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Sleep Expert Warns Against This Toddler Bed Pitfall

Sleep expert Heather Turgeon, co-author of "The Happy Sleeper: The Science-Backed Guide to Helping Your Baby Get a Good Night's Sleep—Newborn to School Age," will fix your family's sleep problems in this space as she does in her home consultations. Turgeon's solutions are nonjudgmental, kind and—best of all—based on science.

No situation is too challenging. Leave your sleep problem in comments. Let's all get a good night's sleep, finally.

Dear Heather,

What’s the best age to kick the crib to the curb and switch to a toddler bed?

— Ready for Change

Dear Ready,

Most kids do well making the move at age 3. It’s an exciting change, so the most common pattern we see in our practice is parents making it too early. Generally speaking, if a sleep arrangement isn’t broken, don’t fix it: If your 2-year-old is sleeping well in the crib, keep it right on going. At age 3, most little ones have the impulse control to stay in bed and understand the idea of making this their cozy place for the whole 11-hour night. Reasons to make the switch earlier would be if your toddler starts to climb out of the crib or you need the crib for a new baby.

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Make the transition very clear by taking the crib out of the room, instead of having both bed and crib in the room, which can be confusing for a toddler. Plump up the sides of the bed with a safety rail, some extra blankets and stuffed animals, so it’s not just a wide-open space. Either buy a book on the "big bed" or make a simple picture book to read about going from crib to bed.

Lastly, rehearse how things will go! Use stuffed animals to show the routine, how you’ll say goodnight and how the animals stay there until morning, when the sun comes up. If you have "The Happy Sleeper" book, you know the technique of the Reverse Sleep Wave (automatic 5-minute checks you do without your child needing to call you back in the room at bedtime). This is a great method if your little one has trouble saying goodnight.

Sleep happy,

Heather

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