Hello! My name is Ashley and I blog over at Love Along the Way. I am a mom to a 26 month old daughter, Lakelyn, and me and my husband are also expecting our second child (a boy) this April. I am very excited to be guest-posting today as part of Kaitlyn’s series.
When Luke and I found out we were expecting our second child, we knew we would have to move Lakelyn to a “big kid” bed before the baby arrived. I wanted to make the move before the baby came, in order to prevent any association of the new bed (what might be an unpleasant change) with the new baby. I didn’t want Lakelyn to feel like she was kicked out of her comfort zone due to her new little brother. I felt like this milestone probably gave me the most anxiety of all the different milestones we’ve gone through. To explain why, I think it’s important to give you a little background on Lakelyn’s sleeping habits.
Since Lakelyn was 8 weeks old, she has been a great sleeper (once asleep), but getting her to sleep is consistently a battle. She has always fought going to sleep. When she was a baby she fought naps, but night time was a breeze. As she got older, she started to fight both. We swaddled her and then sat on the exercise ball and bounced her to sleep, but she screamed for 15-20 minutes while we bounced, and regularly just woke right back up as we set her in the bed. She hates going to sleep. At 5 ½ months we decided to break her of the swaddle and try CIO (cry it out). This was very frustrating as a mother. I wanted to sooth my baby, I wanted to rock her to sleep, but she wanted nothing to do with it. So we decided if she was going to scream in our arms and not allow us to help her to sleep then she needed to figure out a way to sooth herself to sleep. The first night was the longest 45 min of my life but each night, the crying quickly got shorter and shorter. Within the first week though, it proved to be a great success - with what used to take up to an hour normally, taking only 15 minutes or so from then on out.
Ever since then, depending on the night, she has always taken 15-20 minutes to get to sleep. She still cries when we put her in bed for about 3-5 min and then takes another 10-15 minutes to get situated and eventually fall asleep - this was her routine until a couple of weeks ago (26 months old). Once asleep, she sleeps through the night, and if woken in the middle of the night, goes right back to sleep on her own. Some babies use a paci (she never did) or stuffed animal to fall asleep, but she just needs her blanket and 15-20 minutes of down time in her crib. As you can imagine, having a child who had always fought going to sleep, I couldn’t imagine how putting her in a “big kid” bed was going to go.
My first concern with moving Lakelyn to a “big kid” bed was…the bed! How do you take a child who has slept in a confined 4 wall barrier and move them to something with no barriers? I just knew if we moved Lakelyn to a “big kid” bed she would fall right off. Initially I thought I wanted to do a day bed - it at least had 3 sides and was the closest thing to her crib. Then I fell in love with a bed on pinterest. It had a play area on the bottom and the top was a bunk bed. I showed it to Luke, who after doing some research, thought it was too much a “big kid” bed for her and she might fall off the top bunk and get hurt. I kept shopping on Pinterest and fell in love with this bed. I showed it to Luke, and after a little convincing, he got on board. It was a bunk bed, but I had the idea of making the bottom bunk her bed (no worrying about falling out or over) and the top bunk her play area. Two weeks before Christmas, we bought our first load of lumber and began on the project. You can read more about it here.
Not only were we going to move Lakelyn to a new bed, but also to a new room. After a lot of researching I read that it was best to allow your child to get used to the new room before making them sleep it in for the first time. We moved everything from Lakelyn’s old room to her new room except for her crib and let her get used to the idea that all of her stuff, toys, and books were in there now. She LOVED her new bed …well the play area, she didn’t really care about the bed part at that time.
After a few weeks I decided we needed to bite the bullet and make the transition. After another week of feeling like I had read everything on the internet I decided it was now or never. Here were my notes/game plans:
- Remove crib from previous room if possible. (Out of sight, out of mind)
- Once you decide to transition to “big kid” bed do NOT offer her old crib.
- Let child help pick out new bedding or new toy to get excited about the new bed.
- Talk about the new bed and get her excited about it.
- Don’t talk about staying in bed, the thought may have not crossed there mind about getting out of it in the first place.
- Keep normal bedtime routine the same
- Allow child to have stuffed animals or comfort items in bed like a book-no toys.
- First and second time she gets out of bed, tell her its night-night time, put back in bed and leave room
- Third and subsequent times she gets out of bed, walk back to bed with no talking or eye contact and leave room
- If toys are a distraction put in closet or take out of room.
- Reverse door knob so child can’t lock herself in room.
We decided to start this transition on a Friday night so that we had the weekend to catch up on sleep if need be. That night we went to Toys R Us and allowed Lakelyn to pick out a new friend to sleep with her. The whole way home we talked about sleeping in her big girl bed. When we got home I had Luke take the mattress out of her crib and put it in her closet (since we are going to use this crib again soon, we didn’t want to make it disappear, then re-appear later and her to want it back). We then took her into her new room and showed her that her crib was broken and that she would have to sleep in her big girl bed.
We put her in her new bed, read 3 books and then told her it was night-night time. She asked us not to close the door, so we didn’t. The minute we walked out of the room she started crying and jumped out of bed. I picked her up and tried to place her back in bed, but she held on for dear life. I told her it was okay, finally got her laid back down, but she was still crying and it was a cry that I knew she was scared and unsure. My pregnant emotional self about crumbled. I decided to sit on the floor next to her and rub her back. I told her it was okay and that she was a big girl now. I rubbed her back and once she got calmed down about 5 minutes later, I told it was time to go night-night and walked back out of the room. She immediately jumped out of bed. This time Luke went in with her. He got in bed with her. After a few minutes I told him he needed to get out. The last thing I wanted to do was start a bad habit of us having to lay in bed with her every night for her to fall asleep. He left the room and she got out of bed. I went back in and put her in bed and told her it was night-night time and told her mommy and daddy were going night-night too. This time I closed the door and to my surprise she didn’t jump out of bed. For some reason, the door being closed seemed to really help. I also turned on the music that can play through her monitor, hoping it would distract and calm her. She cried and yelled for us for about 10 minutes, just like she used to do in her crib. She tossed and turned and after a total of 45 min she was out. This was one of the most restless nights I have had since she was a baby. I woke up several times and looked at the monitor to make sure she was still in bed, and she was. She slept through the entire night and woke up at her usual time of 7:30 the next morning.
When I went in to get her, I acted very excited and had a sheet of stickers to give her. I told her how proud I was of her and that she was such a big girl. All day we reminded her of what a big girl she was. We then told her since she slept in her big girl bed, we would take her for ice cream. Before lunch we took her for ice cream, again reminding her why she was getting ice cream. We then came home for nap time. We continued to reminder her what a big girl she was and that when she woke up she would get more stickers. At nap time we put her in her big girl bed, gave her all her stuffed animals including her new friend, and walked out of the room closing the door behind us. To our surprise…she stayed in bed! This time however, there was no fussing. She took her time getting settled and then went right to sleep. She slept her normal 2 hrs and when she woke again we showed her our enthusiasm and gave her more stickers.
What seemed to work for us was closing the door. After two nights of being in her big girl bed, she quit fussing and crying. Now she goes to bed, gets her animals situated, and then gets comfortable herself. She still might take 10-15 minutes to get comfortable and fall asleep, but no crying and fussing. It actually seems like she goes to bed more easily now than before. I underestimated her. I thought with her stubborn personality (which I know she got from me), this would be a hard transition on us both. But it wasn’t. It was one of the easiest.
My advice would be to research tips that helped other parents and make a list. I tried to find someone with a temperament like my own child’s, but was unsuccessful. I think both you and your partner need to come up with a plan together and as long as you both stick to it, then you will be successful transitioning your child to a “big kid” bed.
Do you have any advice or a post about transitioning to a big kid's bed? We would love for you to comment or leave the link below!!