Transitioning to a toddler bed

For some toddlers, the transition from a crib to a toddler bed happens naturally. Maybe Baby will sense it’s time and let you know. Or maybe you’ll give it a try and realize Baby needs to return to his crib for a while. It’s a big milestone, and every toddler tackles it differently.

Bed selection

Is Baby‘s crib the kind that can lose the sides and transform into a toddler bed? Will there be a toddler bed between crib and full size at all? Will you move straight to a full sized bed modified with rails?

Whether your setup is based on space, budget, what you already own or can borrow, or just how you think Baby will be the comfiest, giving some thought to all the steps between crib and Baby‘s final bed can make your choices a lot clearer.

If you’re going for an in-between step, selecting a toddler bed that is sized for your current crib mattress is an efficient choice. If you’re buying a new mattress, be sure to get a mattress cover! Blowouts and leaks can happen to the best of us, especially those of us who are pretty early on the long road to potty training.

Sometimes a growing toddler will want to help choose their new big kid bed. Letting Baby have a say in which bed or sheets you get might make him feel more comfortable when he uses it, or more excited to get started. Just be sure to get two sets of those sheets in case one set becomes…lets call it, “unsalvageable.”

Whatever bed you end up with, be sure to check the maximum weight it can hold. This will let you know if joining Baby in bed will result in sweet snuggles, or a cuddle catastrophe.

Baby-gating

Part of the toddler bed transition is creating new boundaries for your little one. How far those boundaries extend is up to you, the layout of your home, and how big Baby has gotten.

It’s likely Baby will start off with a railing on his bed. This is to keep him from falling out, and to help imply that bed is a place you stay in once you’re in it.

If you’re extra worried about Baby falling out, or are transitioning without a railing, you could consider creating a runway of pillows around the base of Baby‘s bed. The only thing worse than falling from the sky is a hard landing!

You might also try gating parts of Baby‘s room. Consider locking any toy boxes or cabinets you wouldn’t want Baby exploring in the middle of the night. This is both for Baby‘s safety, and to keep him bored and in bed.

The last gate you may put in place is on the door to Baby‘s room. Giving him freedom to wander in the middle of the night can be a safety hazard. Once he is potty trained, you might gate everything between Baby and the bathroom, so he has the freedom to roam, but just one destination in his travels.

Revisit the routine

Some experts advocate making an event out of moving to a “big kids bed.” Others say a slow transition is best, like using the bed just for naps before using it for sleep so Baby can dip his toes in the water to see if he likes it.

What everyone seems to agree on is that a new bed creates a new routine. Baby might take some time to adjust to his new sleeping arrangements and bringing some consistency to that transition can be helpful.

  • Bath/Book/Bed: Consider trying the three B’s, or any other set of activities that can prep Baby for cozy sleep. A set routine like this can make Baby more easily anticipate sleep, and his new bed an ordinary part of the bedtime procedure.
  • Night music: Some parents have luck training their baby’s brain to associate music with sleeping. Playing the same kind of gentle music every night can help Baby learn a routine.
  • Check-ins: It might be that Baby needs a little extra reassurance that he is safe in his new bed. When you leave Baby to fall asleep, reassure him that you’ll check-in every ten minutes, and then do it. Either you’ll find Baby fast asleep, or you’ll help build his confidence.
  • Nesting: Sometimes a toddler bed can feel too large, and having a few blankets and pillows to anchor themselves to can help Baby feel like he won&;t get lost at sea. A bed-nest can consist of pillows, blankets, a comfort object or two, maybe a book Baby can “read”, or even a sound machine or a nightlight. Avoid putting active toys in Baby‘s bed so he knows this is a place for sleeping and not for playing.

Transitioning to the toddler bed isn’t always easy, but it is one step further on the road to big kid-hood. Enjoy!

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