The Moment I Knew It Was Time to Transition My Son to a Toddler Bed

As the mother of a little boy (with another one on the way), I’ve been warned by several friends (most of whom have only boys, oddly enough) that little boys are fun and energetic (true and true). But I’ve also been told that I have to be prepared for accidents, ER trips, dirt and yes, blood. Great.

Over the last two years and two months, I have certainly grown a thicker skin. Jake has had black and blue knots the size of golf balls on his forehead from tripping over nothing more than his toddling feet. He performed the classic toddler move of planting face-first into the side of our coffee table, and then bleeding from his mouth all over me. (We quickly replaced that table with a cushioned one.) He has had black eyes and fat lips, and he constantly has bruised knees and legs – most likely because he has a habit of walking (or running, really) without looking where he is going.

But now my active little guy has reached yet another milestone. He is a climber – a fact we have known since before he could even stand up by himself – and that brings with it a whole host of other issues. His most recent challenge to tackle? The crib.

I have watched the wheels turn in my son’s head as he has considered his options for getting out of the crib. For a long time, it never even occurred to him that he could perhaps try to get out on his own. I hoped this would last until he turned 5 or 6, or you know, 10 or 12. (Just kidding. Ok, not really.) But slowly, after a nap or a long night’s rest, he would casually throw his leg up over the side, and then lower it back down. I knew where this was heading.

And just like that, literally overnight, my two-year-old figured it out. With a lot of determination and those strong limbs of his, he pulled and climbed and grunted until he was a free man. But since his bedroom doorknobs are baby-proofed, he couldn’t fully escape. (He instead stared up at the camera for his baby monitor and screamed at us until we came to get him.) But that was it. He figured it out, and it was unlikely that he would soon forget how to break free from his cage.

Since that day, I have watched him over the monitor take some naps peacefully, while negotiating the sides of his crib for others. I never know if he’ll sleep on a given day, or go for a nice mid-afternoon climb. Some friends suggested just transitioning him to a toddler bed, now that he knows how to escape. But I have resisted, kicking and screaming the entire way. See, lots of sleep experts recommend keeping children in their cribs as long as possible. Lori Strong, a sleep consultant, has this to say:

“I recommend that parents wait as long as possible before moving their child to a bed. The ideal age is when the child is over 3 years old,” says Strong. To keep your toddler in his crib even if he’s climbing out, use a sleep sack on your child (and put it on backwards so they can’t take it off). This prevents your child from lifting their legs over the crib and voila — captive again.

But Jake is pretty determined, and since he’s my son, he’s pretty clumsy. This has resulted in a couple of falls from his perch on the top of the crib. Yesterday, though, I think we hit our tipping point. Instead of napping, Jake straddled his crib rail for a while (maybe because he forgot what his next move should be). He stayed in that position singing and talking to himself, until he lost his grip and crashed onto his floor. Since there weren’t a lot of tears, it took a minute or two to realize how he had hurt himself. As he bled profusely from his mouth, my husband and I noticed that he had torn his frenulum (that tiny piece of flesh that connects your gums to your upper lip. OUCH). That little guy bleeds A LOT. As the three of us sat on the bathroom floor trying to get Jake’s mouth to clot, I had had enough. I couldn’t care less what the baby sleep experts had to say. It was time for a bed.

As we wait for his guardrail to arrive before converting his crib to his new big boy bed, I have much anxiety about what is to come. Will he ever sleep again? Will he just roam around his room at night, singing or screaming until we get him? I fear for everyone’s rest. But at least, when it comes to a crib, there will be no more blood.