This week we had an unexpected hiccup in our parenting plan. Our darling 2 year old decided it was time to break free from his crib. The parental plan was to keep him enclosed as long as possible, especially since his baby sister will be here in just 2 more weeks!
Well, I should know better than to make strict plans– kids have their own needs and timeline that we can’t always dictate. After his initial escape, we tried to put him back in his crib. This resulted in another, more dramatic escape attempt. Ezra tried to climb out and somehow managed to catch his thigh between two of the crib slats and was so wedged in, the only way we could free him was by sawing the bed! Thank goodness for Amazon Prime and speedy delivery of a toddler bed!
Sleep training is something very new to me with this child. I co-slept with my oldest son and really struggled with any kind of sleep schedule. When we had Ezra, the first months were rough with frequent waking (every 45 min) and I struggled with postpartum anxiety, so it was a necessity to get him into his own room and on a schedule. It only took 3 days of discipline to get him to sleep in his crib and on a nice schedule of 7pm-7am with two nighttime breastfeedings. It saved my sanity. After he was weaned, he sleeps through the night without waking at all. I knew I had to take the same approach with the new bed transition and in this post, I will share with you the 5 tips that worked for us!
1. Take the Transition Slowly
We gave ourselves a few days to transition and prepare Ezra for the switch. He knew his bed was damaged, so we took it down and he watched us remove the old bed from his room. I showed him the new bed that we ordered and told him when it would arrive. For the 2 days that we waited on the new bed, he slept in his old pack-and-play. When the bed arrived, he watched my husband unbox it and put it together and we talked about it being his new bed. We put it in his room in the new spot, let him help us make it up and try it out.
We did not have him sleep in the new bed immediately, we continued putting him in the pack-and-play but moved it beside the new bed. The next day we moved the pack-and-play a little closer to the door and only had naptime in the toddler bed. On day 3, the pack-and-play disappeared and we did naptime and bedtime in the new bed, and we had success!
2. Start Bedtime 30 Minutes Earlier
When making the transition to a new sleeping arrangement, we started our bedtime routine 30 minutes earlier. This was for parental sanity in case there was a protest or multiple attempts to escape.
The first night Ezra got up multiple times calling for us and crying. We did not engage him or coddle him, we just picked him up reminded him “to stay in bed and fall asleep” until he finally did. He was still asleep by his normal bedtime, and we weren’t exhausted for tacking extra time on to our evening routine. My husband and I really need our last few hours alone after the kids are in bed.
3. Toddler-Proof the Room
A toddler bed means a roaming toddler. Even if you have a perfect sleeper from day 1, from time to time he/she may awaken early and find their own adventure. Making sure furniture is strapped to the wall, closets are secured, outlets covered, and toys that require supervision should be secure or out of the room.
4. Keep the Routine
Having a routine is so helpful. We have a strict bedtime routine and Ezra welcomes sleep when the clock hits 7pm. For us, we have dinner, bath, playtime, storytime, then bed. We even read the same books every night. I am pretty strict in general when it comes to the bedtime routine (even for our teenage son).
During the transition to the toddler bed, we kept everything exactly the same, just starting a bit earlier. I have found in my years of parenting that both of my kids really thrive with a very predictable routine, we have very little wiggle room in our daily schedule and weekly routine and it has prevented the meltdowns that would happen when we were less structured.
5. Childproof the Door
This is a piece of advice that could ruffle some feathers, however, I studied and read multiple articles about toddler transitions and this one resonated with me tremendously. A crib is a boundary that your baby learned to sleep in comfortably. When transitioning to a big kid bed, the boundary is now the room since they have the freedom to move around if they choose.
I put a plastic doorknob cover on the inside of the door so that my son can’t get out of the room or lock the doorknob on his own. I know that his room is safe and he’s secure on the inside and I can tend to his needs when I hear his cry as needed. I did let him cry for a few moments the first night completely alone, his fussing only lasted 5 minutes and he was then nicely asleep in his bed and didn’t wake until morning.
These are the 5 things that helped us most with the transition and he is now sleeping soundly without protest after only 3 days of adjustment to his new scenario.
A few other things we have been doing during this transition:
- We have not been using a nightlight– our son sleeps best in dark and quiet, so we avoid any additional stimulation.
- Using our favorite essential oil blend to promote a restful night sleep. I use the Young Living essential oil Tranquil, applying to his feet and neck.
- We do not rush in to get him in the morning, we let him play a little and be content. Then after we pick him up we move straight into his typical morning routine.