Why I Was in No Rush for My Kid to Give Up the Crib

toddler in crib
iStock.com/michellegibson

Just before my twins turned 3, we started talking about transitioning out of the crib and into a toddler bed. We bought new beds, we set them up, and my daughter was thrilled to make the move. My son, however, wasn't interested at all. I wondered if this was a bad thing.

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Rule number one of having twins is to not compare them. It's also the number one rule most twin parents break. But it wasn't just my daughter who was over her crib; most of the kids we knew the same age or younger seemed to have made the transition already. Was it harmful to my son for him to stay in the crib at 3?

When we had their third birthday party for the kids at our house, one of my son's friends wanted to see their bedrooms so we went upstairs to show her. She took a look at my son's room and asked him why there was a crib in there. My son proudly said that's where he sleeps. The little girl burst into laughter, and I was so worried about how he was going to take it. But he just looked at her like she was out of her mind. It never bothered him before, and I was so happy that it didn't bother him then.

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Still, I wondered if I was doing something wrong by keeping him in his crib. He never tried to climb out of it. He'd wake up and call to me if it was time for him to get up. I think he liked the feeling of security within the crib -- he still sleeps with a blanket every night, too. And we tried the toddler bed, but he just wasn't having it. He said he couldn't fall asleep in there and he wanted to be in the crib. This was a kid with zero sleep issues, so creating one wasn't something I (or anyone) wanted. 

I asked Dr. Dan Coury, MD, who specializes in developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Nationwide Children's Hospital, if there was a problem with moving a kid out of his or her crib too soon. Dr. Coury said yes. "A crib provides containment for the child's safety. If we remove the child too soon then the child is at increased risk of falling from an open bed to the floor," he told me. "This is why so many families use bed rails with an open bed, or just use a mattress on the floor so that any fall [from] rolling out of bed is very short."

I was thankful to know I was not doing my child a disservice. "There is no harm staying in the crib longer," says Dr. Coury. "The concern would be having a child in the crib once he is starting to climb out of the crib, because of the concern for falling and being injured. Also, as children get older, they are more likely to be taking toys, etc., to bed with them, which, in a crib, might crowd them and create risk of other injuries."

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"Signs of being ready to move from a crib to an open bed include climbing out or starting to climb out of the crib and increasing autonomy," says Dr. Coury.

My son wasn't showing these signs, so there was no risk. What also became clear is that we, as parents, often know what's best for our kids -- though it is helpful and calming to hear a doctor back those thoughts up. Listening to our kids and our instincts is all part of parenting. 

About eight months after his third birthday, my son wanted to start trying out his "big kid" bed. It's where he's slept soundly ever since ... well, except those nights he crawls into mine.

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