A few nights ago, I went into my son’s room to give him a hug and a kiss as I always do before I head to bed. Sometime between when I put him to bed and when I went into his room, he had wiggled out of his sleep sack. This took me by surprise!
My daughter was never one to test the boundaries in terms of climbing out of her crib or getting out of her sleep sack. She was very compliant when it came to sleep.
My son has been a great sleeper thus far, however, in the last couple of weeks we have noticed changes in his behaviour. He has emptied a box of Kleenex and eaten butter when we weren’t looking – oh the joys of a toddler!
While zipping his sleep sack back up, my mind was flooded with thoughts on how to handle possible changes.
Will he start to climb out of his crib? Will he have to switch to a toddler bed for safety reasons? After a brief moment of anxiety, I chose to change my thinking, and came up with some tips!
Before I share these tips, you may be wondering WHEN is an appropriate time to make the crib to bed transition. From my perspective there is no “right” time as every child is different. However, the guideline I give to my clients is around three years of age. Children of this age have the ability to understand sleep rules (i.e. stay in bed) which is key to a successful night. Prior to this age bracket you may find a little one at your bedside multiple times a night as they won’t fully understand what it means to stay in bed.
Here are four tips you can use if your child is becoming a crib climber or sleep sack escaper.
One – Introduce a Sleep Sack:
Introducing a sleep sack is a great way to prevent a toddler from swinging their leg up and over the crib rail. Sleep sacks can be worn backwards and inside out if your little one likes to unzip while you’re not looking! Always remember to do your research on different brands and styles of sleep sacks, as there are many to choose from. Take note of zipper options, buttons, or snaps. You should also remove any stuffed animals, pillows, blankets, toys, and bumper pads that they can use to create a ladder to climb out. Toddlers are smart!
Two – Adjust the Crib Height:
Is your crib mattress on the lowest level possible? This is simple yet might be overlooked if you’re sleep deprived. Ensure the crib mattress is in its lowest position. Some cribs have the option of removing the bottom which allows you to put the mattress on the floor. If this is done, ensure there is no more than a one-inch gap between the bottom of the crib rails and the mattress. Always remember to adjust crib settings when you are alert and awake to ensure all bolts and screws are put back properly. After all adjustments have been made have a spouse or partner check over your work prior to your toddler sleeping that night!
Three – Adjust the Location of the Crib:
Depending on the model of crib you own, one side might be higher than the other. In this case make sure to position the crib with the higher side facing outwards and place it in a corner of your child’s room. This strategic position will limit the sides of the crib that your toddler can climb out from.
Four – Catch them in Action:
You may need to catch your little one in action. If you have a video monitor, make sure to watch him/her and catch him/her when they’re trying to escape. Say a firm no and put him/her back in the crib. This will take time and consistency. My favorite way to look at this option is if your toddler climbed up on the counter trying to reach for the cookies, you would consistently say no and place him back on the ground. It’s the same thing when you’re trying to teach a consistent message in his/her crib. This suggestion is best practiced in the daytime, when you are both alert and awake. You can practice this by spending time putting away clothing in your toddler’s room while he plays in the crib. Keep a watchful eye out for your child’s leg trying to creep up and over the crib. If this happens firmly say “No!” and be as neutral as possible. Both positive and negative attention can reinforce your child’s behaviour. With time and consistency, your child will learn!
Safety ALWAYS comes first!
As you begin to implement these methods and strategies, always consider the safety of your toddler’s bedroom. Look around the room and make sure that cabinets and dressers are bolted to the wall and electrical outlets are covered. It’s important to make sure that if your toddler climbs out in the nighttime, they are safe in their room. You may also consider adding a door monkey, set of bells, or high gate at their door. The first two options will alert you to their door opening and the high gate prevents wandering.
If after implementing ALL these suggestions, you still find that your little one manages to escape; it might be time to make the crib to bed transition. Safety ALWAYS comes first!