I feel like everywhere these days I’m seeing toddler mom friends kinda stressing out about the big transition from crib to toddler bed (we got ours for cheap at Wal-Mart!). If you’re lucky, it doesn’t happen until at least age 2 but I’ve seen people holding off as long as 3 in some cases. I see no issue with waiting if your kid isn’t climbing out but I was glad to make the transition and get this done BEFORE baby came!

Unfortunately for us, Jacob started being able to get out of his crib at about 22 months. Note to self, don’t buy a crib with a changing table attached because it makes it a lot easier for them to get out and hop down to the ground. We also have a tall little monkey who likes to jump 🙂 This is such a crib:

Anyhow, at 22 months, that was it for the crib. We first tried to lower the mattress down to the ground, but there was some space between mattress and bottom of crib and he looked like he could easily get his head stuck attempting to escape so after a few nights, we caved and bought a toddler bed. I started by thinking I was going to have to fall asleep on his floor next to his bed every time and tip toe out. Thank goodness, that phase didn’t last!

Step 1: Be patient
Every new transition will take some time — more than one night! I know it feels like you’ll never get back to that glorious stage where they couldn’t escape and will always be trying to get out forever but it’s not true. You and your toddler will adjust. At least we did and I fully admit that we are lucky to have been blessed with a pretty good sleeper in general.

Step 2: Establish a new routine
With the crib, bedtime had become kind of easy. We put him down around 7:30 and he cried for a few minutes before drifting off. It was fast! Quick is no longer the name of the game. Establish a new routine for bedtime. Ours goes like this:

  • Brush teeth
  • Change into pajamas
  • Read 3-4 books
  • Turn lights off + sound machine on
  • Gather our stuffed animal friends (all 5 of them)
  • Sing a couple of songs in the rocking chair.
  • Move to bed and sing 2 more songs before saying good night.

Step 3: Move bedtime a little later
Maybe not everyone agrees but for us, it is essential he be really, truly tired or he won’t stay put. We moved bedtime until around 8pm rather than 7:30 though lately, I’ve tried pushing it earlier again. It depends on how early he wakes up in the AM and how daytime naptime goes. If he forgoes a nap during the day, we make bedtime 7pm at the latest.

Sidenote: I thought nap time was a goner after we transitioned. Though he naps at daycare, weekends were seemingly impossible. UNTIL…last weekend…will explain more on how we got nap times BACK (woohoo!) — and it’s related to our next step.

Step 4: Get a door lock
Not every parent is on board with this but…I’m SO glad I spent the $15 on this lock that hooks to the top of the door. It allows the door to open slightly but the kids can’t get out (made me feel better than a lock that locks from the inside with door closed). Before we bought it (and before we established routine), he would just run back out of the room when we said goodnight. I thought my life was over…With the other steps in place, Jacob rarely even tries to get out of his room at night but this helped at first. PLUS, it puts my  mind at SO MUCH ease knowing he can’t get out if he wakes up int he middle of the night and I don’t know. With his room being close to the top of the stairs, that was freaking me out. Now, the door lock is the ONLY way we can get him to nap because naptime doesn’t go as smoothly as bedtime and we do have to leave him in there crying until he lays down to sleep on his own.

Step 5: Make the bed more crib-like
Our crib technically “transitions” into a toddler but but I thought it was too similar to the crib and plus we knew we were going to use the crib for the baby. So…we bought these toddler bed foam bumpers so Jacob would feel snug and surrounded like in his crib. First I stuffed them on both sides (which made getting the sheet over the mattress really hard. Then, we moved to just one side and last week, I took them out completely and it hasn’t affected anything. However, it was a good step to take at first!

Here’s a look behind him when we were trying to keep the crib but have him sleep in it modified. He wasn’t having it:

Step 6: A little crying is okay!
I realize “cry it out” can mean a lot of things and there are lots of opinions on it. We have never let Jacob cry longer than like 5-10 minutes and usually it’s for everyone’s own good. A few times, when he first transitioned to the bed, he was just a bit confused. He would cry and end up falling asleep on the floor within a few minutes. I would put him back in bed when I went to bed a couple of hours later. Occasionally, he’ll cry in the middle of the night but he’s not really awake so…unless he’s up at the door trying to get out, I let him cry and he goes back to sleep without even realizing he was awake.

If he is really awake in the middle of the night crying, I grab a pillow, put him back to bed and hang out on the floor until he’s back to sleep and I go back to bed but thankfully, this doesn’t happen often.

Bedtime is never “easy” but hopefully this helps a few people about to make the transition. I know I was googling around like crazy for tips when we started the process and figured I might as well write this down for someone else.

Others have suggested the “Okay to wake up” clock for toddlers as a godsend. It turns a certain color and then the kids know it’s “okay” to get out of bed. Jacob was too young for this at 22 months and I still don’t think he would “get it” (he’s now 2 years, 4 months) but if your kid is closer to 3, it might be just the thing.

Obviously, I’m about dive head first into newborn sleeping territory where I may feel completely clueless again but it’s nice to feel like you’ve got something down — at least for a moment. Jacob is currently napping in his room after sleeping until almost 9am this morning and I’m savoring my last two nights NOT being the mom of a newborn… 😉

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