Q. I have a 17-month-old daughter. She's a very spirited child. My problem is that recently she has taught herself to climb out of her crib. Up until this point I've had no problems getting her to sleep. She'd have some milk while I rocked her, then play a little in her crib until she fell asleep. Now she's out of her crib before I'm out of the room. The only thing that works is for me to rock her to sleep. I know she still needs a nap be cause she gets exhausted without one. I need help!
A. You have done a great job setting up good sleep habits for your daughter. A predictable routine?rock, milk, play?helped her fall asleep on her own, but now that she's discovered how to "free" herself from her crib, that routine isn't nearly as appealing as climbing out of bed.
I recommend you go ahead and set her up in a toddler bed. Her very independent behavior (which may be driving you absolutely nuts but will take her a long way later in life) is showing you that she's ready for more responsibility. It may feel a little sad to move from the baby-to-bed routine to the toddler-to-bed routine, but your daughter seems ready.
Even though she is not yet 2, you can talk with your daughter in simple language and let her know that having this new bed means she needs to stay in it during naptime. Even if she just has quiet playtime in her bed, it will help her get back to a routine.
You can also set up other ground rules with consequences and rewards to help your daughter adjust. If she likes to have the door open while she falls asleep, let her know that getting out of bed will mean the door gets closed. Make a chart for her with a picture of a bed on it and give her a sticker for each day she stays in bed during naptime. I'd also suggest going back to your original routine of rocking and a drink. You might want to read her a story, let her take a book to bed with her or play some soft music in her room. The books or music can be taken away if she gets out of bed.1