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Toddler Sleep Problems

The Premature Crib-to-Bed Transition

By Amalah

Hi Amy,

Let me preface this by saying I temporarily lost my mind. I moved my 17-month to her toddler bed (meaning my husband converted her crib). I have no idea why. (Ok it might be because my MIL says she moved both her boys to floor beds at 12-months and they were just peachy and slept through everything. Anyway). She’s never been the best napper but she was doing 11-12 hours at night with minimal disturbances and putting herself to sleep at bedtime. Now I have to wait with her until she is so tired she won’t get up and follow me and she wakes up in the middle of the night and comes into my room. Sometimes she will go back to sleep easily other times it can take me an hour to get her back to bed. I’ve actually put the pack-and-play back in her room for such late night contingencies and naps because she won’t nap in the bed.

Should I throw in the towel and put the crib side back on? The only reason I’m hesitating is she absolutely loves getting into her new bed. It’s just the out that is the problem.  Also she’s not really verbal so explaining she needs to stay in bed is not really useful and she can open the doors in the house so the only way to keep her in would be to reverse the locks on her door which doesn’t seem safe in emergencies.

Thanks so much!

Yeah, I’d put the crib side back on. While I’m sure a valid argument exists for just continuing to roll with the current situation until she adjusts, I’m just too much of a fan of Nighttime Confinement. And sticking with it for as long as humanly possible. It’s just plain safer — I would not feel comfortable letting a 17-month-old have free reign of the house at night, and locking her in her room isn’t safe either. (Plus she’ll likely just repeatedly pull and jiggle on the doorknob, realize she’s trapped and work herself into a fit about it. Toddlers will rarely pass up a temper tantrum opportunity and do the sensible thing instead, i.e. themselves back to bed.) I mean, this is why we have cribs, and why most of us (not all, of course) don’t make the transition until later, when the child is 1) able to climb/fall out, 2) ready for potty training, or 3) verbal and mature enough to understand the expectations of bedtime. (HAHAHAHAHAAAAA.)

So put the crib side back up and don’t make a big deal about. Maybe get her a stepstool that’s high enough that she can continue to climb into bed by herself. (Then of course move it away from the crib once she’s in.) Get her something cool like a new nightlight or lovey or a soother/activity thingie that attaches to the crib as a distraction from her bed demotion.

By the way, according to my MIL, my husband and his brother both potty trained (all by themselves!!) by their first birthday. And no, not elimination communication or anything, they were running around naked at the beach and peed and then were like, “I understand this entire process and shall use the toilet completely independently from now on.” She mentioned this story CONSTANTLY after our firstborn arrived, and didn’t understand why parents (cough cough US) let their kids wait so long to train, it’s so SIMPLE, toddlers don’t WANT to stay in diapers, etc. etc. Then I asked her when her boys took their first steps. Which was…around 11/12 months old. When I pointed out that most babies don’t typically go from wobbly cruising to walking over to drop trou at the toilet all by themselves, she finally realized how off her memory was. She’s since revised their ages up to two years old, though some of the details she’s kept in the story and old photos make me suspect that they were closer to three.

So there’s a rich history of MILs of (innocently!) misremembering ages and stages and offering up helpful (yet passive aggressive!) suggestions like “I did this at exactly X months old and everything was perfect so clearly that’s why your kid is a disaster.” And why you generally don’t want to take infant/baby/toddler advice — particularly about SLEEP — from people who are just too far removed from the experience and have likely blocked out the worst of it, or tend to oversimplify how easily they “fixed” it. I’m probably inching close to this stage, but people keep asking sleep questions week after week, so I do my best to relive the horror for you guys.

Point is, I suspect you and your daughter will sleep much better with the crib side safely back on. And if your MIL tsk-tsks at you about it, just toss your head back and laugh. “Oh yes. A previously-good-sleeping 17-month-old running loose through the house every night! What was I thinking?” Then change the subject to something less judgey, like why your 17-month-old hasn’t potty trained yet or gotten into Harvard.

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


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 Ama...

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

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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  • That’s the best part of blogging for me, I can GO BACK and look to see how old my son was when he did something (from age 3 onward)

  • My MIL is surprised when my six-year-old doesn’t keep her toys organized by type, when my three-year-old spills food on the floor, and when children fight, ever. Like, totally astonished and wonders aloud how that happened and why they would do that. (She doesn’t blame me, thankfully.) My current working theory is that she didn’t actually raise children and my husband and his sister just spontaneously appeared at some point.

  • Caroline

    My mil is proud, yes she is, of the fact that when my husband was about 6 weeks, she simply decided night feeding needed to end so she shut him in a room as far from her and FIL as possible and… left him. ”He was very hoarse in the morning haha!”. Right.

    She also talks of introducing cereal, regular oats type cereal at about 6-8 weeks. Husband has a very dodgy gut, clearly nothing to do with it!

    They did their thing, you do your thing. Their memories are… faded. Let’s say that.

    I have been very fortunate to have 3 excellent sleepers and eaters. I was apparently a demon child that never ate anything ever and never slept anything approaching a whole night till I was well over 2. Thus my mother is in awe of my ”incredible skills” but SO MUCH is down to luck. Yes, yes, a consistent and firm approach works, but it’s a long game, and every child is different!

  • Elle

    I took the side off my kid’s crib when he was around 13 months. He was never a great sleeper (didn’t sleep through the night until he was around two), but after he started walking I figured I would get more sleep if I just let him come to me in the middle of the night when he woke up rather than me getting my tired butt out of bed to get him. I feel like this was actually one of my more slacker parenting moves, though in principle I liked the idea of giving my kid freedom of movement (inside his totally kid-proofed bedroom, of course). Oh, and yeah, I turned the lock inside out so I could lock him in his room while he was getting to sleep, then left the door open a crack after he was down. So basically I turned his whole room into a crib and did a modified Ferber approach when he kept getting up and calling for me after I put him to sleep.

    And yeah, he was never a good napper either. But it was a heck of a lot nicer to have a child playing quietly and alone with his stuffed animals and books for over an hour (!) than to be in and out of his room a bajillion times during that period.

  • BMom

    Yup. We moved out (then) 2-yr old to a “bed” -i.e. Took the side off the crib- because he asked. It was a full-on disaster. Our awesome sleeper was up 5-7 times per night, cried at bedtime, etc. we tried turning the open side to the wall so it seemed more closed off but he could get in and out independently- finally, after a month, we all agreed to put the side back in. Where he happily slept until we moved a few months after his third birthday, and now he’s in a bed. So no harm, no foul, other than that month and f sleep we all lost!

  • bookworm81

    I’m with Amy; keep them in the crib as long as possible. At 18 months my now 21 month old figured out how to climb out of his crib so I put him in a wearable blanket. When he figured out he could still stretch his legs far enough apart to escape I took in the sides of the sleep sack so he can’t anymore* (said sack is also on backwards at this point so he doesn’t take it and his pj’s off). Both of his siblings were only 22 months when I had to take the side off because they were climbing out but I’m craftier now.

    *he still has plenty of room to move his legs and even walk around in the crib; just not enough to make the 45 degree angle needed to climb out

  • Guest

    Lol on this MIL memory stuff. Mine is the same way, and I’m adopted (was adopted in my teens) so my parents have literally no clue at what age things are supposed to happen. It’s been REAL FUN. Luckily, I don’t ask for advice often (ever), and typically just say “that’s nice, glad that worked for you” and continue on my merry way 🙂 Put the crib back together, and don’t worry about what other people’s kids did, didn’t do, are doing or aren’t doing when it comes to sleep or food (that’s actually the best advice I ever received, from our pediatrician no less)!