Safe Sleep Basics For Toddlers
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Safe Sleep Basics For Toddlers

Sleep safety is of utmost importance when you have an infant - but how do those safe sleep rules change after your child’s first birthday? Read on to find out how to navigate sleep safety during the toddler years.

As your child progresses from infancy to toddlerhood, it can be a time of big changes for both of you! Aside from gaining developmental skills such as walking, talking, running, jumping, and eating real food, your toddler’s sleep habits will probably change frequently between ages 1 and 3. This can be a challenging time to navigate how to get your toddler to sleep through the night and how to keep them safe in their crib or bed. This period of childhood is a period of rapid growth and cognitive development, so your little one will need all the sleep she can get! 

sleeping toddler

How much sleep do toddlers need each day? 

Between the ages of 1 and 3, toddlers need about 12-14 hours of sleep per day (this includes naps). By the time your child turns 2, she will have most likely dropped her morning and late afternoon naps and will instead take one long nap each day. Naps can range anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours, depending on your child’s personality and needs. Toddlers should be in bed between 7 and 8pm each night to ensure that they get enough sleep. 

What are important aspects of bedtime safety for toddlers? 

The crib height. As soon as your little one learns to stand, it’s time to lower the crib mattress to the lowest setting! Once that side rail becomes less than ¾ of your child’s height, it’s probably time to transition your child to a toddler (or bigger) bed. Most toddlers reach this readiness point between 18 months and 3 years of age, although some are ready sooner and others stay comfortable in the crib for longer. Aim to switch your child to a toddler bed by the time he turns 3, at which point it might be a lot more difficult to make this big change! Some children enjoy toddler beds, others like full size beds with rails on the side, and others prefer a floor bed. It’s up to your family which type of bed suits your child! 

The mattress and sheet. Be sure that your toddler’s mattress is firm and not too flimsy and squishy, and that the fitted sheet doesn’t have loose portions that might bunch up and present a suffocation risk. The sheet should be the right size for the mattress you’re using and be properly fitted. 

Using a pillow. Around 18 months, most toddlers are developmentally ready to use a small pillow. Some children prefer not to use a pillow, but many toddlers enjoy using a miniature pillow to sleep with at night! The pillow should be small enough to allow your child to sleep comfortably and not strain his neck. The KeaBabies Toddler Pillow is specifically designed to keep toddlers comfortable and peaceful all night long! The KeaBabies Toddler Pillows come in a variety of colors and patterns, making it easy for your child to pick one that suits his unique preferences. The pillowcases are also interchangeable and machine washable. Thankfully, as your child nears his second birthday, pillows and small blankets become much less of a suffocation risk. Use your discretion when deciding when to introduce a pillow to your child. Be sure that your little one can’t use the pillow to climb up and out of bed! 

Bed positioning. A safe sleep environment is vital to your toddler’s safety. The crib or toddler bed should be positioned far away from items with loose strings, such as window blinds, electrical cords, and bulky curtains. Check the wall nearest the bed to make sure it is free from any pictures, wall decor, shelves, posters, lamps, and mobiles. Anything that can fall on your child or that your child can stand up and pull into the crib presents a safety risk. As tempting as it is to decorate the nursery with whimsical wall decor, it’s important to keep your child safe and away from these decorations. Keep the bed away from electrical outlets, standing lamps, floor heaters, charging cables, and anything else that your little one might mistake for a toy. 

sleeping toddler with pillow

How can I keep my toddler from climbing out of the crib? 

Many children begin attempting to climb out of the crib in early toddlerhood. After all, toddlers love to explore their environment as they develop skills such as standing, walking, running, jumping, and climbing! Toddlers can easily mistake the crib rails for playground equipment that presents a fun challenge. Even if you use a baby monitor to closely watch your child at night, once your toddler begins attempting to climb out of the crib, it is no longer a safe sleep space. Even diligent parents can get distracted or sleep through their child climbing and falling out of bed. Keep stuffed animals, pillows, toys, and crib bumpers out of the crib as these objects can be used to assist your child in climbing out of bed. Once your child seems like she’s able to get out of bed on her own, convert the crib to a toddler bed or buy a regular-sized bed and use side rails to prevent your child from rolling and falling. 

When should I convert the crib to a toddler bed? 

Most children are ready for a toddler bed between ages 18 months and 3 years. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents transition their little ones from the crib before they reach 35 inches in height (when they are tall enough to climb out easily!). However, you might need to switch the crib to a toddler bed sooner if your child becomes a little escape artist! Some parents turn the crib around, so the shorter side of the crib is facing the wall and the taller side is facing outward. This can discourage the child from climbing out. Not all cribs have a “tall” side and “short” side though, so it’s important to keep a watchful eye over how your child sleeps, plays, and explores in his bed. 

Toddler sleep doesn’t have to be worrisome or complicated. In fact, many parents appreciate the easing up of rules that occurs when the child reaches her first birthday. Since the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) isn’t a concern for toddlers, it can be a little easier to set up a safe sleep environment. With a few basic safety precautions in mind, your little one can be all set for a great night of sleep!

Meet Our KeaMommy Contributor: Kaitlyn Torrez

I’m Kaitlyn Torrez, from the San Francisco Bay Area. I live with my husband and two children, Roman and Logan. I’m a former preschool teacher, currently enjoying being a stay at home mom. I love all things writing, coffee, and chocolate. In my free time, I enjoy reading, blogging, and working out.

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