Moving To The Big Girl’s Bed

Dear Mamas,

My daughter just turned 2, and I’m pregnant with my second — due in August. Kaitlin loves her crib, she’s never tried to climb out, but I think she’s ready to make the move to a real bed and I’m acutely aware that we have another crib-dweller arriving soon.

We’re moving to a new house next month (about 6 weeks before my due date) and I’d like to make the transition before the move. Do you have any tips to make it easier?



Dear Penelope,

The move out of the crib is an iconic moment to remember (with the first child, at least), so DO make it a big event with lots of fanfare. The more special and exciting you make it, the more engaged Kaitlin will be.

I’m not sure what your furniture plan is, but I always advise parents to skip the toddler bed. It’s a waste of money — a pure creation of the children’s furniture industry. Get a regular twin bed that will last for years, and if you’re worried about her falling out you have a few options:

1) Keep the box spring and mattress on the floor until you’re comfortable that she’s used to the new arrangement. If she rolls off, no big deal, she doesn’t have far to go.

2) Get safety rails that attach easily to the sides of the bed. Keep them in place as long as you need to.

3) Put padding (pillows or soft quilts) on the floor around the bed to break her fall. I can’t tell you how many times I found my kids on the padded floor next to their beds. Unharmed. Never woke up.

Take Kaitlin with you for this purchase. Let her choose any bedding she likes, even if you think it’s the tackiest Dora the Explorer print in the store. The key is that SHE loves it.

Before you pack up her crib, make it clear (every day for several days) that she’s getting a Big Girl’s Bed because she’s a big girl and doesn’t need a crib any more. Entice her with Dora.

Your challenge is going to be how to handle it when she wakes up in the middle of the night and realizes she doesn’t need to call you, she can just toddle right over to your room. She may not. One of mine seemed to think there was an invisible barrier, just like the bars on the crib. He would sit up in bed and call us without budging until we came in.

You may want to set this up along with the new bed. Say something like: “Big Girl’s Beds (don’t forget to capitalize it) are just like your crib. If you want to get out of bed you need to call us to come and get you. You can’t get out of bed by yourself … Dora says so” … or whatever.

If this doesn’t work you may need to set up rules and boundaries about when it’s OK to get out of bed. Take a look at this color-coded clock we wrote about awhile back that may help.

The important thing is, DON’T bring her into your bed and DON’T go backwards and put her back in the crib. Remember, you’re the boss and you make the call. Even if it means leading her back to her new bed several times a night at first. You made the decision and you need to stick to it.

Finally, count on some regression when the new baby comes. Chances are she’ll go backwards in a few areas in the attempt to be “your baby” again. She may ask to nurse or drink from a bottle. If you’ve started toilet training she may back-slide and start having accidents. Be strong! This too shall pass. Take it as it comes and don’t make it a big deal, but keep the rules intact.

An early rough patch can create great memories and funny stories for when the kids get older. Good luck!

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Rachel Zahn, MD is a pediatrician turned health writer who had three kids during medical school and pediatric training—crazy, huh?

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One response to “Moving To The Big Girl’s Bed”

  1. Paige

    Your advice was right on the money! My husband and I talked up the crib for a week before the transition. I took my daughter to buy bedding (and it was Dora, haha) and we made it a very special event. The transition could not have gone any smoother! My daughter loves her “big girl Dora bed”! We have used the line “Dora and Boots say so” about staying in her bed and she listened! I also took your advice and skipped the toddler bed and went right to the twin bed and I am so glad I did. It is one less thing she needs to transition to later down the road. Thanks again for your fantastic advice!

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