Help with a 20 Month Old Sleeping in Her Own Big Bed

Updated on February 18, 2009
R.M. asks from Vista, CA
16 answers

Hi there, I have a 20 month old daughter who has always slept very well. She has been sleeping in her own room, in her own crib since she was 3 months old with no problem and sleeping through the entire night. Just recently she has learned to climb out of her crib and to open doors. Of course we worried she would hurt herself climbing out of the crib so we transferred her into her own big bed and placed safety things on the doors so she can't open all the doors.

To get to the point she now will not go to sleep in her bed unless I lie with her. No matter how tired she is. I think she has fallen asleep and as soon as I get up to leave she hears me and wakes up and starts crying. How do I get her to sleep in her own bed just as she did in her crib? I can't let her cry it out forever as she will wake my 8 year old in the next room. If anyone or everyone has advice on how to get a 20 month old to fall asleep in a big bed on her own please help. She doesn't understand reasoning yet.

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B.K.

answers from Los Angeles on

My daughter did the same thing. She is 20 months too. What we did was undscrew the bottom wooden part of the crib and put it on the ground, and then put the mattress on top of it...real low in the crib. I can't even reach her if she's not sitting up. It gave us 4 more inches and a few more months before she decides to climb out again. You may wnat to go back to the crib again and just put the mattress on the ground rather than up on the botton level. My daughter is a great sleeper, but I know giving her freedom to get out of her bed would change everything!!!

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M.R.

answers from Los Angeles on

Consider yourself lucky that she has slept so well until now. Then, perhaps you can cut her some slack while she is going through this huge transition.

There is nothing wrong with laying with her for a while at bedtime until she feels secure again. Sometimes we get stuck in this idea of how things should be and forget to be flexible and sensitive to our children's needs. We expect them to handle things like adults, but they are not adults. It is our job to teach and develope coping skills.

I personally disagree with the idea of locking a small child in their room. Children sometimes do need to seek out security and reassurance from their parents. That is what we are here for, right?

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S.H.

answers from Honolulu on

Like any transition, it takes time.

Now, this is what your daughter is adjusting to.

My son, is 2.5 years old and still sleeps/naps in his crib. Yes, he can climb out and open doors. But, we just tell him "no...it's dangerous..." and he has stopped doing that. He still sleeps very well in his crib. He likes the routine and he just loves his crib. He still fits in it as well, so we have not taken him out of it, yet.

Meanwhile, just at night, we do let him sleep with his sister, on a floor futon we have in our room. I also co-sleep with them as needed. But, yes, my son, at his age... will also get up, open the door, and come out. He thinks it's funny. But we don't punish for it... it's a phase. All we do, is verbally coax him to "go back to bed..." or we tell him "in one minute, go back to bed..." and then he does. We have found that this is just his way of winding himself down... and it's a "routine" for him... he likes to say "good night" to us this way. Yes, it's repetitious sometimes... but he does go back to bed, without yelling or tantruming. We just keep the rooms dark, no lights, no extra stimulation, and we make everything QUIET.

Then, also, in my daughter's case... when she was a toddler, we too needed to be with her as she fell asleep in her own room/bed. But we were flexible with it. We did not "lock" her in her room. We let her come to us if she needed too. We even let her come sleep with us if needed. AND the thing is, at this age... they DO develop night-time "fears' and fears of the dark etc. AND they get "separation anxiety" too. It's all developmental based, and they have night-mares too at this age. So, as Julia M. said, they need us and putting locks on doors scares them. It turns the whole sleep routine into a unpleasant event. When it should be comfortable and relaxing.

You either let her transition to her "new" sleep arrangement as she is able too... or you put physical boundaries around her and things that seem like "punishment" for a child...
The thing is... your daughter is having anxiety about it all... ie: waking, crying, wanting you near her etc. There is a big difference between a crib and a bed, for a child. She was fine in her crib... perhaps, try and verbally 'teach' her about staying in it. My son still does, with our verbal coaxing and it is no longer a problem.

But well since she is now in her own bed... I would recommend LETTING her adjust to it, in HER own pacing and ability. Remember, a young child does not have "coping skills" yet... and this is why they act this way. Then, you simply explain to your 8 year old, that the baby is having a hard time adjusting to everything, that this is normal, and that she may cry sometimes at night. So don't worry. FOr example, we explain things to our eldest daughter this way, regarding our 2 year old son, and she understands. We simply explain to her about development in a young child... so that she can understand it at her age, and not get irritated about it. And, this works for her and us.

You can't "make" a child stay in their bed like a statue... unless yes, you lock them in and don't answer them and let them cry. THEN after a time, they will give up and then tire themselves out and fall asleep. Thereby "learning" that their anxiety/calls to their parents will not work. Then they stay put, out of the fact that it gets them no response or comforting. This is just one method. BUT bear in mind, that there will be hiccups and regressions along the way. Which is normal. What then?

All the best,
Susan

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K.D.

answers from Los Angeles on

We transferred our daughter into a big girl bed when she was 24 months old. Here's what I did, and it was an advice I used from one of my friend's sleep specialist.

Write a short story using stick figures, that tell about your bedtime routine and about your daughter now being a big girl and sleeping in a big girl bed. Draw a picture of you and her reading a bedtime story, in pyjamas, brushing teeth, and your daughter in her bed with her favorite toy/blanket - anything you can think of that comforts her and relates to her bedtime routine.

Granted my daughter was 4 months older than your daughter is now, so that could make a difference. But this worked for her/us. She thought it was lots of fun to read a story about herself and we all got a good laugh at the stick figures.

Best of luck.
-K.

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C.H.

answers from Los Angeles on

Hi R.

Take the safety guard off the bed and put some pillows on the floor next to it. If she feels she can't get out of her new 'big bed' and she sees she can't even get out of the room, then she is probably feeling a little panicked. She is used to having the freedom of climbing out of her cot and wandering out...

Have you considered also removing the door gate, or the door things you mention and just putting a stair gate at the top of the stairs if you are worried about safety?

She probably sees these things as barriers between you and her.

for my children, I put them in their big beds at around the same time as you have, but never stopped them from leaving their bedrooms. It was a 'big girl's bed' so both were very happy to stay in them.

I hope this helps - good luck!
C. x

PS: Have you considered putting her back in her cot for another month or two.. even though she climbs out, it's familiar to her and she probably feels safe...

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C.S.

answers from Los Angeles on

I scanned the others so maybe this was touched upon and I missed it: I have safety things on all the doors that exit the house so I am not against them. Your note wasn't clear if your girl is sleeping in a room with a closed door and a knob cover. If so, that could upset her that she feels cut off from everybody. Maybe do what my sister did - she installed a gate on her son's bedroom door. He was able to stand in the doorway and call to her if he needed her and didn't feel shut off. She couldn't allow him to leave the room during the night at that age because his room was on the second floor and the stairway going downstairs was extra, extra wide and wouldn't accomodate a gate.

Maybe try to put the 20 month down before the 8 year old so the crying doesn't cause that problem?

Also, my 4 year old slept with us for a long time. But around age 2, I finally got him sleeping in his own bed. The first night he cried a lot and I finally got him. But the second night, I told him that all he has to do is call Mommy and I will come running, there is nothing to fear. He tested me 60 seconds later. He only did this for a couple nights. There were some rough nights over the next month after that, when he sobbed every time I left. So I offered to lay down on the floor in his room for a little while. Easier to creep out of a room when you aren't on the same matress. He told me a few weeks ago how he remembered how I would sleep on his floor next to his bed when he was scared (I would sometimes pretend to be asleep and sometimes I did pass out). Long story short, I felt crazy like I was giving in to him then. But now that he can verbalize how scared he was and I hear the affection in his voice that I did that for him...well, glad I was there for him.

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K.S.

answers from Los Angeles on

Hi, she is young to be out of her crib, I would suggest bringing it back and getting a crib tent to go over the top. She is feeling anxiety because it is a lot of freedom for such a small child and she has no impulse control. She needs the confinement and safety of her crib. If you don't want to bring the crib back then I would put up a baby gate on her doorway insted of closing the door, put her to bed earlier than your son and let her cry. She may even fall asleep on the floor but that's okay. Eventually she will learn to stay in her bed when she gets no reward or attention for getting up.
good luck to you,
K. Smith
Sleep Consultant and Parenting Coach
www.theindependentchild.com

1 mom found this helpful
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J.M.

answers from Los Angeles on

Hi R.:
You know,all we can do as parents,is try and make Transitions,our children go through as easy as possible.I think of a toddlers change from a crib to a bed,much like that of (from mamas womb to flailing in open space).Thats why when we swaddle a baby in a blanket,or hold them close,they feel safer,more secure.Your daughter was happy and slept well in her crib,because she felt a certain amount of security within it.It was small and cozy,and she found comfort there.Now, that she is in a big bed,its as though she is flailing She doesn't feel as secure.Its wide open,and her little body reaches no end.Her feet nor hands have no boundaries.In my personal opinion,this isn't a time,to force her to feel insecure,or insist she grow up and be tough over night.Shes still A little girl.She doesn't understand why she feels scared,or why she has this need to feel protected.You need to reasure her,and allow her time to realize,that she CAN feel secure in her big bed to.I understand your wanting to protect her,by putting locks on the doors,but with every lock,you make her feel that much more distant from you.Closing her door,or the door to your room,will cause her more stress,so leave her door ajar.I wouldn't go back to her crib,but I'd be patient,and continue to build up her trust,that you'll be there for her,I'd lay with her,and comfort her.Your understanding,and compassion will help her to adapt.It won't be long,before she'll feel that security again,and have a great nights sleep.I wish you and your darlin daughter the best.J. M.

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L.S.

answers from Los Angeles on

Hi R.,
I don't have any advice per se, but I do know where you are coming from. When we transitioned my daughter into her big girl bed, also about 21 months, my husband or I would have to lay with her until she fell asleep, as well. There was no other way around it. Sometimes it took her 10 minutes to fall asleep, sometimes 45 minutes. We finally hung a clock at the end of the bed and showed her the big hand and the little hand and that she had to be asleep by the time the big hand reached a certain number (usually a 10-15 minute span) -- otherwise mom and dad would have to leave the room. (This was in the summertime when it was still light out in the evening). This did work most of the time.

Just in the last couple of months, we have successfully gotten her to go to sleep on her own without a parent in the room. One night I was just tired of laying down w/ her and told my husband, let's start getting her to sleep on her own TONIGHT. It was around the xmas holidays and I knew we didn't have to get up early for work/school, etc. And you know what? We had absolutely no problems and she went right to sleep and has ever since. We were absolutely floored, I can't even tell you!! We expected a big struggle like you always read about. So, I will say this: I think my daughter was ready for this big step (at 3.5 years), could understand it and accepted it. But we also began talking about it with her a long time beforehand and would say that mommy and daddy were going to stop laying down with her and pointing out that her cousins/friends went to bed on their own, too.

Good luck!!

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R.P.

answers from Los Angeles on

Is she in a regular bed? or a toddler bed? My daughter still falls out of bed (she moves a lot) so if she is in a regular bed, that is probably what the problem is...

My daughter is 22 months, and I have to say that she follows reasoning just fine. She doesn't always Agree, but she understands just fine... =) The more you talk WITH her the more she 'gets'... You have to be prepared to listen too.

We had an aweful time with bedtimes. I finally worked really hard and got a bedtime routine going. We start about the same time every night, with dinner, then a bath (she mostly just plays in the warm water), then sometimes a book (her choice). Then the lights go out and I have a cd I play, and at the second (or third or fourth) song I leave. If my daughter is just wild and won't relax (we rock) then I put her in her bed and leave the room. She generally has a meltdown, but I wait about a minute then go back in and ask if she is ready to rock. She is much more relaxed and ready to rock after that (that is why it is, rarely, 4 songs). I will ask her after every song if she is ready for bed. The first song she generally will express nonverbal disagreement, but after the second song, I stop rocking and tell her it is time for bed and move her to her toddler bed (we have padding down so when she falls out of bed it doesn't scare her as much). We also have a moniter so we can hear her... She is getting good at self soothing, but we have pacifiers... She does still occasionally get up and try to come out, but I head her
off at the door and calmly get her turned around and back into bed. On the other hand, we co-slept until she was about 18 months, and she still ends up in bed with us at the end of the night, I would say about 4-5am and we get up at 6...
Don't know if this helps at all...
Good luck
R.

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M.B.

answers from Los Angeles on

Hi R.,
First things first.......SHE IS YANKING YOUR CHAIN!!!
I to went through a similar problem when my baby girl was 19 month old (now 21 months) The only difference is that my daughter was not climbing out of her crib, she just didn't like sleeping in it. She would cry and cry. I finally got tired of it and started letting her sleep in my bed.(she slept way longer, sometimes for 2 hours) So my husband and I decided to convert her crib into the toddler bed. Long story short, she was getting out of it time and time again until I sat down on the floor and let her play with my hair until finally fell asleep. She would wake up at least a few times and night and the same thing would happen. She would consistently get out of the bed for at least an hour until I laid down with her. We let this go on for 2 weeks and then decided she just wasn't ready for her own bed. I converted it back, and decided to set a hardcore routine. It took about 3 weeks, but she is now in her crib again. We go into the bathroom to brush her teeth,(walking on her own two feet) walk into her room, give hugs then I read her 3 books. The same three in the same order. I always remind her on the third book, that this is the last one and after that you are taking a nap.
I finish the book, and then turn out the light. I say I love you and walk out the door.
This has been so wonderful. I am really proud of myself. I really put my foot down (yes she cried a lot) I did a lot of explaining and reminding. Then one day, she just stopped crying and accepted. It can work, you just have to be super consistent and almost do the same exact thing every single night (and nap).
At night, I would tell her that she has 10 more minutes to play and then it is bedtime. Now she knows what to expect after I say those words to her. It flows very easily now.
I wish you all the luck! Consistency is the key!!!!!!!
[email protected]____.com

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V.W.

answers from Los Angeles on

I agree with Brenda K.- just lower the bed. It is exactly what we did this last Saturday when our 20 month old daughter climbed out of her crib. It works great.....I break my back putting her in there.....but I know there is no way she will get out- and I know she would have trouble sleeping in a regular bed just yet. Too young. They like the comfort of the crib around them.

Good luck!

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A.L.

answers from San Diego on

Hi R.,

First, bring in the familiar bedding she slept with and continue your nightly regime with her. Stop laying with her and begin a new night time regiment coupled with the old. Let her know that you are there but not in bed. If need be, get a gait for her door, and ignore the behavior at different increments: 2 minutes, 5 minutes, etc. Don't worry about brother, he will learn to shut out the sound because he is tired anyway. She is just testing you as you have layed out a new environment and she has to know she is safe within it. You will rock!! just give it time.

Blessings,
A.

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B.V.

answers from Los Angeles on

I have a almost 2 1/2 yo girl. We have had the same problems. We have found some soothing music that plays as she falls asleep and a salt lamp (night light) really helped her to relax. Just keep trying she'll get there.

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S.H.

answers from Los Angeles on

I agree that she won't understand much reasoning yet, although in theory if you just keep bringing her back to be, by the 20 or 30th time she should get the idea that she's got to stay there. I have not ever tried it to be honest, but we are transitioning my just 3 year old to a bed this week since he's climbing out now and I'm gearing up for it. For your littler one, I think you either need to accept that you have to stay with her for now until she's asleep, gear yourself up for calmly returning her to her bed over and over, or consider going back to the crib with one of those crib tents on the top They are like a little mesh tent that attaches to the top and I think it keeps the kid in the crib. Just an idea. 20 months seems young for a big g irl bed to me, but each child is different. One warning, we did the lying down until you are asleep routine with my daughter, who will be 5 in a couple of weeks, and now she can not fall asleep unless one of us is next to her. So make sure if you do opt to stay with her, keep it temporary and wean her off of it by gradually staying for less time and then just going in and out to check on her.

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H.L.

answers from Los Angeles on

Get the book Babiewise. They make a mesh tent cover for cribs so they can't crawl out. Look at Right Start or The First Years.

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