Change is as exciting for toddlers as it is for adults, but depending on what that change is, it can be just as unsettling. Even if Baby is excited, and completely ready to make the switch, he still might need a little bit of an adjustment period before he is getting all the sweet dreams he needs in his new bed.
But is he ready?
One reason Baby might be acting like he isn’t quite ready to leave the crib behind is that he just doesn’t feel ready. Children who have a hard time with change, or children who have other significant changes happening in their lives, from a new childcare provider to a new sibling, may have a little bit of a harder time adjusting to their new environment.
This is why many experts don’t recommend switching from a crib to a toddler bed at the same time that other big changes are taking place, but it also doesn’t mean that Baby can’t make the transition now and be perfectly happy in his own bed soon. Toddlers are adaptable, and sometimes there is no perfect time, and picking the imperfect time that’s right for you and your family is the only thing you can do.
How can I help ease the transition?
- Let Baby’s voice be heard: One of the things that can be scariest about moving out of a crib and into a big bed is that Baby may feel a lack of control over the process. Giving him choices, whether they’re about what bedding to use, where the new bed should go if it needs to be somewhere other than where the crib has been, or even what snuggly stuffed animal he is going to share the new bed with can help give him back a sense of control.
- Get cozy: After the enclosed warmth and comfort of the crib, a big kid bed can feel uncomfortably big and open to a little toddler. Putting a mattress on the floor, instead of jumping straight into a bed frame, can both help prevent accidents if Baby gets restless in the night, and help to make the bed feel more like a comfy little nest, and less like an unfamiliar tundra. Spending time snuggling with Baby in bed, either before he goes to sleep or just during the day, maybe during story time, can help him build more happy, comfortable associations there.
- Similarly different: If it’s possible to do so, keeping Baby’s new bed space similar to the old by using similar or familiar bedding, and putting the twin or toddler bed in the same place as the crib, can help to cement the association between Baby’s new bed and his old sleeping habits.
- Adapt to survive: Having a strong bedtime routine can be a great help during transitions like these, but letting that routine evolve and grow as Baby’s bedtime evolves can help that routine stay current and strong. In this case, when switching out of the crib, it can become especially important to work on an extended wind-down period before bed, since Baby is about to have the option of climbing out of bed if he doesn’t want to stay there. After the last meal of the day, habits like dimming the lights, taking a warm bath, and doing quiet activities together like reading, coloring or puzzles can help set the stage for an easier bedtime later.
- Stick to the classics: If Baby decides that, now that he has the option to, getting up after bedtime and wandering is his new favorite sport, you can use techniques you learned when he was a lot tinier to help convince him not to go pro. Just like when he would wake in the night when he was an infant, the best way to encourage him to go back to bed if he gets up during the night is to keep the lights dim, keep your voice soft, and make being up with you seem as boring as possible as you quietly and firmly take him back to bed with an “I’ll see you in the morning.” If you’ve got a wanderer on your hands, it’s not uncommon to need to do this several times during the night, for a little while, until Baby gets more settled into the new environment and routine.
- Pinky swear: If Baby is getting scared or lonely in his new bed, you can help reassure him by telling him that you’ll be back to check on him in a few minutes, and then coming back exactly when you said you would. Either he will have fallen asleep by the time you get back, or he will be reassured by the way you followed through.
- “What’s the best way to get my child to sleep?” HealthyChildren.org. American Academy of Pediatrics, Nov 21 2015. Web.