Toddler Sleep Help: When is My Toddler Is Ready For a ‘Big Kid’ Bed?

Would you like to have me answer your sleep question in my next video? If so, scroll down and submit your question in the comment section below. I will pick several questions a month to answer and post them here on the blog!

If you would rather read than watch my above toddler sleep help video then here is the transcript of this week’s toddler sleep help video:

In this week’s video, I’m going to answer Roselyn’s e-mail question. She has a seventeen-month old of who she has successfully sleep coached and she now sleeps through the night like a charm she said and they are all feeling great. Here’s her request for toddler sleep help:

“How do I know if she’s ready for a big girl bed? She tends to flail on her sleep and hit the side rails. It never really wakes her up fully but I wince when I hear it. I’m worried that she’ll really hurt herself. I thought about bumpers but everything I’ve read says they’re not safe. I’m also worried she’ll fall out of a big bed in the night given how much she moves around. We’re moving to a new house in July so I’m considering making the switch then. But I wonder if that’s a good opportunity or just too much change at once. I definitely don’t want to mess with her sleep if I can avoid it. Any advice would be hugely appreciated.”

Roselyn, there’s a lot of good questions in here. First of all, congratulations on your successful sleep coaching and I’m so happy to hear that you and your family are sleeping well and most of all, your daughter. I do have some strong thoughts about when to transition to a bed but I wanted to make sure to also address the moving and the restless sleeping and flailing around first.

Just so you know, a child’s sleep architecture, as they call it, does not mimic an adult’s until about two years of age. So they have a little bit more restless sleep than we do. You also want to make sure that she’s not having restless sleep because she’s either sleep deprived which it doesn’t sound like she is or that she has sleep apnea. So again, not to get too concerned but I’d make sure that she’s not snoring, mouth-breathing or sweating when she’s sleeping and the other sign all symptoms of sleep apnea (in addition to restless sleeping). Children with sleep apnea are often very restless when they’re sleeping. If she does have any of these signs I would tell your pediatrician so that sleep apnea can be ruled out. Mostly they’re going to be ruling out if her tonsils and her adenoids are enlarged. If that’s not it and shes sleeping well, doesn’t hurt herself and isn’t waking up crying from wrestling all over the crib, then I would leave it be. I agree there is a lot of controversy over the safety of crib bumpers and it’s probably safer at this point to not use them.

The other discussion point is your upcoming move. I would recommend that you not transition her to a bed right now, that is too many changes and having her safe cozy bed that she is used to in our new home will make that transition easier. You might even want to try to put the crib in the same area of her room, in her new room as it is now. So instance, if in the current room you enter and her crib is to the left, I would place the crib to the left in the new room if possible. It’ll be a little helpful and a little less change.

And then the third most important question is when to transition to a bed in general. I recommend waiting until two and half ideally three years old when the cognitive ability and impulse control are developed enough to understand stay in your bed all night long. Have I seen two years old “get it” successfully? I have. I haven’t seen a lot of seventeen-month olds do it successfully or if they do, it takes weeks like three to four weeks and usually the parents can’t take it for that long. You also have to make the room super safe, remove a lot of things and often gate the door so your child doesn’t leave and walk in to new or unsafe areas of the house during the night, especially a new house. I would encourage you to wait until your child is at least two and a half to three years old when you’re all settled in and happy in your new home.

Sweet dreams,

The Sleep Lady

Video filmed by In Focus Studios

If you have a similar sleep situation as Roselyn and want to share your thoughts and tips, please do! Please feel free to click the “reply” link under this article and leave them a comment. Supporting each other makes parenting so much easier!

Lindsay Chaney
Lindsay Chaney

I have a 7 month old who is currently sleeping through the night great - partially thanks to the great advice from your book. I have a question regarding naps however. We feel like he is old enough now to be on a structured daytime nap schedule - 2 or 3 longer naps per day at a fairly regular time - but are having a hard time with this. He usually goes to bed close to 7pm every night and wakes up around 7:15 or 7:30am. He has had a consistant pattern to his days most of his life - sleep, eat, play, nap - where the nap time is mainly dictated by his sleepiness cues: fussiness, eye rubbing, etc. The problem we are having is he doesn't seem able to stay awake for very long at a time - the first awake period during the day lasting an hour, all others about 1.5 - 2 hours. We think that he really is tired, as he falls asleep great for naps - usually just walk in his room, turn of lights, lay him down in crib, he rolls over, and is out. His naps usually are about 1.5 hours, but seem to vary from 45min to 2.5hrs for some unknown reason. He is always much happy the longer he naps, and will typically last longer the longer he naps. We have been trying to extend his awake time as long as possible in hopes that his nap will thus be longer, but it isn't always the case. He seems really sensitive to being overtired (when that happens, he has an awful time falling and staying asleep) so we don't press the staying awake too hard. Is it possible that he may need more than average sleep due to his busy, alert personality? 


My two year old boy is finally sleeping through the night and having a 1-2 hour nap in the afternoon - something I never thought I would see happen. However, in the last few days, he has been waking in the night, climbing out of his cot (with the side still up), leaving the room he shares with his sister and coming into our room in the middle of the night. Last night it happened at 1.30am, 2.40am, 4.15am and again at 5ish. Each time I had to get out of bed, walking him back into his room, put him back in his cot and sing him to sleep. One of those times he came in carrying all three of his favourite softies and said he was scared. I reassured him though I have to admit I am not the most patient parent when I am woken up in the middle of the night. (He does go back to sleep relatively easily (most of the time) but now that he has realised that he can climb out of his cot and come into our room (something that is worrying all by itself!), I'm concerned that this will be the end of our peaceful nights. I have only just gotten my 'all night' sleep back after five years (I have a nearly six year old daughter too with whom my boy shares a room), and I am recovering from PND so I am desperate not to lose it again.


To complicate things further, we are also about to move to the US (in three months) and we were thinking of transitioning him into a bed (as we will not have a cot any more!). Given that he is climbing out already - what should I do? He will be 2 1/2 by the time we arrive in the US which you said was the earliest age to think about transitioning from cot to bed.


Any advice gratefully received.





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