Big Girl Bed Transition
It’s been over a month since we moved B to her big girl bed, and it’s been an overall really positive experience for us. I had so many fears going into it - the biggest one being that she would decide to wander her room at night and rebel against sleep. Knock on wood, we’ve been really lucky that she’s stayed put in her bed and honestly sleeps much better than she did the last month in her crib. My husband and I’s theory is that she was ready to transition and it made a difference that her mattress is so much comfier now than the rigid crib mattresses you have to have. I read so many blog posts and asked for tons of advice before we made the switch, so I’m breaking down our experience of what worked for us and why we made certain choices.
B’s Age & How We Knew She was Ready
So B turned 2 in October 2018, and we didn’t switch her to a bed from a crib until she was 2.5 years old (April 2019). We were told by tons of other parents to wait as long as we could because once you transitioned, there was no going back. B loved her crib. She wasn’t climbing out of it, and I credit a lot of that to her sleepsack. We knew she was ready when she kept trying to unzip herself out of her sleepsack, and also she started having issues with her sleep cycle. She would wake up screaming crying like she had a bad dream, and it was becoming a habit of every night happening around midnight (4 hours after bedtime). Our ped said this was normal, and we weren’t worried, but gosh it was exhausting. The crazy thing was, those night wakings completed stopped when she switched her to this bed. It was awesome to see her sleeping well, and not to have to put her sleepsacks on inside-out every night… yep, we did that.
Toddler Bed vs. Regular Bed
We decided pretty early on that the pro’s of a regular bed outweighed a toddler bed for us. I wrote a little more about why we loved her specific bed style in a previous blog post with her room tour - essentially we loved it because it was a little bit crib-like in its design. We felt like the toddler bed wasn’t necessary for B to transition to sleeping in a bed, didn’t want to store a toddler bed, and knew the bed we chose would last a lot longer. Recently, we’ve traveled to new places where she’s had to sleep in adult-sized beds, and I think it helped that she was already used to the size of a larger bed. I think this one’s a personal decision, and doesn’t make a huge difference in the end result. We have an inflatable bumper on one side of B’s mattress that keeps her secure, but there’s tons of options for bed railing besides inflatable bumpers. I liked them mainly because they pack easily for travel, and it was a good fit with the type of bed B has.
A few weeks before we transitioned B, I tried to keep bedtime as consistent as possible. We wanted everything to feel the same about her routine except for the bed so it wasn’t scary or intimidating. We’ve had essentially the same routine since B was 3 months old, but sometimes we are flexible with baths vs. showers vs. actual bedtime, etc. depending on the evening’s events. My advice would be to nail down the routine a few weeks before transitioning, and continue it through the first month as much as possible. This helped us a lot when we were traveling too!
The Swap Strategy
I just made this term up, so don’t quote me ha! I’m calling this the “Swap Strategy.” We had grandparents take B for an evening of fun while Jordan and I deconstructed her crib and built her bed all in a few hours. When she got home, we revealed her new bed. As with a lot of big events in B’s life, we didn’t tell her it was happening until a few hours before she got to see it all unveiled (Necessary if you’ve ever had a toddler - their concept of time and waiting for things is pretty much non-existent.) For a few weeks she would ask “Where’d crib go?” and I would explain that she sleeps in her big bed now. I think this one’s also a personal choice, and depends a lot on your child’s personality. We felt like she’d be okay with a cold turkey swap, but some kids need more time to process and have both the crib and bed, or mattress on the floor, and that’s great! She ended up loving her bed immediately, which made it easier to say goodbye to the crib. The crib is now set up in the second bedroom upstairs just in case a friend needs to put their baby down when they come visit. B likes to see it occasionally, although she understands and accepts it’s definitely not where she sleeps anymore.
I know this is going to sound weird, especially because I just said we didn’t tell B she was getting a bed until a few hours before, but planting seeds in your toddler’s mind is so helpful before big transitions. We started a month before with a new book about Elmo’s new big kid bed, and read it every night before bed. We only talked about Elmo getting a new bed, not B. It was sweet to see her little mind processing what Elmo was going through and it gave me a head start on what her fears may be when the time came. We also let her choose her own bedding the morning before we transitioned her. Again, we kept it pretty vague, but she was thrilled to see her choice of bedding made up on her new bed that night! I had read that letting toddlers pick their own bedding was a big factor in them feeling it was their decision to sleep in a bed, and I think it definitely helped B.
Staying in Bed/Playing After Bedtime
This was a huge fear of mine, mainly because I know how independent and busy B can be. I think our success in this area is a magical combination of B’s personality, having zero toys in sight, and how dark her room is. I have committed to repeating before she goes to bed every night “We don’t get out of our bed, okay?” with strong eye contact, and I say this until she says “Okay, Mommy.” And listen, she does about 99% of everything else I tell her not to do, so I’m not saying this is the reason why she stays put. All I’m saying is, I’m not stopping anytime soon.
B’s only recently been allowed to have stuffed animals in her bed, mainly out of my fear of her playing with them into the wee hours of the night. She’s easily entertained, and doesn’t always fall asleep quickly. One of my biggest concerns was that she would see her new bed as a playhouse (It definitely has playhouse vibes) and play in it instead of sleep. We had friends try the Montessori house bed (an example linked here) and it just didn’t work for them for that exact reason. Thankfully, B’s done really well with keeping play and sleep separate. We’ve been lucky, and I think this completely depends on the child also. Knowing B, this could’ve gone either way. It was a bit of a gamble!
As a lot of you know, we have a pool in our backyard, so it gives me a lot of peace at night to know she’s child-locked in her room, in addition to many other alarms and precautions we have in place. We used stick-on door locks from Amazon to lock her out of her bathroom and closet at night, and one that keeps her in her room. In the event that she decides she’s going to wander around the room, her room is super safe and child-proofed in literally every possible way. I’ve linked those child-proof locks below in a few slides you can click on (affiliate links - thanks in advance for supporting my blog!)
Honestly, we still don’t have a perfect bedtime routine over here. Sometimes B refuses to be tucked in (overtired toddlers and later/flexible summer bedtimes are probably to blame for this…) or has a random nightmare. We’ve been lucky in that she’s always been a great sleeper, with the exception of normal bouts of sleep regression and nap strikes. It’s been fun to snuggle with her in bed, another benefit of a regular-sized bed, and see how much she enjoys her new sleeping arrangement. I mean she basically sleeps in a fort, so what’s not to love? Overall it’s been a good transition, and we’re all grateful for the good sleep!