Escape Artists

1:30pm. I’m working on my computer as my two-year old daughter settles down for her nap in her crib. Or so I thought. Suddenly I hear the pitter patter of little feet. She appears around the corner, looking quite surprised – and pleased – with her newfound skill…

My daughter was a great napper and loved her crib. Whatever possessed her to climb out?! And how do I respond?

Temperament and age are big factors here. Some children simply need a few, firm reminders to keep them from trying again. Others just can’t resist the temptation to test their skills, climbing out over and over again whenever they have the chance. Some are old enough to safely and smoothly transition to a bed, whereas others, particularly those under 2.5 years, are usually too young to make the switch.

Most children under the age of 2.5 years old lack the cognitive ability to fully understand the concept of “staying in bed all night long.” With a lot of effort and patience, some can learn to sleep successfully in a bed (more on that in another post!). But generally speaking, transitioning to a bed prematurely can lead to LOTS of struggles and safety issues (i.e. wandering around a dark room/house alone in the middle of the night).

I believe most early climbers actually do find tremendous security in their cribs, and their climbing should not be misinterpreted as a sign that they are ready for a bed. Just as babies practice their rolling, sitting, pulling up, walking, and talking in their cribs – sometimes to the detriment of their sleep – so too with climbing.

Toddlers and many preschoolers truly benefit from the comfort and cozy containment that a crib provides. Now that crib tents have been recalled, unfortunately our options for physically keeping young climbers in their cribs are more limited. But here are some suggestions, starting with the most minimal interventions.

·      Make sure her crib mattress is set to the lowest possible position. Baby's Dream makes a crib with an extra low mattress (6" lower than usual), though it is expensive.

·      If the back crib railing is higher, you could try wedging the crib in a corner with the taller side facing out.

·      Remove large stuffed animals she may have used as a launch pad.

·      Place pillows on the floor for safety.

·      Start putting her to bed in a sleep-sack, which limits her ability to hoist her leg up and over the railing. Or try a long t-shirt. Some parents find it discourages them from swinging their legs up. There are also product - Cribberz  and Crib Pants - on the market that I've heard good things about. Of course, if she’s using her arms to pull herself out, these interventions won’t really help.

·      If she climbs out, put her right back in her crib with minimal interaction – a firm, “No climbing” will do. Then position yourself nearby, out of her line of vision (just outside the bedroom door). When she goes for her next attempt(s), remind her, “No climbing,” and return her to her crib if necessary. Your response should be minimal, firm, boring, and consistent.

·      If she is persistent but not ready for a bed, there are some tent-like options out there that enable you to zip them in, such as the Nickel Bed Tent by ReadySetBloom. It’s a sturdy, tent-like structure that secures to a twin mattress. Nice colors to choose from and great for travel too. Many kids love the feeling of being contained and cozy in a tent, especially when it is pitched as a fun, special place (and not "this is to keep you in your bed!").

Just remember, your child may not be thrilled about the changes you make. Chances are, the “it’s for your own good” rationale will be lost on her. But don’t second-guess yourself if she protests. You are setting her up for good sleep, while ensuring her safety – one of your most essential jobs as her parent. She will get over it soon enough and will go back to sleeping like a champ. And so will you!

Co-Sleeping Safely

The overwhelming majority of parents co-sleep with their children at some point. Kim West, author of Good Night Sleep Tight, divides them into three categories: committed co-sleepers, short-term co-sleepers, and reactive or “we didn’t plan it this way!” co-sleepers. Committed co-sleepers believe in the family bed philosophy and bed-share for years. Many parents opt for short-term co-sleeping during the newborn stage, while others end up doing it reactively (i.e. when it’s 3am and they are too tired to take on another waking).  Regardless of the reason or rationale, it is essential that parents take precautions to ensure that their little one is safe.

The US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and The American Academy of Pediatrics have formally recommended against co-sleeping with a child under two years of age because of the risk of death or injury. First Candle, an organization dedicated to reducing sudden infant deaths, cites research that suggests that 80% of sudden infant deaths occur when the baby is sleeping with a parent or other adult.

However, as Dr. Harvey Karp states in Happiest Baby on the Block, “The vast number of infant deaths in bed are preventable by taking a few reasonable precautions. For example, 80% of the deaths noted by the CPSC could have been avoided by filling the spaces around the bed to keep babies from getting wedged in and by never sleeping on waterbeds. Most of the remaining 20% of deaths could have been prevented by using a co-sleeper attachment.”

A co-sleeper, such as Arm’s Reach Co-Sleeper Bassinet, is a great option. It allows parents to sleep alongside their baby, easily bringing them into bed for feedings, without worrying about their baby rolling off the bed or getting accidentally smothered.

What follows is a list of safety tips from various sources, including First Candle, Dr. Harvey Karp, Kim West, and

·      Your baby should sleep on a firm surface, covered by a well-fitted sheet that can’t be easily pulled off.

·      Avoid pillows, toys, or loose bedding (including quilts, sheepskins, blankets, mattress pads, etc.) that could smother your baby.

·      Never leave an infant or toddler unattended on an adult bed.

·      Never let your baby sleep on a waterbed, sofa, or another soft, flexible surface.

·      Eliminate spaces between the mattress and the wall or nearby furniture, or the mattress and the structure of the bed (headboard, footboard, side rails and frame), where your baby’s head might get trapped.

·      Let your young baby sleep only on his back.

·      Never let another sibling sleep next to your baby. Children sleep deeply and may roll over onto the baby.

·      Never sleep next to your baby if you are intoxicated or have been using drugs, are taking medications, are overly tired or in any other way feel that your ability to be aroused could be affected.

·      Do not sleep with your baby if you are very obese.

·      Do not let your baby overheat during sleep.

·      Do not smoke around your baby or allow anyone else to do so. Smoking exposure may increase the risk of SIDS.

·      Tie back very long hair in a pony tail or braid it. Long hair could cause suffocation or strangulation.

There’s a lot of contradictory information floating around and recommendations are always changing, so it is best to regularly re-visit safety issues with your pediatrician.

For more information, here are some helpful starting points:

*Information for this post came from First Candle, Good Night Sleep Tight by Kim West, The Happiest Baby on the Block by Dr. Harvey Karp, and