Are you thinking about transitioning your twins from cribs to beds? A twin mom shares her tips for knowing when to make the switch and how to go about it.
Before we get into talking about bed-time and toddlers, I should disclose that my husband is a sleep expert. He works in the sleep department at one of our local hospitals and evaluates sleep patterns and disorders on a daily basis. He is the man that would watch our babies sleep and tell me everything I didn’t know I needed to know about them sleeping. He would remind me that sleep was a vital part of our children’s growth and development. With that said, sleep should be mastered in our house right? WRONG!! I am an advocate for noting that every child is different. I believe that every parent needs to do what is best for them, and what works with their twins.
Just when I thought we finally conquered the night routine, our toddlers turned 18 months and started crawling out of the crib. We put them to bed and within minutes they were running down the hall. We put them to bed again and they crawled out of the crib again, and again, and yet again. It was exhausting, frustrating, and I found myself doing a quick self check; mommy be patient, mommy don’t get angry, and mommy just breathe. I had to remind myself to be consistent, patient, and loving.
I also realized that my biggest concern was their safety. I worried about them crawling out of the crib and injuring themselves. I lowered the bar until they fell asleep, and then put the bar up again overnight. Then I thought, Is this the perfect invitation for them to continue crawling out of bed? I questioned everything! Am I doing this right? Am I getting anywhere? Am I a bad mommy? I started reading about transitioning our toddlers to big beds. I asked friends, read on-line chats, and tried to educate myself on what to do and then it happened… It stopped. My toddlers suddenly stopped crawling out of the crib and spent another several months sleeping in their cozy little cots. I understand this was not “the normal”, but it gave me time to think about all the advice that we were given by family and friends. In addition, it gave me further insight on when we should transition our toddlers to big beds. Here are the questions I asked myself?
Am I jumping on board too fast?
Some tots (like mine) will stop climbing out of the crib. It may not be necessary for you to run out and buy new beds the day your toddlers climb out of the crib for the first time. Toddlers can transition to big beds anytime between the ages of 1 ½ – 3 ½ years of age. If they persistently climb out of the crib, it is essential for safety reasons to transition them to a big bed. If your twins are secure in their cribs, you might choose to leave them a few more months.
Are they ready?
Each child develops on their own schedule. Make sure your toddler is developmentally ready before the transition to a big bed. Switching your twins too early may result in an interruption of the night routine. It is recommended that parents should not make a change to fit their own needs, but only when the child is ready. The most common mistake for transitioning a toddler too early comes as a result of a new baby needing the crib. (If you do move your toddlers in anticipation of a new baby, it should be done 2 ½ – 3 months before the baby arrives.)
It is important to remember with twins that they might be on a different development schedule. One twin might be ready to make the transition earlier than the other. There is no “one way” of handling this. Do what works best for your toddlers, but do not hold one child back if the others are ready to transition. You might consider moving all of them to toddler beds with rails, until they are all ready to transition to twin beds. Or, you might consider taking all of them to the store to buy a “special blanket” even if you only plan to transition one of them. The bigger deal you make of it, the more excited each of them will be to make the transition, and that way nobody feels left out. Talk to them about the process and allow them to help you through it. You might find that one twin is perfectly OK staying in their crib while brother/sister moves on. Do not treat them differently, and before you know it, each of them will have made the transition.
At 18 months of age your toddler is learning fine motor skills, social skills, and some cognitive capabilities. This is the age that our little ones really start testing the water. They start to understand a little more and gain a little more independence. “Most” babies will not be ready to leave the crib this early. It is still a place of comfort for them and although they are gaining freedoms, they do not fully comprehend “why” they should stay in bed.
Turning two (at 24 months) you will find that your toddler is now a bundle of energy. They are pushing the boundaries and using that extra strength to soar new adventures (literally). At this age they start to understand why they shouldn’t climb the rails, but they sometimes struggle to control their impulse decisions to seek adventure. As a parent, you need to use your judgment to ensure their safety. Some toddlers can be very successful in transitioning to a big bed at this point.
By age 3, your toddler can communicate. They have verbal skills and can engage with a great imagination. Most three year olds can follow basic instructions and understand why staying in bed is important.
For this reason, the longer you can keep them in the crib, the easier your transition will be. This is where we start to implement the next question:
Are they safe?
Remember that once the cribs leave the room, your safety net is gone. Your toddlers are now free to explore. Make sure they are safe. Secure furniture to the walls (or remove it completely), secure your outlets, and verify that all safety precautions are in place. If your toddlers continue to crawl out of the crib with no resolution, it is in their best interest to make the transition. Families with hard wood and tile floors should be extra careful in making sure your toddlers are secure. A 2-3 ft. fall to the floor can cause serious injury to your little ones.
Watch for these signs to help you know when to transition:
- Floor Test: Move your crib mattresses to the floor. (Nap time is a great time to test this out) If your twins adjust easily to sleeping on the mattress without emotional distress they may be ready. Some toddlers will show immediate signs of distress from the change. This will help you to identify their comfort level.
- Big Bed Request: If your toddlers start requesting a big bed, don’t ignore this opportunity. This is a sure sign they might be emotionally ready to make the transition. This is especially common in children with older siblings. They want to be big just like sister.
- Size: If your twins are tall, out of necessity they may have to transition earlier. Remember that they need to sleep safely and comfortably in their beds. The inability to comfortably roll over may interrupt their sleep routine. In addition if they are getting their legs stuck in the rails while at rest, it is now a safety issue.
- Crib Haters: If your twins dislike the crib, this might also sign that they are ready to make the change. This can often coincide with children requesting a big bed. If your twins are finding their way into your room, sleeping on the floor, under the crib, or on top of the couch; this is a sure sign they are crib haters.
- Potty Trained: If they are potty training (and night training) they will need an easy trip to the bathroom. Think about midnight and 3 AM potty breaks. Make sure that it is a safe path for twins. Night time training is easily delayed if your little ones can’t make it to the potty with ease.
This brought us to our next question:
Am I taking one thing at a time?
Do not attack more than one change at a time. If you are in the process of taking away the pacifier, potty-training, moving, or having another baby; this may not be the best time to transition your twins. Make the change when you can focus clearly on making them comfortable in their new beds.
Once we evaluated our transition and decided it was time to move our twins to big beds, we started having anxiety over what to do next. We weren’t ready to move them into separate rooms, and our bedroom space was very limited. So was our budget. What should we do? Should we put them into toddler beds, twin beds, bunk beds … thus came my next part of the transition, buying the bed:
Are they small or are they tall?
I personally got the short stick in life, but our twins picked up the tall gene and somehow managed to soar off the charts. Part of our decision to transition them to big beds came as a result of them outgrowing their cribs. Our budget screamed toddler beds because we could use the crib mattresses, but I realized it would only be a matter of weeks before their feet would hang off the end. They simply were too tall for the toddler beds.
Estimate at least one year’s growth in your toddlers. If you believe your toddlers will outgrow a toddler bed within a 12 month time frame, it might be best for you to fully transition to a twin size bed. Too many bed transitions might interrupt your toddler’s level of comfort and disrupt their sleep schedule.
Space wise, this may be appealing, but after reading recommendations for bunk bed uses, we decided against it. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), and The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Recommend that no child under the age of 6 should sleep in a bunk bed. Thousands of children every year under the age of 15 are treated with both minor and major injuries as a result of falling from the upper bunks. I am not against bunk beds, but I would recommend you purchase bunks that can be separated until the recommended age of use. Once your twins are of age, I would recommend you secure them properly, and make sure rails exist on both sides of the bunk.
Remember that even calm sleepers can be expected to fall out of bed for the first several months. If you transition to twin beds take safety precautions:
- Rails: You can purchase short or long rails, some even fold underneath the mattress during the day. Properly install safety rails following the safety recommendations. Not securing them properly could lead to the entrapment of your toddlers, and/or the rail not supporting the weight of your child.
- No Rails: If you chose to forego the bed rails, avoid using both a box spring and a mattress to lessen the distance your child will fall to the floor.
Once we purchased the twins big beds, we realized the hard part was yet to come. It was time for the actual transition. This part of the transition scared me to death. I was not looking forward to interrupting our routine and bed-time schedule. These steps helped us in a seamless transition:
Make it a big deal
Involve your toddlers in the transition process as much as possible. Talk about it several days in advance so that they get used to the idea. Get them excited about the change. Let them watch you set up the big beds and dismantle the cribs. Have a party. Let them choose new bedding. Make it a big girl/boy room that they want to be in.
Have a bedtime routine in place
Have an established bedtime routine (such as the following) in place several weeks prior to moving them to big beds.
- Set a specific bed time and stick to it
- Give a warning and begin a countdown
- Give them a bedtime snack
- A warm bath to calm them down
- Teeth brushed
- Read books
- Sing a quiet song
- Keep your “good nights” brief
Allow your toddlers the comforts of bed
If your toddlers have a night light, a stuffed animal/doll, or blanket they are comfortable sleeping with, allow them the comforts of these items in their big bed. Avoid having too many stuffed animals, or too many blankets in the bed. This can be dangerous and create an uncomfortable sleeping condition. We found the night lights that put stars on the ceiling soothed the twins and gave them something to focus on as they fell off to sleep.
If you haven’t already done so, consider introducing music into the bedtime routine. Toddlers don’t like to stay in bed because they can’t settle their minds or their bodies down. Classical music and lullabies create a soothing atmosphere to put your toddlers at rest. It calms the mind and helps them to rest more soundly. Introducing music during the transition period is a great treat for the little ones.
Start ½ hour Early
The day you plan to transition your twins to their big beds provide them with plenty of exercise. Give them as much activity as possible to tire them out. Start ½ hour early from your normal bed-time routine allowing yourself plenty of time to reassure them, and to get them excited about the change.
Avoid responding to parent calls, but respond to cries
It will not be uncommon for your toddlers to call out to you, or even crawl out of bed. Try to avoid parent calls (mommy I want water, mommy I need to tell you something) unless they are afraid or in need of comfort. Do not ignore cries the first night of transition. Comfort them and reassure them of their safety. If they do crawl out of bed, put them back into bed and tell them it is bed-time. If they get out again, put them back into bed without speaking. Be consistent, the first night might be difficult.
Sit in the doorway
Many toddlers fear having the door shut. If your toddler is afraid or persistently gets out of bed, try a baby gate in the door-way instead of shutting the door. If they climb the baby gate, sit in the doorway. Sitting in the doorway is also a good way to slowly remove your presence from the room.
The most important thing to do while transitioning your twins to big beds is to ensure their safety and be consistent. There is nothing greater in life than watching your toddlers grow. This is a big milestone! It is one more sign that your twins are growing up and becoming more independent. Give it time and enjoy the moment. Make it pleasant for everyone. Most importantly, remember that like everything else, you will survive and so will they!
Minden Buckingham lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband Mike and fraternal twin girls, Hanna and Emma. She has two bachelor degrees from Portland State University in Business Management and Human Resources Management. Minden is a stay home mom and enjoys the outdoors, photography, and writing.