I’ve recently been getting quite a few questions from my clients about when to change a baby into a toddler bed. There a lot of factors to consider when choosing a bed option for your child. And the struggle already starts while you’re preparing for your child to be born. Do you buy a sidecar? Crib? What about co-sleeping? As they get older, you’re faced with the tricky question of “Is it time for a big bed?” Here are my recommendations for age appropriate sleep options for your child.
First year of life
The most important thing to remember at this age is to create a safe sleeping environment for your baby. That means your baby should be
- alone in their bed,
- no crib bumpers,
- no stuff toys,
- no extra blankets or pillows,
- the mattress should meet safety standards and be firm and flat.
The WHO recommends room sharing with your baby until he/she is at least 6 months old, preferably for their first year of life. The best way of doing this is using a sidecar crib.This allows you to get the baby out for easy nightly nursing, but the baby still has their own sleep surface.
Room sharing with your newborn has been shown to improve breastfeeding outcomes, and reduces the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) as the mother’s breathing helps regulate the infant’s breathing.
Some parents choose to go a step further and share a bed with their child. In a co-sleeping situation it is of utmost importance to make sure your child has a safe sleeping environment, meaning the mattress is firm and flat, and that there are no blankets or pillows around your child’s face.
Sometimes, parents notice that around 5-6 months of age, their baby starts to become more disturbed by their presence of sleeping so close. In this case, I would recommend putting your baby to sleep in a crib a little bit further away from your bed, but still within the same room.
Other safety measures to consider
- If you’re using a swaddle, the swaddle should be tight and snug, and should not ride over the baby’s face. The baby should also be placed on their back only for sleep, so not on their stomach or on their side.
- Use a pacifier or a dummy to settle your baby to sleep, as this has also been shown to reduce the risk of SIDS.
- Never sleep with your baby on a couch or in an armchair as this puts you in a dangerous position for letting your baby fall should you both fall asleep.
- Baby should also be kept away from all cigarette smoke and parents should avoid drug and alcohol use.
1-3 years of age
I recommend putting your baby in a crib to sleep until they are about 2.5-3 years old. I know it sounds really old, but toddlers don’t develop the self-regulation to stay in bed until that age.
So, if you change to a big bed before then, the likelihood is that nighttime sleep will become more difficult and they will start getting out of bed regularly. And the thing is, they biologically can’t do otherwise. Especially if your little one’s night sleep isn’t that great anyway, changing to a big bed rarely solves the problem.
While still in the crib, I don’t recommend using blankets or a pillow as these present a suffocation hazard. Also, your baby can’t actually keep them on, so I suggest using a sleep sack with pajamas underneath.
3 years of age and beyond
Once you’ve changed to a big bed, you can start using a duvet and a pillow, and there are some that zip up from the side for when your child is kicking off the duvet in the middle of the night.
I hope you found these tips helpful in choosing the best option for your child and your family. A bed is only art of the equation for good sleep, so if you’re looking for more sleep tips, get a free copy of the “3 Simple Steps to a Better Night’s sleep” guide.
And if you’re child sleep (or lack thereof) is causing you a lot of stress and sleep debt, book a free 15-minute sleep consult to see how we can get you both some much-needed rest.
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