How to Keep Toddler in Crib You Don't Know Before

“How to keep toddler in crib” is a question I asked myself many times. Sleep Training is not only a tough phase for toddlers but also for us, parents.

The following tips on keeping toddlers in their cribs is drawn from personal experiences and a collective knowledge of other parents.

These tips are tried & tested and when practiced may hope to bring relief to you- “Sleep deprived” parents. Before, I share the tips, allow me to share my story first:

Crescentia Mathews

My Painful Experience

My elder son was a colicky baby and slept only when he was cuddled in my arms and could feel my skin contact.

My doctor’s prognosis was that my son would be colicky mostly for the first four months and that his situation would gradually get better.

However, the stubborn colic persisted four months over, resulting in my baby sleeping with me for the first eight months. It was tough but it was the only way to get him to sleep.

I was a mother of an extremely active and fussy baby, who hardly napped. Night time was the only time I got some rest (and so I guiltily admit that I let him sleep with me).

But, then this setting was getting really hard for my husband and me. My son used me as a live pacifier expecting to be fed every hour at night. So, much so I was becoming a sleep deprived zombie.

Mothers of toddlers would share how well their babies slept and I would wonder why my baby wouldn’t nap and sleep. Where did I go wrong was a question I often asked myself?

I was just so frustrated and helpless. The lack of sleep was getting to me and I was desperate for any kind of relief.

And so, I started scouting around for information over the internet, but couldn’t find the apt solution to my problem. Then one day, I came across this book -The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems: Sleeping, Feeding, and Behavior--Beyond the Basics from Infancy Through Toddlerhood by Tracy Hogg and this book really changed my life.

Reading this book helped me understand why my baby behaved the way he did and what I as a parent could do to help him.

After trying out the methods mentioned in the book, I started putting my little boy to sleep in his own crib and he napped two times a day. Yes! you heard me right, he napped and also slept in his crib through the night.

Why toddlers don’t like staying in their cribs?

  1. Expecting a toddler who is habituated to co-sleeping with you, to sleep independently in his/her crib will take some time. Leaving the warmth of the mother’s body and being required to sleep in a new place all of a sudden is shocking for the toddler. 
  2. How would you feel if you were suddenly asked to sleep in the living room one day? Would you be able to sleep? No, right? Then, how can we expect our toddlers to get used to sleeping in the crib suddenly.

  3. Every time I placed my sleeping baby in the crib he woke up startled. Has that ever happened with your baby? This happened with me every time I put him down to sleep. 
  4. This I found out happens because it is a human body reflex. The very act of placing the baby in a crib triggers the “falling reflex”, waking the toddler up from their deep sleep. 

    And, when woken up between their sleep, the child will want to cling on to the caregiver. And, not sleep elsewhere especially in the crib.

  5. ​The Crib is sometimes used in a negative context. For example, if the toddler is crying continuously and you need to catch a break you place the toddler some place safe i.e. the crib and walk out of the room. 
  6. This is something I would do. I would sometimes place my son in the crib when he was having a temper tantrum and walk out because I would be so frustrated with him. 

    My reasoning of doing this was that I was giving him and myself some time to cool off.

    I never realized that my toddler began associating the crib as a punishment zone because of this act.

  7. ​Parents sometimes soothe their toddler to sleep by rocking them, carrying them or holding them. Once the toddler has gone to sleep, the parent puts them in the crib.  
  8. Toddlers wake up to toss or turn and become fully awake when they realize that they are not in their familiar place i.e. their caregiver’s arms. 

    It is but natural. Imagine, falling asleep in your bedroom and waking up in the kitchen. Wouldn’t you be surprised to find yourself waking up in a different place? Wouldn’t that startle you.

  9. ​Teething and Tummy Aches are times when toddlers get really miserable. When we adults fall sick, we expect some attention and care from our loved ones and will feel really hurt if left neglected. 
  10. Toddlers all the more will not like to be left alone in their cribs when in pain or are suffering from fever.

  11. Everyone likes to sleep comfortably on a cozy mattress. An uncomfortable, hard mattress can cause you to have a disturbed sleep. 
  12. Similarly, uncomfortable mattresses and cluttered bedding may be one of the many reasons of your toddler climbing out of bed. 

Now that we have an idea of why our toddler dislikes being in his/her crib, we can work on ways to make the crib an interesting and safe place.

Risks of Toddler climbing out of bed

Every year in the United States alone, 10,000 cases of toddler head injuries (mostly from falling from the crib) are reported.

Doctor’s, state that since toddlers are head heavy they tend to fall on their head first. The front part of the toddler’s skull is very delicate and tender.

The cranial bones in the skull become fully developed once the child turns two years of age. Therefore, falling on the head (for toddlers) can be fatal and have brain damaging effects. It is therefore important that as parents we train the toddler to stay in their crib and prevent the climbing out behavior.

There are many products out there that can ensure that your toddler is safe and comfortable in his/her crib.

Also, let us have a look at the following suggestions and tips that tells us:

How to keep toddler in Crib!

It is extremely important that the toddler’s crib be comfortable, cozy and decluttered. It would make no sense to follow through on the suggestions mentioned below, if the child’s crib is not a comfortable place. A soft bed, comfortable pillow/head rest and a cozy sheet are essential requirements as opposed to a hard bed, high pillow and rough sheets.

  1. Is your child ready: This is a very important decision you must make as parent! Every child is different, what works for one parent, may not work for another parent. 
  2. My son was a colicky baby and thankfully was done with most of the teething issues by the time he was 9 months old. As his parent, I felt it right to sleep train him when he was around 10 months old.

    As a parent, you know what works best for your child. So, think wisely before you take this step.

  3. Be Prepared: Before entering a challenge, it is important that one be well prepared. The challenge here is to enable the child to sleep in his/her crib and minimize toddler climbing out of crib. 
  4. This is a change for your toddler. It may or may not go easy for him/her. Anticipate this and be prepared for no sleep for the first few days of sleep training and most importantly stock your pantry/fridge with food.

    If possible, take a 2-3 day off from work. Balancing work/ toddler/ home etc. will be a little overwhelming, so try to do one thing at a time.

    If it is impossible to take a break, train the child on a weekend /long-weekend.

  5. Persistence: Be persistent in your efforts. The first night I sleep trained my child, it took me 50 minutes to put him to sleep. He was real mad, yelling and crying at the top of his voice.
  6. Every time he got down from the crib, I would carry him back and try to make him lie down.

    After doing this a nearly 100 times, he was just too plain tired and though sobbing he went to sleep. The next day it just took me 15 minutes to put him to bed.

    The idea here is to carry your child and put him to bed every time he climbs down from the crib. But the catch here is to do it quietly. No screaming, soothing or conversing with the toddler.

    Once the child climbs down from the crib, carry him back to bed, without making eye contact. Rub his back and hum a silent tune.

    The toddler will be stark raving mad and will be yelling and crying. Don’t let that intimidate you. Gently repeat the above suggestions till the child goes to bed.

  7. Create the Environment: Once you are done with the nightly routine required to get your child ready to bed, create a suitable environment for the child to sleep.
  8. Dim the lights in the child’s room, as bright lights tend to make the child more alert, shut out the external sounds i.e. TV/music etc. as that may be a disturbing factor too.

    Dress them up in comfortable clothing. Let them neither get too hot or cold in their pajamas.

    My son does not like too much clothing. He is a warm body and begins to feel hot very quickly. I found that he slept really well if I dressed him in a cotton t-shirt and shorts.

    As the caregiver, you know what your child is most comfortable in. Dress your child accordingly.

  9. Love/Snuggle: Even after I trained my toddler to sleep in his crib, he would wake up once or twice at night. But the night wakings stopped when I let him hold his favorite toy.
  10. His snuggly helped him feel secure and I was regretting not thinking about this earlier.

    You can learn from my experience, and help your child sleep better. Let your toddler take his/her snuggly with them to bed. It helps them feel snug and secure and helps them go to bed easily.

  11. Teething: Teething as mentioned above can be a stressful time for both toddlers and parents and is a major cause of disturbed sleep in toddlers.
  12. If your child shows signs of unease/fever/discomfort etc. talk to your pediatrician and use the suggested remedies of oral gels and infant pain reducers like Tylenol/ibuprofen etc.

  13. ​Lowering the mattress: I had a pack and play whose mattress I lowered because I was really scared of my son hurting his head. This worked for me because he could not climb out of his crib. I made sure his mattress was comfortable and my son used it until he was years old. 
  14. Crib canopy and crib tent: some parents like doing their toddlers' room with beautiful decor like this. 
  15. crib canopy
    crib tent

    The Crib canopy looks beautiful and can be used as long as your child is not crawling or walking, as, it poses a high risk of entrapment and strangulation.

    When sleep training, your child make sure the crib canopy is either removed or is high enough from the crib to prevent entrapment.

    Crib Tent is another means used by parents to keep toddler in crib and prevent recurrence of toddler climbing out of crib.

    Crib Tents are made of mesh nets and can be fitted above the crib to prevent toddler climbing out of crib. However, crib tent poses a major threat to the life of a child as (like the crib canopy) it risks entrapment and strangulation of the child.

    Crib Tents have had a massive recall from the markets and are posed as a threat to the child’s safety by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

  16. Crib covers Prevent Climbing Out? This is a question many parents have asked me.
  17. I have come across this product which has great reviews and has not been recalled. Also for those of you have pets and worry about your cat/ dog etc. getting in to your toddlers crib this crib cover seems to provide the solution. 

    crib covers prevent climbing out

    Many parents have also shared that this Crib Covers prevent climbing out. Also, it is suitable in places infested with mosquitoes and insects.

    Mosquito Bites can cause life threatening diseases. It is considered safe to use crib covers to protect toddlers from mosquito bites. This Crib cover can help your baby sleep safely without being bitten by the nasty mosquitoes.

  18. Crib Pants: These are onesies that have a patch of cloth stitched between the legs of the pants. These onesies are considered to be very comfortable and enable your toddler to move around in his/her crib, the patch sewn between the legs however, prevents the toddlers from raising their legs too high and escaping their cribs. They look like this: 

    This product can be used if your child night walks and poses a threat of hurting himself/herself by falling from the crib.

    crib pants
    crib pants

    More information about these night pants can be found here

    Sleep Sacks: Sleep Sacks are also a good option for toddlers who climb out of their crib multiple times in the night. 

    how to keep toddler in crib

    Sleep Sacks give them enough leg room to move about comfortably but restrict climbing and jumping movements. Sleep Sacks are available for children as big as 24 months.

  19. ​Toddler beds / Mattress on the Floor: Transitioning from a crib to toddler beds also helps if the crib climbing does not stop and the toddler is susceptible to head injury. This is most suitable for older toddlers around 2-2.5 years of age. Also, placing their mattress on the floor helps them to climb in and out of bed without injuring themselves.
  20. Closing the door: Some parents swear by this method. This method is suitable for toddlers who sleep in a toddler bed and have a child proof room. 
  21. If this method is agreeable to you, then, child proof the furniture in the toddler’s room, and keep a few toys only in the room.

    Put away any item that poses as a threat to the child and pull the door close. The child may play for some time or cry out for you and eventually fall asleep.

  22. Rewards: My son was extremely fond of collecting stickers on his "Good Behavior" chart. Every time he showed good sleep behavior in the crib, I put a sticker on his chart. 
  23. Find a rewarding system that motivates your toddler to show good sleep behavior in his/her crib.

    Use praise as a positive reinforcement every time your toddler displays positive sleep behavior, this will motivate your toddler to stay in his/her crib.

  24. Minimize Screen Time: Toddlers exposed to television and iPads before bed time are prone to irregular sleep patterns. 
  25. TV and ipads tends to arouse the child’s brain, making the child more alert and restless, thus making bedtime a terrible struggle.

I hope the above tips on keeping toddlers in their cribs proves useful to you. With time, patience and persistence, you will be able to prevent toddler climbing out of crib and teach them healthy sleeping habits.

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Crescentia Mathews

I am a Psychologist /School Counselor and have experience working with Parents and children. I understand the concerns parents have and also understand children and the way they rationalize. As a parent myself, I relate to the way Parents think and when required can share my own experiences.

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