
  • “My daughter was 1-year-old, but that’s simply because of her height. She is super tall!” ‒ Charlotte
  • “My daughter was 2 years old. But she kept weighing around and hitter her head off the side. Got her a three-quarter bed (small double) when she was 3 and has slept perfectly since.” ‒ Rachel
  • 2 years, only because I gave birth to second baby so had to transition first child quickly.” ‒ Mandy
  • “About 15 months, as he was climbing out of his cot.” ‒ Alex
  • “My son will be 3 years old in November and has no interest in leaving the crib. He doesn’t try to climb out and he is not one for change!” ‒ Monica
  • 2 years 1 month. Mainly because he was potty training and we wanted him to be able to get out of bed at night if he felt he needed to go.” ‒ Stacey
  • “Switched my toddler around 3 years old.” ‒ Belkis
  • “My kids were around 18 months then they started trying to crawl out so we switched to toddler beds.” ‒ Lucy
  • “We have been using a floor bed since our little one was 6 months. She’s 14 months now.” ‒ Holly
  • “Swapped my little one into a toddler bed at 10 months old.” ‒ Jodie
  • 7/8 months, once she started walking.” ‒ Ellie
  • “My son is more than 2.5 years and still in his cot with the sides up, not converted to a bed. He loves it and shows no attempt to climb out. As long as they aren’t trying to climb the sides I’d leave it as long as possible.” ‒ Beth
  • “We went straight to a full from a crib at 3 years old and she does just fine! That way we won’t have to get a new one for a long time!” ‒ Allie
  • 22 months. She climbed out of her crib one morning so we decided to switch to a bed.” ‒ Muna

So as you can see, there’s no single answer to the question “when to switch from crib to toddler bed?”.

If your toddler is comfortable sleeping in their crib, they’re not falling out, and you’re happy for them to sleep in it, then you do whatever feels right for you.

And if you want to chat with other moms who have been there or are going through the same time, you’re always welcome to join us on Peanut.

This is an exciting time that goes by way too fast.

You’ve got this, mama.

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