Your child may be sleeping through the night, but are you losing sleep worrying about how safe they are in their new big-kid bed? Are you transitioning your toddler to a new sleeping arrangement and are wondering how to keep them in one piece while they take that important step to greater independence?
It might seem like only yesterday that you were shopping for a crib, but, bittersweet as it is, your baby won’t stay little forever. We all know kids have a knack for falling off, over, and into things, so as your little one gains independence you’ll need to keep a step ahead of them.
Bed rails and bumpers are basically training wheels for the bed. The right one will make the transition from crib to bed seamless, and ensure that the next thing that goes bump in the night is not them falling out of bed.
Quick ComparisonOur Top Toddler Bed Rail Picks of 2020 Read Full Reviews
Why Should I Get a Bed Rail?
Nothing sinks a parent’s heart quite like hearing a dull thud when their backs are turned. The transition from crib to bed is stressful enough without any scary night time falls, so if you’re feeling nervous about bedtime safety, installing a bed rail has a lot of benefits:
- They’re just safer: You don’t want your toddler hurting themselves if they roll over and fall. This can be a scary experience for a child and the disorientation can set back their progress, especially if they were a little apprehensive about the new bed to begin with. But another benefit is that there’s less chance for them to go wandering unsupervised in their room and getting into mischief!
- They make the transition to a big bed easier psychologically: A bed with a bed rail can be comforting to a child as they leave behind the safety of their crib. The sudden lack of crib bars can feel frightening, but a bed rail can make a child feel a little more contained.
- You get a good night’s sleep: A bed rail means no leaping out of bed to pick up a screaming child from the floor in the middle of the night. Enough said.
Understanding the Types of Bed Rails and Bumpers
Every child is unique. We moms know that a kid’s progress through developmental milestones can be a “two steps forward, one step back” kind of thing. That’s why it’s important to ask what you specifically need from a bed rail.
Is easy access to the mattress and bedding important? How portable does the rail need to be? How big is your child and how much do you want to, uh, restrain their movement?
Let’s consider the different types of bed rails that are offered.
Fixed Bed Rails
A fixed bed rail is a static panel you install under the mattress, with some room on either side for a toddler to get up and leave the bed. This option is the simpler, cheaper choice for when you need a little extra something but not necessarily a prison-grade perimeter with turrets and barbed wire. This is a good choice for older, more independent kids (read, ones you trust to leave their bed on their own.)
Adjustable and Convertible Bed Rails
As the name suggests, adjustable bed rails are lighter and can be lengthened or shortened to fit the size of your mattress. Some can also adjust in height.
Convertible bed rails are great for replacing one of the sides of a crib, and so they tend to be on the smaller side. Though this kind of bed rail is not always adjustable, it’s often lightweight enough to remove quickly if needed.
Fold-Down Bed Rails
If your child still may need your occasional attention at night, or if you’d prefer a product you can tuck away when not needed, look for a fold-down rail instead. Some swing down and others can be slid/pushed directly down — either way, these kind of rails are easy to use and lightweight.
Lock into place at night to provide a solid barrier, then unlock and swing away during the day when you need to get in there and make the bed.
Large Size Bed Rails
You might opt for a larger rail if you’re co-sleeping and want to keep your toddler in your bed as they transition to their own. Some rails come in pairs to form a safe barrier on the side and bottom of your bed, while you sleep on the other side.
Larger rails are also great if you’re transitioning your child to a large bed directly or have a bed in the middle of a room that needs extended protection on all sides. They’re great if you don’t want any gap on the side of the rail where your toddler can climb out. One disadvantage is that the larger the rail, the less portable and adjustable it is.
Foam, Inflatable, and Portable Bed Bumpers
A foam or inflatable bed bumper is simply a large bolster pillow that fits alongside the mattress to create a soft barrier. Small and unobtrusive, they may be just the thing to boost your toddler’s confidence. Install them in seconds — they go under the sheet and, if you ask my opinion, look pretty cozy.
Made of firm foam in a soft washable cover, foam bed bumpers are a gentle and convenient way to prevent the older or more confident toddler from creeping too close to the edge of the bed.
Bumpers are usually more affordable than bed rails and take up far less space. This makes them portable — just pack it up to take to Grandma’s house if necessary.
If space is really an issue, inflatable bumpers may be your best bet. Usually non-slip on the bottom and super tiny when deflated, these bumpers may be for you if you like the idea of something you can stash away out of sight when not needed anymore.
Considerations When Buying a Bed Rail
Not all bed rails are created equal. And, unfortunately, not all bed rails are going to work for you and your toddler, no matter how good the online reviews are. But you’ve got this.
Seems obvious, but in an eternal attempt to drive parents crazy, not all beds and bed accessories are standard.
So, measure your mattress. Confirm the length, width, and most importantly, height (don’t ask me how I know never to make this mistake again!). Aim for a height above the mattress of at least 16 centimeters or around 6.5 inches.
If you’ve bought a crib or mattress that is only compatible with its own brand’s accessories, you’ll need to buy from them again or research online if there are any substitutes or hacks you could try. Take note as well of the overall height of your bed — some taller fold-down rails might bump into the floor when lowered.
2. Bed Base
Don’t be tempted to look only at the manufacturer’s pictures. How does the rail attach under the bed? You won’t need to worry about this if you’re going for a bumper, but the type of base the bed has makes a difference.
Take a good look at the bed under the mattress. Is it a box spring, wire coils, or slats?
Make sure you have a clear idea of how you’re going to attach the rails securely to the bed base. The only thing worse than falling out of bed is falling out of bed and taking the bed rail with you.
For flimsy or thin cot mattresses, you might need to err on the side of a lighter, fixed rail made of mesh. If you have a slatted bed on your hands, you may need to make sure your mattress is heavy enough to support the bed rail. Be extra careful if you have a sunken bed, as few bed rails will fit, unfortunately.
If you’re anything like me, you’re still clinging to the silly idea that the decor in your toddler’s room should look as cute as you imagined after scouring all those baby furniture catalogues. But there are reasons besides vanity to consider the material the rail is made from.
Wooden bed rails, for instance, look wonderful but may get dirty easily, and are on the heavy side. Mesh or netting can feel lighter, but will be less robust than a solid canvas or plastic panel. Look for finishes that can be wiped down.
Finally, even though they’re designed for children, confirm there are no sharp edges, toxic materials, or other hard and pokey bits that might hurt your child.
The Best Toddler Bed Rails and Bumpers of 2020
1. Hiccapop Foam Safety Guard for Bed
A foam bumper is simple, affordable, and a lot easier on the eye than some tall bars and rails on the market. If you’d like a co-sleeping solution that doesn’t disrupt daily life too much, a sturdy foam bumper does the job, and can even be repurposed after your child graduates to their big bed.
This foam bumper consistently gets high ratings from parents looking for an easy-to-install solution. The materials used are free from nasty chemicals and the bumper passes all federal safety standards. Plus the manufacturers offer a lifetime guarantee, so you don’t need to worry if it gets damaged.
The cover is machine washable and the whole bumper is hypoallergenic. If you’re a little freaked out by the idea of caging in your toddler at night, a bumper like this one is a gentler option. Two bumpers on either side can create a cozy cocoon your child will actually want to sleep in.
If you’re co-sleeping, you might even find that you fall in love with this bumper, too. It’s soft, reassuring, and easy to put on or off as needed. It’s high enough to keep little ones contained but low enough that it still feels like part of the bedding.
- Affordable compared to most rails.
- No installation or tools needed.
- No fussing with sizing, straps, clamps, etc.
- Some have found the bumper moves too much during the night or falls off the bed.
- More determined children can roll right over it.
- Bulky and may take up valuable real estate on a bed — not ideal for co-sleeping.
2. The Shrunks Portable Bed Rail Bumper
Maybe the minimalist in you wants to cut down on baby gadgets and go for the simplest, straightforward solution. If you simply don’t have space in your life for a large, clunky bed rail, or you’re after something you can take traveling with you, then inflatable bed bumpers are probably up your alley.
This bed bumper is low commitment, hygienic, water resistant and seriously easy to use. Plus, I feel like anything inflatable is just more fun somehow. It’s made of really thick, odorless PVC and even the clumsiest toddler would find it hard to hurt themselves on it.
I like this solution because of its elegance. Blow it up, tuck it under the sheets and just like that your kid’s bed resembles a bouncy castle. And don’t worry, the plastic surface has a silicone back that holds it in place.
An inflatable bed bumper is a gentle and bouncy reminder of where the bed edge is, so your toddler can simply roll back into place if they’re prone to moving around on the mattress as they sleep. Best of all, you can deflate the whole thing and fold it up, ready to take on trips or simply pack away when not needed.
- Hardy and easy to clean. Just wipe down.
- Couldn’t be easier to use.
- Fits all beds, meaning you don’t have to worry too much about sizing.
- If you have very tight fitted sheets, these bumpers may be a bit too snug a fit.
- A really acrobatic sleeper could conceivably dislodge one during the night.
- The bumper takes up quite a lot of room on the bed.
3. Summer Infant Double Safety Bed Rail
If you’re transitioning your child into a standard single box spring bed and want a moderate amount of protection, a straightforward adjustable bed rail will work perfectly. An adjustable rail is ideal if you need to use it on both your own bed for co-sleeping and later in your child’s new bed.
To be frank, this is the cheap and cheerful option for when you know you’ll only be needing the rails temporarily. The rails adjust to fit beds from twin to queen size and come in a pair, making it ideal for beds in the middle of a room, although it should be noted that only one of the rails actually folds down.
Most parents seem to like the sturdy construction which comes together and installs fairly easily. The design and minimalist gray color also go surprisingly well with whatever decor you have in the room. The best thing, though, is that these rails can be adjusted to fit a whole range of beds, meaning you could reuse the rails for another bed or another child’s room later on!
- Little assembly required, and with quite a sturdy construction.
- Folds down for easy access to linen.
- Not suitable for beds other than box springs.
- Some parents have found the fold-down mechanism is a little stiff/tricky to use.
- Both rails have to be used at once, so avoid if you needed just one.
4. Hiccapop Convertible Crib Toddler Bed Rail Guard
You may have decided to go for a bed rail that converts your current crib into a more grown-up bed for your toddler. While you wait for them to grow into a full-size bed, a convertible crib bed rail is just the thing to transition them to more sleeping independence.
I loved this bed rail and lots of moms seem to agree. What’s special about this product is that it securely, and I mean securely attaches to the crib.
Unlike other rails which “float” and are just held down by the child’s weight or anchors on the other side of the mattress, this one actually attaches to the metal frame of the crib itself.
There are two adjustable steel clamps that are held with screws underneath the mattress onto the frame, meaning you won’t get a more secure fit. Once this is done, the rail can fold down and click back up into place, and is quite easy to swing back and forth as needed.
This is the ideal rail for converting cribs, and will give you peace of mind for a smaller child whose weight might not be enough to hold down a less secure rail. Since it’s on the smaller side, this rail is also more portable and quite tall, making it a great all-around choice.
- This rail folds down fully.
- No assembly required.
- Fits almost every brand of crib — except IKEA beds. I love IKEA, but their cribs just don’t get along with most accessories!
- This rail is on the affordable side and won’t take much wear and tear on the mesh.
- If you have a particularly thin mattress, the support bars might distort it.
- Some parents have found it a little too lightweight, and not up to daily wear and tear after a few months.
5. Regalo Double Sided Swing Down Bed Rail
A fold-down bed rail can be added to most beds to give your toddler a sense of security with their new sleeping routine, while still giving you access when needed. The best fold-down rail will have a durable locking mechanism that’s easy for you to use, but difficult for little fingers to do the same.
The Regalo bed rail frequently comes out tops when rated by parents. A sturdier option than the Hiccapop model, these rails are quite generous in length and tall enough at around 20 inches.
Plus, there are two included here, which means they’re the right choice if you have a standard single size bed situated in the middle of the room and want to make sure your child isn’t falling out of either side of the bed.
These rails fit up to a queen size mattress and attach with straps, making them ideal for co-sleeping arrangements. The rails are neutral colored and fold out of the way easily, leaving the bed easy to make and accessible for story time. Plus, the design ensures no annoying gap between the mattress and the rail.
- Taller and longer than most rails — ideal for attaching to your own bed for co-sleeping.
- No assembly required.
- Fits up to a queen size bed securely.
- The rail’s height may actually be too much of a good thing — some parents complain that it hits the floor.
- The bars of the rail are not cushioned and may be uncomfortable for more active sleepers.
- The product is rather cumbersome and won’t disassemble in a hurry.
6. Seven Colors Extra Long Baby Bed Rail
If you’ve been blessed with a toddler who’s showing early athletic prowess, the more modest bed rails above might seem a little…flimsy to you. Very busy sleepers or kids who toss and turn a lot can still find a way to fall through the gaps of a smaller rail, or you might simply prefer a rail with fuller coverage.
In this case, you might prefer this extra long rail that covers the entire length of a full-sized bed. Install one and you have a pretty foolproof way of keeping your toddler where they belong as they co-sleep with you. Install two and you basically create a large, transitional crib for the child who needs a bit more encouragement to move over to the big kid bed.
The construction of the support prongs underneath is very thin, which is great if you have a princess-and-the-pea situation and want to sleep without feeling any lumps or bumps under the mattress.
What I really like about this rail is that the cover can come off and go in the wash on laundry day. The mesh is finer than on other models, making it feel quite airy and light, although the design is a little on the cheesy side. The mesh does allow you to peek through and check up on your little sleeping beauties, though.
- The longest bed rail, if you’re into that sort of thing.
- No possible way to fall out.
- Fits up to a king size bed.
- Not exactly easy to disassemble.
- Large and bulky once installed.
- Attaches via straps, and not to the bed frame itself.
7. Milliard Portable Travel Bumper Bed
Portable bumper beds are ideal for travel, weekends away or holidays. While many on the market are inflatable, be cautious with these as they often don’t offer as much back support as a firmer foam bumper bed. Also consider a bumper bed that’s completely washable.
Of all the bumpers and rails on this list, your kid will probably love the idea of this one the most. Purely designed for travel, a bumper bed like this is a snug little way to make sure your toddler doesn’t go rolling into trouble when you travel.
The cover design is super cute and makes a nice comforting “nest” if your child is a nervous traveler. Pack a favorite toy and the right blankie and you can offer a cozy zone just for them that will settle any nerves about sleeping away from home.
Parents love that it’s basically a bed all in one, and all you need to do is add a pillow and bedding and you’re ready to go. But you may still need an additional permanent sleeping arrangement at home, as some parents have found that it’s not great to use on top of an ordinary bed.
- Impossible to fall out of.
- Pretty darn cute.
- Some have complained about the zippers or warping foam over time.
- The bed isn’t great for older toddlers.
- While technically portable, at 27 inches tall this still may be too large to lug on smaller weekend trips.
When To Start Using a Bed Rail?
Simply put, you and your toddler can decide together when you’re ready to use a bed rail, if you use one at all.
The first thing to remember is that you don’t have to use one. You may have a child who is content to hop into the big kid bed directly without too much fuss; it really depends.
You can use a bed rail if you feel your child is ready to progress from the cot but maybe not quite ready to be on their own in the big, scary bed yet. Bed rails are all about transitions but again, it’s your call how long you want to keep it up.
How to Fit Bed Rails
How you install a bed rail depends largely on what kind you decide on. If you’re unsure about installation, choose a lightweight fixed bed rail that doesn’t take too much effort to put together.
Most fixed, adjustable, and fold-down bed rails will require a little assembly, for example, piecing together the tubing through pockets in the mesh. But after that, it’s pretty much plug and play. Follow your manufacturer’s instructions, insert the support prongs underneath the mattress, and you’re done.
Make sure you maintain around 23 centimeters or 19 inches of free space on either side of the rail, and if there are extra support straps included, make sure to fix these carefully. Many models require a strap to go under the mattress and anchor on the other side with discs or hooks, so make sure these are firmly in place.
Test out the rail yourself by getting in the bed and pushing — the rail should be firm and safely clicked into place.
When To Stop Using Bed Rails?
As my doctor would say to any question relating to parenting, “How long is a piece of string?”
Bed rails are a temporary solution and should be thought of as a transition between cot and big bed. How you use them is entirely up to you, but try to encourage your child towards greater independence as and when you feel they’re ready for it.
In fact, you could encourage a sense of independence in your child by directly involving them in the decision to abandon the bed rails once they feel safe and secure in their new sleep routine. Consider adding relevant bedtime stories to your routine, like A Bed of Your Own by Mij Kelly and Mary McQuillan, or Big Enough for a Bed by Apple Jordan, which features Elmo.
As you read, casually mention the rails and why they’re there — you may be surprised when your child voluntarily asks for them to come off!
DIY Bed Rail and Bumper Ideas
For a more confident or older child, you might like to try your hand at making your own simple bed bumper at home. Use a pool noodle, or scour a craft or haberdashery story for foam that can be cut to size as needed. If you’re handy with a sewing machine, you could also repurpose some old pillowcases to make a cover and pin to the mattress using diaper pins.
For a more serious DIY project, consider putting together a wooden bed rail from scratch. You could even have your toddler join you in painting or decorating it — they’ll almost forget how terrified they are of the big bed when they’ve spent an afternoon sticking Elsa and Anna decals all over their new bed rail.
Getting That Elusive Good Night’s Sleep
It sometimes feels like getting your children to sleep peacefully through the night should be classified an Olympic sport. But you’ve got this! As you tackle sleep transitions, remind yourself that you’ll get there eventually, even if you do incur a few nasty bumps on the noggin on the way.
As frustrating as it can be to help your baby grow up, it’s scarier still for them as they venture out into the world. Be patient, take your time finding a product that works for you and relax, a few tumbles out of bed are usually nothing more than a slight embarrassment!
It’s over to you — can you share any useful tricks for transitioning your child to their big bed? If so, I’d love it if you shared your comments and opinions below.