I was there, my daughter was having problems sleeping and we thought that maybe she didn't like her bed anymore, so we decided to remove one of the rails from her crib and leave it as a “toddler bed”. It was a huge mistake! Problems got bigger, she was still waking up at night but now she was going to my room a few times every night.
Some of the wrong reasons parents decide to transition from crib to bed before its time:
We think our toddler's crib is to small for them
If they climb they might get hurt
We need the crib because we are having another baby
She doesn't like her crib anymore
The recommended age to transition is 3 years (some kids might be ready at 2.5); this number is sometimes surprising since we usually do it way before 3 years.
Why wait until they are three?
A toddler is not able to understand the concept of “his own bed” before this age, even though you will be asking him several times to stay in his bed, he might just not be able to understand yet that that is his sleep space and that he needs to stay all night. If we give them the liberty to hop out of bed and wander around his room or the house, they´ll probably do it. Also, before turning 3, it might be dangerous for them to be alone awake in the middle of the night in the house and sometimes their own room. So, instead of solving a problem, you will be creating a new one.
Here are some situations and solutions when dealing with this transition…
You made the change from crib to bed and she started going out of bed in the middle of the night:
First, if she is younger than 3, consider putting the crib back; it's not going back, it's just waiting for her to be ready.
If you don't have the crib anymore, consider using a gate on the door. (Make sure the room is a safe place).
Use a manners chart to reinforce bedtime rules, like “staying in bed all night”.
Climbing the crib:
Consider a sleep sack (no, he is not too old for a sleep sack)
Put pillows or something on the floor so that he can land safely.
Set limits, remind him that he needs to stay in bed. As soon as you put him to bed, peek from the door and when you see him trying to climb, remind him that he needs to stay in his crib. You might have to do this a few times.
A new baby is coming and you need the crib:
Use other options for the new baby, a next to me, pack and play, etc.
And if your baby is three years old and you consider he is ready, here are some tips:
Talk with him about this change, and communicate in a proper way the “rules” of having a big kid bed. For example, what are your expectations? (That he stays in bed all night until the alarm goes on or until mommy comes in).
Include him in the decision-making process, for example on picking new sheets or a quilt.
You can leave the crib in the room for a few days, sometimes they like to have the option.
If he starts going out of his room, consider a gate and a sleep manners chart as mentioned before.
His room has to be a safe place, he is going to have the liberty to walk around when you are asleep; if you feel doubtful about something that might be dangerous, it's better to prevent accidents. You might have to make some adjustments to his room and it is ok.
Don´t do it while being potty trained, one change at a time.