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, they still might need a little bit of an adjustment period before they are getting all the sweet dreams they need in their new bed.
But is they ready?
One reason Baby might be acting like they aren't quite ready to leave the crib behind is that they 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 their 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 them 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 they are going to share the new bed with can help give them 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 they go to sleep or just during the day, maybe during story time, can help them 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 their 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 they don'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 they have the option to, getting up after bedtime and wandering is their new favorite sport, you can use techniques you learned when they were a lot tinier to help convince them not to go pro. Just like when they would wake in the night when they were an infant, the best way to encourage them to go back to bed if they get 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 them 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 their new bed, you can help reassure them by telling them that you’ll be back to check on them in a few minutes, and then coming back exactly when you said you would. Either they will have fallen asleep by the time you get back, or they 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.