This could not be more true when it comes to feeling of pure horror after hearing a thump on your toddler’s bedroom floor. In the middle of the night. After she’s climbed out of her crib.
Many parents panic when this happens because it often comes as a shock. One moment your baby was safe in his crib and the next minute he’s in the kitchen. At 11:30pm.
That’s why I wrote this post.
If your baby is still safely in his crib, you have the luxury of thinking this over for a few months until the day comes where your baby turns into an escape artist. If you’re in the midst of this struggle, here are some ideas:
Move to a toddler bed. If you feel your toddler is ready to make the move to a toddler bed, go ahead and do that. It’s a big change from the safe, cozy atmosphere of a crib, so expect an adjustment period while your toddler gets used to his new sleeping arrangement. Keep in mind, however, that staying in a toddler bed all night without coming out takes cognitive maturity and self-control on the part of the toddler, which often requires whole new form of bedside sleep training. Unfortunately, moving to a bed before three years old often results in greater struggles.
What if your toddler is too young for a bed? Some babies climb out as young as 15 months, which is far too young for a bed. It’s too much freedom for an underdeveloped brain and will usually cause more harm than good.
Train your toddler to stay in his crib. Parents often give up the first time their baby climbs out the crib. They assume crib days are over and King Toddler has won. You can actually teach your toddler to stay in his crib, with enough consistency and perseverance. When your toddler climbs (or tries to climb) out of the crib, stay calm and non-emotional. Kids react to heat, so an excited reaction, either negative or positive, will encourage him to do it again. Don’t react. Calmly place your toddler back in his crib and firmly state the rule, “no climbing.” You’ll have to do this a fair amount of times before your toddler sees that you mean business, but this works for many climbers.
Put your baby to bed in a Sleep Sack. This allows him to walk around freely in his crib, but restricts his range of mobility so that he can’t lift his leg over the side of the crib. If your toddler’s figured out how to take the sleep sack off, put it on backwards or inside out (or both!) so that it won’t be undone in the middle of the night. You can also use these special pajamas that are created for this very purpose – keeping your baby in his crib!
If your baby’s crib has one side higher than the other, turn the crib around so that the taller side is facing outward toward the room and the shorter side is facing the wall. Now, let me be clear: this is purely a psychological deterrent – your baby can easily climb out of one of the sides if he is determined to, but it works surprisingly well for some babies. It’s definitely worth a shot because it’s so easy to do.
Take out any stepping stones from the crib. Toddlers usually climb out by stepping on something first, like a stuffed animal or pillow. Make sure your baby doesn’t have access to any potential stepping stones that will aid him in his escape. I’ll never forget when I found one of my 2 year olds stepping on her stuffed monkey, leaning over the side of the crib at the start of her first escape attempt. “Your dolls and toys can stay in your crib if they are not stepped on,” worked well for us. Depending on your toddler, you may have to substitute smaller dolls or for crib time.
Drop the mattress down to the ground. This is my favorite trick, but you have to be careful to make sure it’s done safely. If you take out the box springs under your baby’s mattress, you can drop the mattress all the way down to the ground and have it rest on the floor. This adds a few more feet of height to the crib and makes it much harder for your toddler to climb out of. The risk in this move depends on the kind of crib you have – if there’s a gap between the top of the mattress and the bottom of the crib frame, it can be a dangerous situation where your toddler’s head can get stuck if he tries crawling out, between the gap. Only attempt this if the mattress is flush with the crib frame, leaving no gap, and double check with your pediatrician to be safe.
Don’t use a crib tent. Crib tents are not recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, and for good reason. There have been instances of toddler’s trying to escape crib tents and have gotten caught in the ties that secure the tent to the crib. There are lots of ideas for this common issue online, and not everything you read is safe. Think critically before you make any decisions.
Do whatever you can to keep your baby in his crib, Mama. The longer you can keep your baby in her crib, the simpler your life will be.