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When Should Kids Stop Sleeping in Cribs?

Why I Keep My Kids in Their Cribs Past Age 3

A lot of parents dread looking at their baby monitor and seeing a single chubby leg hiked over the top of the crib. Your innocent toddler has concocted a plan to escape and has found the guts to execute it. While you probably chuckle a little at the pure genius forming in your baby's brain, you're mostly concerned that this sly move means sleepless nights and crabby behavior aren't far behind (didn't you JUST get over the newborn sleepless nights?!).

It's totally normal to have that one parenting thing you're neurotic about. Mine is sleep. Without enough sleep, I am a puffy-eyed, mean mommy monster that no amount of coffee can cure. Since the day both of my children were born, I wanted them to be good sleepers. I researched and implemented good sleep practices. With hiccups, and a lot of trial and error, I succeeded.

But when my firstborn neared his third birthday, I received a lot of pressure about when we were going to convert him to a big boy bed. Only, I felt no rush. He was sleeping almost 12 hours a night and taking an hour-and-a-half nap. He was well-rested, and as happy as a 3-year-old boy could be. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," they say. But still, friends and family pressed on, "Why isn't he in a bed?" or "Isn't he a little old for a crib?"

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Nope.

I'm glad I stood my ground. When he was 2, he climbed out of his crib. I felt the stress in my shoulders immediately thinking about putting him in a big boy bed. Using my scary mom voice, I told him, "You need to stay in your crib and sleep. You will hurt yourself if you do that again." That little scare tactic worked. He never climbed out again.

My son received his big boy bed at Christmas instead — when he was nearing 4 years old. The transition was effortless. He beamed. He knew he was growing up and now old enough to understand how the sleep game was played. Read a book, go to sleep, stay in your bed until you wake up in the morning. Today, my son is 5 and his little sister is 3. She loves her crib, too. And I plan on leaving her in there a little longer.

I have no idea what I'm doing in this parenting gig. But one thing I do know is that if your kid still snuggles willingly in his crib all night long and doesn't put that chubby leg over the top — don't stress by trying to transition him to a bed. Leave him there. You'll wake up one day and know when it's time, and you'll be really refreshed when you do.

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