If you’re a parent, you’ve likely discussed, been lectured, or even scolded over your child’s sleeping location and habits. Whether you co-sleep, or your son or daughter is sleeping in a crib, eventually there will be a transition point. And I want to help you to make that transition from into a so-called ‘big kid bed.’ And for many children, that requires finding and installing the proper bed rail to ensure your child stays safe. But I promise, it’s not as intimidating or scary as you might think.
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Why Get A Toddler Bed Rail?
You might be saying to yourself, is this all really necessary? Well national health organizations seem to think so. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests making the switch from crib to toddler bed once your son or daughter reaches about 3 feet tall. At that point, there are some factors to consider when deciding whether to use, or how to choose a bed rail.
They add a layer of security to keep your child safe, simply by preventing them from rolling or falling from bed. That can prove a major setback when sleep training and dealing with an already sometimes-stressful change. A rail will also keep them put and out of trouble in other areas of their room.
Plus, a rail will provide some comfort to both the child and to you as the parent. When leaving the familiar safety of a crib, having a rail that resembles the bars on that crib can help ease the transition. Of course that also means you’ll have a bit more peace of mind knowing they can sleep soundly, without worrying whether they’ll end up hurt.
Different types of bed rails
Now I want to show you the differences among the various bed rails out there, in hopes of making your search a bit easier.
Fixed Rails: This type of rail may be the most familiar. A fixed rail attaches to one or both sides of a child’s bed, essentially forming a mesh gate. This type of rail is usually made of metal, and can be used pretty much universally on different types of toddler beds.
The mesh gate allows for security, but is soft enough to avoid the injuries we’re trying to prevent. Now it is worth noting that the ‘give’ allows for a gap between the frame and the bed itself, which could trap an arm or a leg, but if your child is above that three-foot threshold we discussed earlier, you shouldn’t have any problem.
Bed Bumpers: This is a different type of system, unattached to the bed, and instead secured with the fitted sheet, acting as a nest-like environment for your child. These, like with the swing-down rails (as you’ll read below), allow easy access for parents.
Bumpers are also far more portable and lightweight than their affixed counterparts, making them perfect for traveling.
We should note these types of safety measures do come with their own set of risks. Sometimes, they aren’t as tall as the traditional rail, and may still leave your son or daughter vulnerable to falls. Thus, the bumpers are not the safest option for upper bunk or lofted beds.
If you do decide bumpers are for you, there are two different types you can choose from.
- Foam: Foam bumpers are, effectively, pillows that form a border barrier around the edge of your child’s mattress. As mentioned, they slide underneath the fitted sheets and on top of the mattress; some come with non-slip panels on the bottom to make sure they don’t move around as the sheets moves.
- Inflatable: Inflatable bumpers are extremely helpful when traveling or sleeping at a home that’s not yours. That’s because they can easily be blown up when you need them, then deflated and put away when you don’t. Some inflatable bumpers do come with a sturdier PVC piping frame.
Swing-Down Rails: These are slightly different from the fixed, static models you might be used to. Swing-down rails still attach to the sides of the bed, but they are adjustable.
They come with the same security as a fixed rail, but with an added bonus: they can, as the name implies, swing down. This is a plus for parents. Because it allows easier access when reaching in to your child, making the bed, or reading a nighttime story.
What to consider before purchasing
Now that we’ve discussed the different types of toddler bed rails you can pick from, there are a few other factors and safety measures to keep in mind before you make your purchase.
- Foundation: How your child’s bed is made can make a big difference when it comes to choose the rail to go along with it. Whether you’re dealing with a box spring, a steel frame, or wooden slats, you’ll want to make sure the bed rail you choose is compatible with your existing bed. Otherwise, come time for installation, you may find yourself in trouble.
But sometimes, you just can’t find a perfect fit, and that’s okay, don’t panic. A few household tools, like zip ties, can help you secure the rail to the bed’s frame without compromising the safety features you spent your hard-earned money on!
- Gaps: When installing your rail, gaps are your worst enemy. Whether between the rail and the mattress, the rail and the headboard, or in the locking hinges. As you might imagine, gaps leave your son or daughter vulnerable to injury. For example, if you don’t properly secure the rail, and a gap forms between the rail and the mattress, the falls you tried to prevent are not only possible, but perhaps more dangerous, leaving your child pinned.
The child could get their head stuck if the rail is installed too close to the headboard, or head area of the bead. And the fold-down features that may make your job as a parent a little easier, can leave room for a small finger or extremity to end up trapped or cut.
Now of course this is not meant to scare you, only to empower you to make sure that when you do make your rail purchase, you are choosing the model best suited for your child and his or her bed and installing it securely. That being said…
- Measurements: Make sure you measure your child’s bed before you go out shopping. That way, you’ll ensure you find the proper fit. Plus, some toddler beds may be a bit shorter, or a bit longer than the average, and you don’t want to find that our the hard way.
And don’t just measure from end to end, you’ll also want to measure from top to bottom, to make sure whichever rail you choose is tall enough to accomodate the toddler bed frame, the mattress, and any other add-ons you might have for your child’s comfort.
When do you need a toddler bed rail?
Making the switch from a crib to a toddler bed can be exciting and scary for both you and your child. And while rails do come with their own set of risks, they can give you peace of mind when going through this transitional milestone.
Before moving to a “big kid” bed altogether, you could also try a convertible crib, or even a mattress on the floor, to help familiarize your child with the changes that come along with a new bed.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, more commonly known as the FDA, says toddler rails are to be used with children two to five years old who can get in and out of an adult bed safely and without assistance.
And as mentioned earlier, other federal agencies also tack on a height requirement of 35 inches (a little less than three feet.) Or, if your child can reach their toes to the top rail of the crib.
A reminder here, it’s crucial you choose a rail that’s designed specifically for toddlers, since there are bed rails available for adults, too. And once you ensure your rails are installed securely and without gaps, safety authorities still recommend doing a once-over each night before sleeping time to avoid preventable injury.
We should also note, a toddler bed is smaller than a twin, bunk or full-size bed, and should be used a transitional tool to help get to that point later on as your child continues to grow.
How To Install Your Bed Rail
We’ve talked a lot about making sure you’re toddler’s bed rails are installed securely, so now I want to give you a few tips on how to do that. Here’s a little step-by-step: (Note: This one’s specific to a bed with a wooden slat design)
- Remove all bedding and the mattress, leaving just the wooden slats exposed
- Align the legs of the rail with the slats. So the outside of the rail lays against the inside of the bedframe’s side rail
- Leave at least nine inches of space between the rail and the headboard. (Another reminder here, experts recommend keeping the bed away from the wall.)
- Screw L-brackets so the rail legs are perpendicular with the bed slats, making sure they’re centered. (You may want to mark the screw holes beforehand and do the actual screwing on a flatter surface.)
- Repeat the process with the other bed rail, making sure they line up on both sides; then just add your mattress and bedding!
Best Toddler Bed Rails
Taking a closer look at some specific models, it’s important to figure how how the bed rails are made so you can make sure they’re sturdy and durable to withstand a toddler’s bedtime wrath.
The MAYbabe bed rail is made of steel; I don’t think you can get much sturdier than that. When assembled correctly, it can fully support the weight of two adults. (Just in case you AND your significant other feel like switching things up?)
And that strong steel is is combined with a soft, but equally durable, mesh and Oxford cloth cover that’s soft to the touch. My favorite part about this: it’s so easy to clean! You can wipe away messes easily with a damp washcloth.
MAYbabe products are made for moms, by a mom, so there’s no crazy contraptions or complicated installation to worry about, in fact, all you need to install this rail is a screwdriver.
The rail can be installed on all bed sizes with box springs, from twin to king, and it’s adjustable from 58, to 70, to even 78 inches. That means, unlike your kid’s clothes, they won’t outgrow it in a few months, or even a few years. In fact, you could use this rail until the child is five years old, or if you decide they don’t need it before that point.
And another bonus for moms and dads, this rail slides up and down for easy access to your child, while still protecting them from any falls.
This one’s built for with your child’s comfort in mind. The ComfyBumpy extra long bed rail is true to its name. It’s long enough to fit effectively on twin, double, queen, or king-sized beds.
This rail is versatile for all different bed types. To ensure your child is secure, there’s different safety methods depending on which type of bed your child sleeps in. For bed frames with slats, there’s velcro attachments. There are also straps that can easily slide in under the mattress, or if your child has a wooden base bed, you can, of course, use screws to install the bed rail. You can have a little more piece of mind knowing the manufacturers did some of that thinking for you.
And like I mentioned, the ComfyBumpy model is innovative when it comes to comfort. Newly designed flat iron bars allow you the protection you’re looking for without the feeling of bars underneath the mattress.
The curved, pull-down design fits in easily around the frame, and an easy and child-proof latch makes it easy for you to move down or remove the bed rail altogether.
Now let’s talk bed bumpers. These are a little bit different than your standard rail. But they come with their own conveniences that make them an item to consider.
Averar makes sleep bumpers for beds of all sizes. They definitely have the easiest installation. All you need to do is slide the bumper under the sheet near the edge of the bed. A non-slip rubber grip bottom will make sure it stays in place, even for active sleepers.
Maybe you’re worried about your child getting their hand trapped in a gap. Or banging their head on a steel rail. You may want to consider these bumpers. They’re made of a high quality foam that could even be used as a pillow, while still being firm enough to serve their purpose.
When it comes to storytime, or when your child has a nightmare, I know how hard it can be to have a big gate between you and your child. Having this bumper means easy and flexible access to your child if you need to reach them. Or if they need to get out quickly.
Tatkraft Guard Foldable
The Tatkraft guard rail is easy and ready-to-use. It takes some of the drama out of this already bittersweet transition. You won’t need any tools. And it folds up easily for storage or travel.
It’s best used once children reach about 18 months, and once again, can be used up until around age 5, depending on how quickly your child outgrows the bed or the need for a bed rail at all.
This is a one size fits all toddler bed rail that can be used with mattresses of any width. It’s several feet long to keep your child safe from rolling and falling from their new big-boy or big-girl bed. It’s auto lock mechanism is super helpful. You can fold down the rail with just two clicks of a button. The original stability and security is never changing.
Now the KoolDoo and the Regalo models are pretty similar, both use mesh fabric with a sturdy frame. While the KoolDoo is suitable for all bed sizes and types, the Regalo only fits a queen size mattress.
However, the Regalo is a swing down style toddler bed rail, which means you have easier, quicker access to your child when needed, as compared to the KoolDoo’s rigid wall. So there’s pros and cons to each type of model. You can of course decide what’s best for your family when making your purchase.
Lastly, a personal favorite, the Cosie Covers bed rail cover. These cute and soft covers slide over your child’s rail to help disguise the clinical appearance of some rails. Now, you can match the decor of the nursery or bedroom you worked hard on!
Plus, on the inside, there’s a large pocket. Your kids can store their favorite bedtime stories or toys.
As a parent, I know your child’s safety is your top priority. This summary will help you to make an informed decision when it comes to sleeping safety. This milestone should be a time of celebration. Even if it’s a little bittersweet to know your child is growing up.
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