Toddler Bed Transition
One thing you can guarantee after becoming a parent is the stress of navigating transitions. Whether it’s sleep related, potty training, bottle weening, food and formula and/or pacifier use it comes with the territory. I found myself (pre)stressing about about many transitions that never came to fruition. The one transition I didn’t have anxiety about was moving Sonny from a crib to a toddler bed and that of course ended up being the biggest challenge in our household. It’s always the things you don’t anticipate to be the largest obstacle to tackle. Let me share my experience transiting my (almost) 3 year old to a toddler bed in the hopes that it enhances your experience when the time comes.
Despite my carefreeness to transition my toddler to a “big boy bed” I did do some research that proved to be useless. Some experts highly recommend beginning the transitions during big life changes like a move while others discourage it. If you’ve been following our blog or social media accounts you know our winter was very transient. We uprooted the family for 8 weeks to live in Florida while our condo went through renovations/a remodel, my husband and I traveled to Mexico last minute for my birthday while Sonny stayed with my parents and then we took an intense first Disney vacation all within 4 months. Mix in more than a few injuries and illnesses and it was a whirlwind! Sonny struggled for a little more than a week when we moved to Florida to get back into a good sleep routine. We did our best to make sure he had all the same comforts as home like the same crib my parents had, his mattress from home, “tent”, and sound machine. He was living in a new environment so we didn’t think much of his need to adapt. From the beginning Sonny has been an incredible sleeper. As an infant he was in his own bed overnight before 4 weeks. We have never co-slept with the exception of when he is sick. We had the typical sleep regressions and growth spurts so I really thought nothing about transiting to a toddler bed! Yes, we use a “tent” but that was because Sonny started climbing out of his crib before he was even two (are you surprised because I’m not). He never really used a sleep sack so he quickly learned how to climb out which was a huge safety concern.
When we moved back from Florida in March I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to start our new toddler bed transition! What better time? He was already in a (race car) toddler bed at my parents. We were coming home and I went with the expert advice of introducing change during change. Like hey buddy we’re moving home! Here’s your old room and new big boy bed! What could possibly go wrong? We talked about the transition over and over again. Our bedtime routine remained the same with reading 4832856248 books and me rocking him to sleep (save your judgement I love rocking him to sleep and hold on to that precious time he’s immobile and wants to cuddle with me). Selfishly, I knew the movers would also be tasked with building the toddler bed. The only change was the railing on his crib converted. Maybe it was too much change? Maybe the experts that advise against introducing change with change (like a move with a bed transition) are correct? Whatever the case Sonny was not having it. It was the first time I was really going to have to work at a transition and I was at a loss.
After the toddler bed transition Sonny was waking up multiple times a night and wandering into our bed. For a while we embraced it letting him crash with us. For a while I did the “walk back” method where I was up multiple times a night getting him back settled in bed. Everything we did was exhausting and there were many sleepless nights for my husband and I. I think what made the situation worse for us was the inconsistency. Whether it was the method we were using, our nomadic lifestyle or illness/injury I believe we would have conquered this toddler bed transition quicker if we were consistent since I know Sonny does better when he has a routine (like more babies and toddlers). As I previously mentioned when Sonny is sick we allow him to co-sleep for comfort. During this transition he was sick on and off for 30 days with a terrible sinus infection that require 2 rounds of antibiotics and several doctors visits and a broken tibia. No matter when you start to transition your kid to a toddler bed my best advise is consistency is key!
Our saving grace was a reward chart. It still wasn’t linear or completely consistent, took several weeks and there were times I wondered what the %&$@ I was even doing. And there were definitely times, especially in the beginning, when Sonny could careless about the reward chart. Parents, don’t abandon hope because eventually they will! We made a big deal about the chart talking about it regularly, allowing Sonny to choose the “rewards” he wanted most and making it visually appealing for a toddler with images of the rewards. The visibility aspect makes it more tangible for a kid to achieve. I printed out pictures of each reward and purchased really fun puffy stickers. He would get so proud of himself when he finally was able to get a reward and that’s when it clicked for him. Once he started earning stickers for sleeping through the night he would get excited selecting his favorite sticker and the anticipation of receiving the “prize” worked! Somethings we including on our reward chart were a trip to our local toy store, a target run (to buy cars), Starbucks cake pop, superman or cookie monster ice cream trip and getting a fish. The fact that we have 7 fish doesn’t show my level desperation nothing will. I highly recommend using a reward sticker chart as an asset (when needed) and remaining consistent even when hope seems lost.
I don’t know if transiting Sonny at an earlier or later age would have made a difference for us, but may for others. It could have been beneficial when he started climbing out of his crib by the age of 2 to bite the bullet and make the switch to a toddler bed. We reverted back to using the “tent” and know that will be another transition battle to tackle at a later date. We’re just doing what works best for all of us now. The “tent” is really a safety precaution in case he does get up or sleep walks. We live in a condo building in the city and in Florida there is an in ground pool. It may not seem like progress, but for Sonny it is. He sleeps through the night consistently, is comfortable, and feels safe. This was by far our most challenging transition and took us the longest to overcome. I know I’m not alone in my struggles either since I relied on other mom friends for advice. This transition is often overlooked, but it is an incredibly new freedom for toddlers. Many friends recommended gating the bedroom door. We considered this option, but didn’t need to resort to it. Luckily, for us and our neighbors, the reward chart did the trick. I’ve had friends go as far as removing all safety concerns and toys and locking their kid’s bedroom door during this transition. I know Sonny has a very determined personality and would be extremely loud until he got his way.
He doesn’t give up easily and would eventually figure out how to climb and/or remove the gate! Anther great resource if you exhaust all your options would be consulting with a sleep training professional. Often times parents think they are just for babies, but they can have some awesome strategies with the toddler bed transition too!
Whenever or however you decide to tackle the toddler bed transition make a plan and stay consistent. Hopefully you can navigate it seamlessly and quicker than I did. Like any transition you never know how your child will react. If you do struggle remember they are struggling with you. It’s sometimes difficult to remember when you’re frustrated and sleep deprived that they aren’t trying to be malicious. They’ve been given this huge new freedom that they have to learn how to adjust to. I sincerely hope everyone who reads this and is about to embark on this toddler bed transition has a positive experience! There’s no rhyme or reason on how a child handles a transition so it’s not a reflection on your parenting. If you have any questions or need a pep talk don’t hesitate to reach out. We started this blog in the hopes of helping other caregivers. Even though we’ve overcome this obstacle I’m sure there will still be nights Sonny wakes up and ends up in my bed. And that’s perfectly alright. :)
X0 - Amanda