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Cribs, Toddler Beds…and New Siblings

Oct29

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Advice Smackdown ArchivesDear Amy,

We have a 21 month old son and are expecting baby #2 (a girl this time) a few weeks after his second birthday. I am trying to figure out where my children will sleep after the second one arrives. Currently, our son sleeps in a crib and it is great. He doesn’t try to climb out, we put him in there wide awake and he plays for a bit and then goes to sleep on his own. He usually naps for about 1.5 hours in the afternoon and then sleeps through the night with no problem. Don’t worry, he does lots of other ridiculous toddler things so I am willing to take the good sleeping as a gift from the parenting gods.

The pending arrival of baby #2 means we will have to buy another piece of child-sleeping furniture. The question is, what? Should we buy another crib for the new baby so we don’t have to mess with our son’s situation? Should we transition our son to a bed now because we’re going to have to do it someday anyway and it doesn’t make sense to buy a second crib now and then also have to buy a bed a few months later? If we are going to transition to a bed, do we need to do it ASAP to separate the bed transition from the new baby’s arrival?

I should probably add that we are not going to co-sleep, so we do need a new sleeping space for the baby. Also, we intend for baby #2 to be our last, and are planning to give away our baby stuff after this.

I would really appreciate any advice you or your readers could offer. With all the other expenses associated with a new baby, I don’t want to spend the money on another crib if I don’t have to. On the other hand, I am expecting to be sleep deprived enough with the new baby and really want my son to be sleeping through the night. Help!

Thank you,
– Rachel

p.s. I love love love love your blog and advice column and calendar etc. The pregnancy calendar is the first thing I send to a friend after I learn she is pregnant. Thank you for doing what you do, and congratulations on your new pregnancy (except for the puking part)!!

This is one of those dilemmas that I think a TON of soon-to-be-second-time parents face, particularly when things work out so nicely for that two-years-apart sibling spacing. Without the new baby on the horizon, you imagine you wouldn’t even be considering moving your eldest out of the crib, so…is it wrong to push them into the big kid bed because you need the crib? Are you setting yourself up for nighttime wanderings and disaster and a big-time resentment of the new baby? But then again…do you really, REALLY want to buy another crib?

My first two children were three years apart, but Noah was already in a bed before I found out I was pregnant — about three months after he turned two. Bedtime was a challenge for a few days, and naptime for about a week. It seemed terrible and unending at the time, but really…it wasn’t. It definitely required a lot of extra patience and extra trips back up to his room to escort his little butt back to bed, but it was not at all the endless tug-of-war and middle-of-the-night wakings that I’d braced myself for.

(I highly recommend putting a video monitor in the room, if you have one or plan to get one for the new baby. That way you can see when they actually get out of bed and order them back without even opening the door. We’d holler up the stairs for Noah to get back in bed and he’d stop and freeze, like…whoa, THEY KNOW EVERYTHING…right before scampering under the covers. It was awesome.)

But oh, I am personally so happy we did the transition BEFORE there was a newborn in the house. I personally was very happy to have that whole thing settled and out of the way, so I only had to worry about one child’s erratic sleep patterns. We moved the crib and nursery furniture into a spare room and closed the door — in no time, Noah forgot about it completely and no longer viewed it with any attachment, so I never sensed he felt like the baby had claimed “his” things and bed.

Ezra will be two-and-a-half when the next baby arrives, and I absolutely plan to move him out of the crib before then — probably in a month or two. He and Noah will be getting bunk beds and sharing a room, and even though we do plan to co-sleep or room share with the new baby, I want to get the transition and any difficulties as ironed out as early as possible. Like your son, he goes to bed easily and sleeps through the night beautifully…I understand not wanting to mess with that, but at some point in the near future he’ll need to transition out of the crib anyway. I know some kids stay in the crib until after their third birthday, but most of the kids I know personally made the switch between 18 months and two-and-a-half. And many time it was completely prompted by the arrival of a new sibling. It happens. Don’t feel guilty about it. It’s just the circle of life and furniture use.

So no, even if I was convinced that Ezra wasn’t ready to move to a bed (and I think he’s been ready for awhile, I’m just lazy and like having him confined) I absolutely WOULD NOT buy a second crib. Even if you do keep your son in the crib, you WILL need to move him at some point…like maybe six months after the new baby? Give or take a few months? A year at the absolute MOST, if you’re not planning to potty train? Even an inexpensive crib will cost you hundreds of dollars, and then you’re still buying the toddler or big-kid bed mere months after the purchase. Buy a bassinet for the first three or four months, and then use a Pack-n-Play after that until you deem your older son “ready” or until he seems to have fully adjusted to the new baby. Or borrow a crib from a currently non-pregnant friend with an older toddler for a few months. (I’d say Freecycle or Craig’s List, but you’ll need to be extra diligent about all the recent recalls.)

Of course, then you ARE starting to run the risk of your son dealing with a big transition after the baby is here, and watching that baby get the bed that he still may view as “his.” And also going through the whole bedtime/naptime wandering routine while sleep-deprived and cranky. Which is why I vote for making the move before, if it’s at all possible. At least six to eight weeks before you’re due, so you have time to move the crib out of sight and away for a little while before introducing the nursery as the new sibling’s room. Remove toys from the room, if you can (we left only books). Get the video monitor and a low bed with a safety side rail and put a padded carpet next to the side anyway. (I really loved our Ikea “junior” bed — it was as low as a toddler bed but used a mattress that was longer than the usual crib-sized toddler bed, so Noah was able to use it for a lot longer AND we weren’t left with two crib mattresses. He’d still be using it if we hadn’t given him our old bed once we moved to a king.)

And don’t forget — you can always TRY the big boy bed now and if it absolutely doesn’t work and you both hate it, you still have time to work out Plan B and get a bassinet. Then try the transition again a few months after the baby arrives. Sometimes the baby can even work out in your favor when it comes to big kid stuff. Sometimes the older sibling decides that “I’m NOT a baby like THAT baby, so I want big kid bed/pants/cup/dinner/ etc.” And boom, you’re done.

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About the author

Amalah

http://www.amalah.com
Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy's daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it's pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.


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23 Responses to “Cribs, Toddler Beds…and New Siblings”

  1. AJU5's Mom Oct 29 at 11:41 am Reply Reply

    My kids are just shy of 2 years apart. We already had a pack-n-play with bassinet, so we used that. And we started the transition tot he bunk bed as soon as we got them (just after the birth). We didn’t force the big-kid bed on our daughter, but we gave her the option each nap/bedtime and would play in the big girl bed to get her used to it. It took less than two months to get her fully moved – which is less than the time most babies room share with parents. Now our son sleeps in the pack-n-play (at 11 months) in the guest room because he doesn’t like the crib (and neither child sleeps great although we eventually plan to move them into the same room).

    Maybe a pack-n-play would be an idea because then you could also use it when traveling?

  2. Jessicawp Oct 29 at 11:54 am Reply Reply

    I am going in the opposite direction of Amalah’s advice. My son turns 2 the end of December and his baby brother will arrive mid March. We are buying a second crib so as not to disturb my don’s sleep right now. He does not seem ready to move from the crib and since it converts to a toddler bed and then to a double frame he will be able to use it when he is ready to move on. The new baby will get another convertible crib, but probably not an expensive boutique one like my son has. Second child syndrome apparently starts in the womb. I would say if you are going to transition baby 1 to a bed do it at least two months before the new baby arrives.

  3. MommaFergie Oct 29 at 11:59 am Reply Reply

    Hmmm.. Well here’s what I would do.. I would buy a transition crib (one that converts from crib, to toddler, to full-size bed). That way at first you will use the crib you have now and the transition crib. When your 2 year old is ready to move to a toddler bed simply convert the crib into the toddler bed, and you’ll then have a crib and a toddler bed. In the meantime, your new little one will have a nice old crib to sleep in. Good luck!

  4. Liz Oct 29 at 1:00 pm Reply Reply

    We bought my daughter a bed that ended up being WAY too big for her and scrambled at the end to get another convertible crib just before my son was born.  My daughter wasn’t ready to be in a bed but I pushed for it anyway and now that bed is in the basement, waiting until she’s 4 probably (she’s 29 months now.)

    Definitely make the switch early if you can or get a convertible crib.  We got a new one that’s not drop-side for about $150.  She’s perfectly happy in it and the reason I’m not sleeping at night is because of my son (he’s 5.5 months.)  I figure she’ll be ready to switch sometime and hopefully by then my son will have settled into a regular sleeping pattern.

  5. Ally Oct 29 at 1:20 pm Reply Reply

    Our first two are 21 months apart, as will kids two and three in April. My son wasn’t ready for a bed until he was almost 3. We having been buying thee cribs that convert from a crib to a full bed (not just a toddler or a single bed). It has worked out really well this way. As soon as my son went into a bed he didn’t nap anymore and we had a lot more challenges. The convertible cribs to beds have been amazing. We searched for quality ones and bought dressers to mach them. This way each kids has one set of furniture. 

  6. Jen Oct 29 at 2:36 pm Reply Reply

    I would keep him in the crib since that is working- you will know when he is ready. My kids are 2.5 years apart, and my older daughter was ready for a bed about weeks before her sister arrived. She kept asking for one, we talked it up and she did really well and continued to sleep all night and take good naps. However, the baby was a crappy sleeper and stayed in the Pack and Play until she was 10 months old before moving to the crib in their shared room. I think that the Pack and Play is the way to go, since it is (semi) portable and much less expensive than another crib or a bed. And keep in mind, that even if you don’t plan to co-sleep sometimes it can be easier to keep the baby in your room for a while, especially if the baby isn’t a good sleeper.

  7. Julie Oct 29 at 3:53 pm Reply Reply

    Remember, despite your best intentions, the new baby may decide they Will. Not. Sleep. In. The. Crib. for a few months anyway. So be prepared to be flexible.

    My son will turn 2 right around the same time the new baby arrives in March. At this point, my plan is to either use the pack-and-play with bassinet that we currently only use as a travel crib, or see if we can find a used arm’s reach co-sleeper for the first few months. Then we’ll play things by ear – we didn’t move kid one into sleeping in the crib alone till about 7 months, so by the time the new kid is that old, big brother will probably be ready for a big kid bed. (For the first 7 months we used the crib in side-car configuration.) We’ll play it by ear based on what he seems to be ready for until then.

    But as Amalah said, there’s no reason not to give it a try now and see how it goes. We tried it recently when my son first showed interest in the big bed, found it didn’t work,

  8. Sara M Oct 29 at 5:40 pm Reply Reply

    We moved my oldest to a bed when he was just under 2.5YO and about 4 months before the baby came. It was a disaster. He wasn’t going to sleep, always coming out of his room, falling asleep around 10 pm, then once he woke up in the morning he got out of bed right away (he used to talk and play in the crib for about 30-45 minutes). After 2 weeks of this, we put him back in his crib with a crib tent and got a second crib that was about $100. He finally transitioned to the bed about 2 months ago, right around his 3rd birthday. It’s still not great–he gets up a couple of times, falls asleep about 9, and bolts out of bed the second he wakes up in the morning. ALSO, the transition to the bed is when he stopped taking a nap. Not a fun time for us. So, I would vote for getting a second crib and having the new baby be the reason for lack of sleep.

  9. Amy Oct 29 at 5:57 pm Reply Reply

    I agree with the pack n play comment., Our First slept in that solely until she was 7 months old then transitioned to her crib, lol

  10. Erin Oct 29 at 7:19 pm Reply Reply

    If I had the knowledge I had now when I bought my son’s crib, I would NEVER have bought a convertible crib. I thought I’d like it for a toddler bed, but I much prefer a twin mattress/box spring right on the floor on his carpet. Also, he chewed the CRAP out of his crib, so it would have to be sanded/repainted to look nice again…if that matters…http://www.littlekitegirl.com/2009/10/09/how-worried-should-i-be-really/.

    He’s 25 months, and I’m not thinking we’re talking him out of his crib anytime soon. I really like knowing where he is :) If I were to have another baby right now, I’d probably do a bassinet type thing until he was ready to move beds. I really wonder how comfy those pack ‘n plays are to sleep in long term. Wouldn’t it be like sleeping on an air mattress…except…a thin wooden board? I have no idea, I’m a bit above the weight range to try it out.

  11. Karen Oct 29 at 11:48 pm Reply Reply

    Just an aside, but do y’all really have 4 year olds sleeping in full size beds? Am I the only one with bedrooms that are better sized for twin beds?

  12. Meg Oct 30 at 12:55 am Reply Reply

    I think switching him to a bed is a good idea, I wonder if presenting the new bed as a part of his birthday would help prevent at least some of the potential crib possessiveness? Tell him ahead of time he’ll be getting a new bed and perhaps let him choose a set of kid-themed sheets at the store… emphasizing that the bed IS his, instead of emphasizing that the crib is not-his-anymore might make the transition easier. 

    If not, I’ve been hearing a lot of good about Moses baskets for a newborn’s first few weeks, and if anything that would give you a little more time to decide on a furniture investment.

  13. Lisa M Oct 30 at 11:20 am Reply Reply

    We used a pack n’ play for our second, and it ended up being a real blessing, because even though our older child had vacated the crib by the time # 2 arrived, the baby’s sleeping habits (or lack thereof) made it impossible for them to share a room. So the crib lived in the boys’ room, and the pack n’ play stayed in our room; the baby would start out in the crib, but after the 1st waking, would get moved to the pack n’ play, and at some point (really vague on dates at this point) # 2 spent more and more of the night in the crib, and less time in the pack n’ play.

    Oddly enough, even though # 2 is our daredevil, he is still not read y to leave the crib (he’s almost 3). But would spend a lot of time jumping out of it. So even tough we have nice bunk beds, the baby (not so much of baby now) still sleeps in that very pack n’ play, now with crib tent on top. He actually climbs in at night and zips it up himself. I guess he’s just ready to leave that cozy space yet. As long as they’re both sleeping at night, I say whatev.

  14. Leigh Oct 30 at 4:06 pm Reply Reply

    Our son is also 21 months and we are 6 months away from baby number 2. We were facing the same issue.
    I loved sleeping in my little toddler bed. We plan on having more kids after this one. Given that, we decided to buy a second convertible crib and set it up now as a toddler bed. We can work on the transition slowly (naps first). If we are not ready when the baby comes, we will just convert it back to a crib.

  15. BJG Oct 30 at 4:16 pm Reply Reply

    Our boys are 20 months apart, and even though our new guy is sleeping in a bassinet in our room, I still wanted to make sure our older son was beyond the crib by the time his baby brother took it over. We bought a twin matress (no frame) and put it on the floor in his room a couple of weeks before we started putting him in it, when he was not quite 19 months. We put a gate on his bedroom door, a big fluffy blanket beside the bed to cushion any falls, and removed all toys but some books. It took less than a week before he was sleeping through the night again, and he felt like a “big boy”.

  16. Michal Oct 31 at 12:25 pm Reply Reply

    Keeping in mind that my girls are 7 years apart….when my 24 month old was 18 months, we moved to a new house and her crib was broken in the process. Since it was no longer safe I had to move her into her toddler bed way before I had planned. Its the best thing that ever happened. I don’t know if I also was just blessed by the parenting gods or what, but she went right down the first night and went right to sleep. She has done the same thing every night since. My sister gifted my 9 year old with a queen size four poster princess bed, so I moved her old full size bed into my younger daughters room and she sleeps great in the full size too. She sleeps right on through with a 2 hour nap and when she gets up in the morning she walks right into our room and wakes us up. I still have a monitor but she always gets up and comes to get us before it ever goes off. The point of my long winded rambling is that your son might surprise you. Its sounds like he has similar sleeping habits of my daughter and he might transition with no problems at all….I say give it a chance before you waste money on a second crib. If you do need something, I second Amalah’s advice of a bassinet.

  17. andrea Nov 01 at 9:17 am Reply Reply

    Any thoughts on how to make the transition if they will be sharing a room?

  18. Adrienne Nov 01 at 9:40 am Reply Reply

    We got the Gulliver crib from Ikea for baby #3. It cost $99, which is cheaper than a pack n play and it converts to a toddler bed. My philosophy is to never mess with a sleeping arrangement that’s working out well.

  19. From Belgium Nov 02 at 1:57 pm Reply Reply

    My kids where 18 months apart so we had to have a second crib. We asked around and got one from family, painted it hot pink and voila, instand designer worthy crib, and the only thing it cost us was a second matras and some paint. So why not ask around, perhaps someone will be happy to loan you a crib.

  20. Charity Nov 03 at 9:22 am Reply Reply

    I’m expecting #2 in December, just 3 weeks before my older son’s 2nd birthday. We moved my son out of the nursery and into a new room with a toddler bed from Ikea about a month ago (he was 21 months at the time). Despite being nervous about the switch, we dove in…and was pleasantly surprised that it went perfectly. The first night we put him in the new room and bed, he looked at us a little funny, and clung onto his bear….but we never heard a peep out him! He is an awesome sleeper, 12 hours straight, and had no changes in his night time pattern with the new set up. One thing we did, was set the new room up a month ahead of the actual switch. We then spent a lot of time in the new room, and it really helped get him excited about it. He started to view his time in there as a reward. His nap did have an adjustment period (which was a little rough), but after a few weeks it’s all ironed out too. I am SO GLAD we did the switch ahead of new baby’s arrival! One less thing to have on my mind… Good luck! 

  21. Frema Nov 03 at 11:22 am Reply Reply

    My second child was born 13 months after our first (surprise!), so there was no question that we needed another crib. Kara, our oldest, was moved into a toddler bed at two and a half, and the transition was pretty seamless. She does join us in bed often in the wee hours of the morning, but it only took about a month of “It’s time to go back to bed” for her to stay put. She does get up once for potty time before she officially konks out, but we expect that and are okay with it. We recently just learned we are pregnant with baby number three (surprise! again!), who is due around late June, when Nathan, our son, will be almost two and a half. Our plan is to move him into Kara’s toddler bed and move Kara into a twin. Nathan is a great sleeper, better than Kara, even, but we believe he will handle the transition just fine. For another data point, my sister just had baby number two a month after her son turned two, and they moved their son into a toddler bed about two months beforehand, again with no problem.

  22. Melissa Nov 03 at 2:56 pm Reply Reply

    My children at 3 years apart but we moved into a new house when my son was 18 months old. Instead of reassembling the crib, we stuck it in the garage rafters and put TC on a trundle bed from the guest room that we put in the corner and put a safety railing on the open side. He loved his big boy bed that was so low to the ground I wasn’t worried. Shortly after his second birthday, we moved him into his room with a twin bed. When his sister arrived this summer, he never recognized the crib as being his. I also recommend that pack n play option, we didn’t even take the crib down from the garage for her until just last week and she’s just shy of 4 months. We’ll finally finish decorating her nursery this weekend. But she spent the first months with us so she didn’t know any different. :)

  23. Jen Nov 10 at 7:40 pm Reply Reply

    Not too many months ago, I could have been posting this exact same question.  My two boys are 23 months apart, with the youngest now just over 2 months old.  I, too, was thankful to have a son with a solid nap schedule. We have a small house so we plan to have our boys share a room.  

    We ended up buying a transition toddler bed off Criagslist (also looked at the Ikea beds like many others mentioned) and set it up in the room with our eldest son’s crib long before we planned to have him sleep in it, when he was around 17 months.  He was curious about it, played on it until somewhere around 19 months when he wanted to nap in the bed.  We had to be very consistent about putting him back in bed when he got out of it, but within about 2 weeks, our eldest was napping and sleeping in his new bed without problems.

    Our second son has been sleeping in a bassinet in our room and as soon as he consistently sleeps through the night, he’ll transition into the crib still set up in my eldest son’s room.

    I agree with the advice not to buy another crib.  And the advice to buy a transition crib, one that goes from crib to bed, is good, but they tend to be expensive.  

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