Move to a bed was way too soon

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz  August 1, 2012 06:00 AM

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I put my 12 month old in a toddler bed, it went well for a month and a half. Now all of the sudden, she will not stay in her bed, she wanders to mine, I take her back in and repeat in about an hour. I have tried so many things and am lost now. She only is saying a very small amount of words hardly anything and doesn't understand like a 2 or 3 year old would. I hate to put the crib back up. I need help??

From: Jenna, Small Ville


Dear Jenna,

Well, as you've figured out, you made the move too soon; most pediatric sleep specialists recommend waiting as long as possible -- until well past age 2, closer to 3 or even older, until the child is literally too big for the crib -- before making the transition to a bed. One of the problems with doing it too soon, as you've articulated, is that your daughter is developmentally unable to get the concept of "staying in bed."

Probably the best route is to put up a gate at her bedroom door. That essentially turns the bedroom into her crib and thus keeps her safe and also meets her developmental needs by setting the limit -- she can't leave her bedroom -- that you are unable to enforce without getting frustrated and angry, and that she can't grasp because she's not cognitively there yet. Let me put it another way: if you keep up with the present situation, your frustration will escalate (you're only human!). She's not at fault, really: she's not capable of complying because she's cognitively unable to grasp the issue. So your unhappiness with her makes her feel insecure, unsafe and unhappy herself, which pushes her to act out even more. You stop the cycle by setting a limit that makes her feel safe again. That could be the gate. I know many parents don't like a gate; it feels zoo-y. I prefer it to a locked door.

I know you said you don't want to go back to the crib. That's the other alternative I would offer. Here's what I wrote after an interview with pediatrician and sleep specialist Jodi Mindell about this: "For a child who is truly miserable with the bed, for whom bedtime is a nightly struggle, and who has gone from being a good sleeper to a bad one, Mindell would bring the crib back.

' "The trick is in the spin you put on it," she says. Not "I guess you're not a big girl" or "You can't handle this," but: "Oh look! Your crib missed you, too! It came back!" '

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5 comments so far...
  1. 12 months? Good luck with that. Your answer is in your letter.

    Posted by jd August 1, 12 07:26 AM
  1. My son hated his crib. He would never sleep in it. Most of the time he slept in his swing. We even tried moving his crib into our bedroom at one point to see if that would help but of course it didn't. He NEVER slept in our bed so it was not that he got use to sleeping with us. Just for some reason he alway hated being in the crib. When he turned one we also got him a todler bed and from the very first night he slept in it and loved it! Buying him that bed was one of the best decisions we ever made! : )

    Posted by Marie August 1, 12 09:57 AM
  1. Jenna, you are being a little selfish I think. You moved your daughter to a bed, she clearly was not ready, and now you 'hate to put the crib back up' even though you know you made a mistake. Your poor kid isn't getting any sleep - why would you possibly think Barbara, or anyone else, would tell you that's okay? Lucky for you she gave you the easy way out of putting up a gate so you won't be disturbed. That will get you out of putting the crip back up.

    Posted by Carla August 1, 12 10:15 AM
  1. I don't really understand why you don't want to put her back in the crib. I also don't understand why you moved her out of the crib, so knowing that would help. My advice is put her back in the crib. I don't really see the big deal with this. She's not going to have a sense of failure--she doesn't understand any of this and won't remember--and ok, so you made a mistake. Big deal. Won't be your last as a parent, I guarantee. And pretty soon she'll be able to tell you that you made a mistake :-)

    Posted by ash August 1, 12 04:34 PM
  1. Our daughter was 3 when she went to a toddler bed, and she, too, kept getting up, despite the gate we had on her door (she climbed right over it). We walked her back to her bed every time and never once let her sleep in our bed. We finally found a solution, which may not work for your daughter because she is younger, but it worked for our daughter after a couple of nights. We bought an alarm/light that turns green when it's time for her to get up. (You decide what time.) At night it's yellow and is like a night-light. So when she got up, we'd ask her if her light was green. She'd say no and we walked her back to her room. If she stayed in bed all night until the light was green, she got a small reward in the morning. Now she is almost 5 and we still use the light. We hear her get up around 5:45 and she plays in her room until 6:30, when the light turns green. I can't say enough good things about this light!

    Posted by Kas65 August 2, 12 02:11 PM
 
5 comments so far...
  1. 12 months? Good luck with that. Your answer is in your letter.

    Posted by jd August 1, 12 07:26 AM
  1. My son hated his crib. He would never sleep in it. Most of the time he slept in his swing. We even tried moving his crib into our bedroom at one point to see if that would help but of course it didn't. He NEVER slept in our bed so it was not that he got use to sleeping with us. Just for some reason he alway hated being in the crib. When he turned one we also got him a todler bed and from the very first night he slept in it and loved it! Buying him that bed was one of the best decisions we ever made! : )

    Posted by Marie August 1, 12 09:57 AM
  1. Jenna, you are being a little selfish I think. You moved your daughter to a bed, she clearly was not ready, and now you 'hate to put the crib back up' even though you know you made a mistake. Your poor kid isn't getting any sleep - why would you possibly think Barbara, or anyone else, would tell you that's okay? Lucky for you she gave you the easy way out of putting up a gate so you won't be disturbed. That will get you out of putting the crip back up.

    Posted by Carla August 1, 12 10:15 AM
  1. I don't really understand why you don't want to put her back in the crib. I also don't understand why you moved her out of the crib, so knowing that would help. My advice is put her back in the crib. I don't really see the big deal with this. She's not going to have a sense of failure--she doesn't understand any of this and won't remember--and ok, so you made a mistake. Big deal. Won't be your last as a parent, I guarantee. And pretty soon she'll be able to tell you that you made a mistake :-)

    Posted by ash August 1, 12 04:34 PM
  1. Our daughter was 3 when she went to a toddler bed, and she, too, kept getting up, despite the gate we had on her door (she climbed right over it). We walked her back to her bed every time and never once let her sleep in our bed. We finally found a solution, which may not work for your daughter because she is younger, but it worked for our daughter after a couple of nights. We bought an alarm/light that turns green when it's time for her to get up. (You decide what time.) At night it's yellow and is like a night-light. So when she got up, we'd ask her if her light was green. She'd say no and we walked her back to her room. If she stayed in bed all night until the light was green, she got a small reward in the morning. Now she is almost 5 and we still use the light. We hear her get up around 5:45 and she plays in her room until 6:30, when the light turns green. I can't say enough good things about this light!

    Posted by Kas65 August 2, 12 02:11 PM
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About the author

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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