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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 [email protected].

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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