My 3-year-old has recently started telling us that her bed is "not comfy" anymore, which has us thinking about making the big move to a new "big girl bed."
Did the concept of her no longer sleeping in her crib-turned-toddler-bed make me almost immediately burst into tears? Yes. Yes, it did.
Do I think that her current bed is just fine and she is using the "not comfy" excuse to angle into sleeping in our bed? Yes. Yes, I do.
Regardless, it was clear that it's time for us to start thinking about getting her a real bed - maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but someday and when that day comes, I WILL cry and she will probably still say it isn't comfy.
Where kids sleep is a big question for parents from the minute we bring them home from the hospital: crib, bassinette, co-sleeper, Playpen, bed-share, mini-crib... and that's just the start of the sleep decisions parents have to make.
Generally, the current advice is that sleeping separately (in the same room but not in the same bed) is the safest option, with the baby in your room for the first 6-12 months. Sometimes parents find they want to have them in the room longer, some find that both baby and parents sleep better in separate rooms (and thanks to video monitors, you can still keep a close eye on them). For some people, space is a factor: not everyone has room to house multiple bed options for your little one. Unfortunately, we can't stop them from growing out of their baby beds (sob).
The good news is that many cribs are convertible so one piece of furniture could last you through your child's first few years or even into their high school years. There are 3-in-1 and 4-in-1 cribs that grow with your baby. Typically, they have two heights for baby (the higher level for infants that can't sit up yet and a lower level for once they can sit and pull themselves up), an option to remove one side to convert it to a toddler bed and sometimes an option to turn it into a full size bed (though this usually means using a conversion kit so make sure you grab one of those if you need it).
Moving to a Toddler Bed
We knew our daughter was ready to move to a toddler bed the day she realized she could climb out of her crib. Well, even if she wasn't fully ready, we knew it wasn't safe to leave our little escape artist within 4 crib walls.
Taking the front side of the crib can be a big change for your little one - they suddenly have the freedom to get in and out as they please, as well as the freedom to accidentally get out of bed by way of falling out.
To reduce the fall risk, try to pick a crib where the lowest level is close to the floor. The crib we have is about 6 inches off the floor, meaning she has a very short fall if she does take a tumble. Having a nice plush carpet or rug under/beside the bed is also a good idea if you have hard surface flooring in their room.
Some toddler beds come with a guard rail, but if not you can also purchase one separately. A bedrail will attach to the side of the crib and either stay in one place or fold down to make it easier for your child to get in and out.
If you want to skip the purchase of a rail/guard, there are some creative ways to DIY bed-security for your child. We rolled a thick blanket into a roll and tucked it tightly under the sheet and mattress protector to form a little barrier to keep her safely in the bed. When she was used to being in the bed, we switched the blanket out for a smaller barrier that we made using a foam pool noodle.
Tip: Some people find one pool noodle doesn't make a large enough barrier so will tape three together to form a pyramid.
Check out Pinterest and search "pool noodle bed rails" to see how to do it yourself.
There are toddler beds - some extendable to grow with your child - you can buy separately, but this always seemed like a bit of a waste to me. If you have to go from a crib to a bed, having a specific toddler bed in between will only last you so long.
Moving to a Big Kid Bed
When you (and we *more sobs*) move to a regular bed, it is another big move. Look for a bed frame that's still low to the floor because even older kids can roll out of bed in the middle of the night and that's not the way anybody wants to be woken up.
It's also a good time to revisit a bed/guard rail, even if you aren't using one in their toddler bed anymore, while they get used to the new bed.
Between 3 and 5, children should still get from 10-13 hours of sleep. That's a lot of time to spend on a mattress and a good mattress should last up to (and beyond if you're lucky!) 10 years, so it's not a bad idea to invest in a quality one. Growing kids should be on relatively firm mattresses, so look for one with good support and a soft topper for their comfort.
Other things to look for in a mattress:
- Non-toxic and non-allergenic materials
- A decent warranty (10 years is standard)
- Cooling materials for kids that sleep hot - most sleep better when they're cool
- Good online reviews, specifically for kids mattresses
- The type of base it requires
Remember: the better a child sleeps, the better their parents sleep so getting the right bed is an important step... even if you're not ready for it.