Crib diving anyone?

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz  December 4, 2009 06:00 AM

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Barbara,

Our second child is very different from our first. Our second child is almost 22 months old. Approx. 3 months ago, she mastered climbing out of the crib. She is climber for sure. After several night of attempting to keep her in the crib, we felt for her safety, the best thing to was to make the switch to a toddler bed.

The toddler bed worked great until about a week ago. Our daughter was a bit ill and was off her routine. Over the last couple of days (she is now healthy), we can't even get her into her bed. Hours of screaming to the point of throwing up. So we feel like this is not productive. But we don't want to reward her by allowing her to stay up until she passes out.

She is not old enough to negotiate or even explain why she needs to sleep. But we are exhausted to the point where my husband is sick over this.

Any advice, would be great!!

From: Jenn, Horntown, PA

Hi Jenn --

Been there, done that.

One night when my son was 18 months, I happened to get out of bed in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. There was my little guy, standing at the top of the stairs in his blue striped pj's, holding his blankie and sucking his thumb. We didn't even have the gate up at night because we thought he was safe in his crib! Hah!

Like you, we were frantic. Unlike you, I had the distinct advantage of being able to call experts around the country for their solutions. Here's what they said:

1. Waaay too young to switch to the bed. In fact -- and this was a big surprise -- child sleep experts say the best age to switch out of the crib isn't until a child is at least 3. Prior to that, children lack both the impulse control to stop themselves from getting in and out of bed 30 times over, and the cognitive skills to understand why they need to stay there.

2. Set the rails of the crib so they are as low as possible.

3. Cover the floor around the with everything you can find that is soft and cushiony -- pillows, blankets, quilts. (Each night, we gathered up couch cushions, throw pillows, down jackets -- whatever we could find.)

4. Now teach your daughter to safely climb out of the crib.

Say what?

That's what we said. Didn't he just climb out?

Well, no. Our pediatrician was pretty sure he had not and, in fact, when we tried to teach him to climb, he had not a clue how to do it. Most likely, we deduced, our son had become a "crib diver" -- that is, he had plunged himself out of the crib. That's what all those pillows are for -- cushioning the fall. Or the dive. Just in case.

Of course, you also want to tell your daughter that when she is in the crib, she has to stay there. If she wants out, she needs to call for you, "Mama, out! Daddy, out!"

Contrary to what we thought -- and no doubt to what many of you are thinking right now -- teaching him to climb out of the crib did not translate to permission to do it. That doesn't compute at this age. At the very worst, teaching him to climb ensured that if he was going to do it, he would do it safely. Which seemed like a far better solution than risking a broken neck or transitioning him to a bed which, as you are discovering, is the path to nights from hell.

P.S. Once we did this, he never got out of the crib again during the night, as far as we could tell. He also stayed in the crib for at least another year.

I answer a question from a reader every weekday. If you want help with
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7 comments so far...
  1. At 18 months, my daughter learned to climb out of the crib. I watched her do it. And then I watched her try to climb back in, which was far more dangerous. We moved her to a futon on the floor, and it worked beautifully for us. On those rare occasions when she needed someone to lie with her, it was comfortable, and we knew she was safe. We put a gate in the doorway of her room until we were sure she wasn't wandering around at night.

    To the LW, is she protesting sleeping, or the bed? Can you tell? Maybe give her a choice between the crib or the bed, and/or see if she needs a special lovey or blanket. Did you get rid of a bedtime routine between the switch and the illness? Maybe you can bring that back, or start a new one that includes lots of cuddle time. Give her as many choices as you can about the routine ("Do you want these pajamas or those? Do you want bath before or after stories? Do you want mom or dad to read to you? etc) so she has some control over her environment.

    Good luck! Like everything, this too shall pass.

    Posted by akmom December 4, 09 07:11 AM
  1. Daughter also climbed out of crib, or probably fell--we heard her crying--at 18 months. We waited to see if would happen again. It didn't but she did continue to work on her climbing skills. When she was 2 we switched to daybed with wooden rails around three sides, and put up an adjustable guard rail on fourth side. There's only a teeny opening that we put a stool under so she can safely get in and out during day and we close it up at night. Works well, and a fall from the bed height is better than crib height--no need for pillows!

    Posted by mom of 2 December 4, 09 10:08 AM
  1. i don't agree with keeping the child in the crib if they are diving out of it...that is very dangerous. I can imagine and i bet it has happened where a kid broke his/her neck or a limb....sorry but I disagree that keeping them in there until age 3. I do agree that we should keep them in there as long as we can without them climbing out of it so whatever age that is ... 18 months, 2 years or 3. That being said, I think a good idea is to switch to a toddler bed with a good gate at the door so you know she is safe. Make sure all doors are secured etc etc etc. I put my then 2 year old in a regular sized bed with guard rails and he is now 3 and he gets in and out just fine and safely. Crawling in and out out of a crib is not safe. Call me paranoid,I don't care but at least my child hasn't taken a fall out of the crib. My daughter will probably be my little daredevil, so when it comes time and she starts trying to get out of the crib, that will be the time i get her in a toddler bed too.

    Posted by jadee December 4, 09 11:11 AM
  1. There is no way I would let my child stay in the crib if she were diving out of it.

    Have you seen those canopies they made to keep cats out of the crib? While I would never use it for that purpose (keeping our cat out of my daughter's crib), we have talked about getting one to help keep our daughter from climbing out.

    Your 22 month old is NOT too young to understand "It's time for sleep now. Bedtime."

    Your 22 month old IS old enough to know that they can manipulate you.

    Put a baby gate across the doorway or lock the bedroom door with a latch from the outside. That will keep them in the room (and you can monitor them with the baby monitor.

    As for the crying until they throw up. Our niece does that...and has learned that she'll get her way if she does it. At age 6 she still does it.

    If the kid throws up, change the pj's and send them back to bed. Just as you did when it was time to sleep train the first time, do so with little to no eye contact or interaction. Be firm. Don't reward the bad behavior (making yourself throw up) with what they want.

    Posted by C December 4, 09 12:13 PM
  1. "Your 22 month old is NOT too young to understand "It's time for sleep now. Bedtime."

    Your 22 month old IS old enough to know that they can manipulate you."
    SPOT ON C!!! HAHA!

    ABSOLUTELY TRUE...I just commented previously but yes she is at that age where they start to manipulate you to get what they want. Kids are NOT stupid like many think they are!!!

    Posted by jadee December 4, 09 01:42 PM
  1. My daughter broke her leg climbing out of her crib when she was 2. The nurse at the ER suggested the Crib Tent and it was the best invention. We had transferred her to a toddler bed but when my husband caught her jumping off it with her cast on we ran out and bought it. We got it at Babies R Us and it's a mesh tent that goes under the mattress and up the rails into a dome tent with a zipper opening. She stayed in her crib until her little sister was born when she was 3 and we used it for the younger one to keep the older one out of the crib when she was a baby.

    Posted by Janet December 4, 09 04:57 PM
  1. I also use a crib tent with my 2 1/2 year old. It's the best. Not only does it keep him from climbing out, but he can't throw his blankie out only to call for us to get it. And he can't grab the curtains which are within reach of the crib. Love it.

    Posted by Sarah December 8, 09 07:48 AM
 
7 comments so far...
  1. At 18 months, my daughter learned to climb out of the crib. I watched her do it. And then I watched her try to climb back in, which was far more dangerous. We moved her to a futon on the floor, and it worked beautifully for us. On those rare occasions when she needed someone to lie with her, it was comfortable, and we knew she was safe. We put a gate in the doorway of her room until we were sure she wasn't wandering around at night.

    To the LW, is she protesting sleeping, or the bed? Can you tell? Maybe give her a choice between the crib or the bed, and/or see if she needs a special lovey or blanket. Did you get rid of a bedtime routine between the switch and the illness? Maybe you can bring that back, or start a new one that includes lots of cuddle time. Give her as many choices as you can about the routine ("Do you want these pajamas or those? Do you want bath before or after stories? Do you want mom or dad to read to you? etc) so she has some control over her environment.

    Good luck! Like everything, this too shall pass.

    Posted by akmom December 4, 09 07:11 AM
  1. Daughter also climbed out of crib, or probably fell--we heard her crying--at 18 months. We waited to see if would happen again. It didn't but she did continue to work on her climbing skills. When she was 2 we switched to daybed with wooden rails around three sides, and put up an adjustable guard rail on fourth side. There's only a teeny opening that we put a stool under so she can safely get in and out during day and we close it up at night. Works well, and a fall from the bed height is better than crib height--no need for pillows!

    Posted by mom of 2 December 4, 09 10:08 AM
  1. i don't agree with keeping the child in the crib if they are diving out of it...that is very dangerous. I can imagine and i bet it has happened where a kid broke his/her neck or a limb....sorry but I disagree that keeping them in there until age 3. I do agree that we should keep them in there as long as we can without them climbing out of it so whatever age that is ... 18 months, 2 years or 3. That being said, I think a good idea is to switch to a toddler bed with a good gate at the door so you know she is safe. Make sure all doors are secured etc etc etc. I put my then 2 year old in a regular sized bed with guard rails and he is now 3 and he gets in and out just fine and safely. Crawling in and out out of a crib is not safe. Call me paranoid,I don't care but at least my child hasn't taken a fall out of the crib. My daughter will probably be my little daredevil, so when it comes time and she starts trying to get out of the crib, that will be the time i get her in a toddler bed too.

    Posted by jadee December 4, 09 11:11 AM
  1. There is no way I would let my child stay in the crib if she were diving out of it.

    Have you seen those canopies they made to keep cats out of the crib? While I would never use it for that purpose (keeping our cat out of my daughter's crib), we have talked about getting one to help keep our daughter from climbing out.

    Your 22 month old is NOT too young to understand "It's time for sleep now. Bedtime."

    Your 22 month old IS old enough to know that they can manipulate you.

    Put a baby gate across the doorway or lock the bedroom door with a latch from the outside. That will keep them in the room (and you can monitor them with the baby monitor.

    As for the crying until they throw up. Our niece does that...and has learned that she'll get her way if she does it. At age 6 she still does it.

    If the kid throws up, change the pj's and send them back to bed. Just as you did when it was time to sleep train the first time, do so with little to no eye contact or interaction. Be firm. Don't reward the bad behavior (making yourself throw up) with what they want.

    Posted by C December 4, 09 12:13 PM
  1. "Your 22 month old is NOT too young to understand "It's time for sleep now. Bedtime."

    Your 22 month old IS old enough to know that they can manipulate you."
    SPOT ON C!!! HAHA!

    ABSOLUTELY TRUE...I just commented previously but yes she is at that age where they start to manipulate you to get what they want. Kids are NOT stupid like many think they are!!!

    Posted by jadee December 4, 09 01:42 PM
  1. My daughter broke her leg climbing out of her crib when she was 2. The nurse at the ER suggested the Crib Tent and it was the best invention. We had transferred her to a toddler bed but when my husband caught her jumping off it with her cast on we ran out and bought it. We got it at Babies R Us and it's a mesh tent that goes under the mattress and up the rails into a dome tent with a zipper opening. She stayed in her crib until her little sister was born when she was 3 and we used it for the younger one to keep the older one out of the crib when she was a baby.

    Posted by Janet December 4, 09 04:57 PM
  1. I also use a crib tent with my 2 1/2 year old. It's the best. Not only does it keep him from climbing out, but he can't throw his blankie out only to call for us to get it. And he can't grab the curtains which are within reach of the crib. Love it.

    Posted by Sarah December 8, 09 07:48 AM
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Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

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