Remember my optimism about the toddler bed transition because the first couple days went so well?
Ya everything went careening down hill after that. Around 10 days in, all I wanted to do was put the crib side back up. Some middle of the night falls scared her, and suddenly the “read two stories, sing one lullabye and plop her in the crib” method of bedtime routines had failed us.
Three weeks in, she was no longer sleeping through the night, and was waking up a good hour before she used to. There were nights of us just giving up and throwing her in bed with us, and mornings of trying to snuggle her back to sleep.
But by week 4, we realized we were dealing with a bigger beast than the toddler bed transition: we had some intense separation anxiety going on. Suddenly there were tears when I would leave for work in the morning (which never even happened in the early weeks). There were days when she would ask to go on a wrap on my back, after months of running every time she saw one. But the real proof came last night when she fell out of bed at 12:30, and it took less than 5 minutes of snuggles before she was back asleep in her own bed, without anyone in the room with her. Yet an hour later when she woke up again, at the end of a regular sleep cycle, she needed someone lying on the floor beside her for an hour before she was willing to sleep on her own.
We made a snap decision to put her in the toddler bed at the worst possible time (little warning, during a disruption to her daytime schedule and before she showed any signs of being “ready”). Whether it triggered the separation anxiety or was completely unrelated, we’ll never know. She still falls out of bed at least once a week (she’s a very active sleeper), and will often take a few trips in and out of bed before she’s satisfied she has enough “stuff” in her bed (record: three blankets, three monkeys, two bears, one doll, one sippy cup, a story book, a bible and a stuffed Yoda). But most of our complaints, it seems, are entirely age appropriate in a crib or not.
At 9 pm, when she’s finally asleep enough to leave her room, I’m tempted to say we made the wrong decision. At 2 am, I might even call it a failure. But at 7 am, when she refuses to get dressed because she just wants to be in her “big girl bed” I figure if nothing else, we haven’t traumatized her for life. Maybe we even did all right.
My advice to parents contemplating moving their kid to a “big kid bed”
- Read up on how and when to make the transition – but feel free to ignore it. There is no “perfect time” and sometimes, the less-than-ideal time works to your benefit. We were so successful at the start simply because C was too exhausted from unexpectedly busy days to worry about where she slept.
- Expect a regression in sleep. While I’m still sure most of our issues stemmed from some separation anxiety, the fact that C needs to climb in and out of bed, gathering stuffed animals and books, is pretty much the fault of having all this new found freedom. Plus, I don’t think C ever realized that her door was closed at night because she was happily contained in the four walls of the crib. Now, when she wakes up, she stumbles over to it and “knocks” to let us know she’s up.
- Pay attention to your kid’s attitude on the new bed. Once C “practiced” falling out of bed a few times during the day, the bed seemed more fun and less scary and so I’m glad I stayed the course. Yes, she still cries when she falls out of bed, but it’s not lastingly traumatic. If your kid seems terribly traumatized by the change, why not go back to the crib?
- Recognize your bedtime routine might have to change. Yes, they say establish one before hand so you can just keep using it, but C decided when she had a big girl bed that she didn’t want lullabies any more. She’d rather sing to herself in bed.
- Be ready to be the bad guy. I’ve always bemoaned the fact that Scott is the “fun parent” and I am the “mean parent.” It’s not a fault in either of our parenting styles. I can utter: “Go back to bed” without even looking up from my chair, and C will scurry back into bed. Because she’s got her daddy wrapped around her little finger, she’s not used to him being the bad guy, so his orders of “go back to bed” are met with laughter, and so he has to physically return her to bed, only to have her escape again. She’s slowly learning that he means business too, but this process is definitely easier on me than him.