At some point, most new parents realize that the assembly instructions that came with their newly-purchased crib are pretty much useless. Sure, the manual tells you how to get the crib upright and where to put the screws, but it doesn’t tell you what you really need to know: how to get your baby to sleep in the thing. When it comes to cribs, you’re bound to have a few questions, like how to get your baby to like the crib, the best time to move a toddler out of one, and whether it’s OK to use a crib for time-out. Here are a few dos and don’ts to keep your little one happy and safe in the crib.
DO give your child quiet playtime in her crib. Starting this habit in infancy gives your child the freedom to play in a safe, familiar environment and helps her to develop positive associations with her sleeping space. Infants shouldn’t be placed in a crib with soft toys, but can gaze at a mobile, pictures, or their hands. Toddlers can relax in the crib with books and a blanket.
DON’T use the crib as a place for time-out or punishment. According to Elizabeth Lombardo, Ph.D., this can lead your child to develop a negative association with his bed, setting the stage for sleep problems.
DO explore alternative to traditional crib bumpers. Last fall, I posted about Chicago’ controversial ban on crib bumpers, and I got some heated comments in response. Turns out, some parents are still pro-bumper, and are understandably grumpy about the government meddling with their baby’s bedding. If you just can’t picture a crib without a bumper, consider this breathable bumper from One Step Ahead. (And if you do buy a traditional bumper, don’t invest too heavily. If other cities and states follow Chicago’s lead, reselling the bumper later might prove difficult.)
DON’T resell or give away a hazardous drop-side crib. Instead, check out these nifty ways to reuse an old crib. (I love the creativity center idea!).
DO move your child from a crib to a toddler bed when he's ready. How do you know if he's ready? If the crib is no longer comfortable (because he’s too tall or heavy for it), safe (because he’s climbing out of it), or practical (because you need the crib for a new baby), it's time to make the switch.
DON’T move your child to a toddler bed too soon. Many parents rush the move to a toddler bed, thinking they need to make the transition during a certain “window” of time. In fact, if your child is experiencing sleep problems or resisting naps, moving to a toddler bed prematurely can make things worse. (My article “Tips For A Smooth Toddler Bed Transition” in this month's Montgomery Parents magazine covers this topic in more detail.)
For more answers to toddler sleep questions, including a more detailed response to the toddler-bed question, check out my guest post at Abby Off The Record.