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toddler tip: moving to a big kid bed

Fussy Vivi being passed around at her baby dedication. “Auntie M” (aka my sister Millie) holding her here.

The bad news about Vivi as a baby was that she was horribly colicky from 2 months to 5 months. The good news was that from 6 months on she was a very easy baby. It wasn’t that she was easy-going; in fact, it was quite a while before I could hand her to someone that wasn’t me or Nate and she wouldn’t explode in tears. But when it came to feeding and sleeping, two of the major activities of babyhood, she was a champ! She would occasionally wake in the middle of the night if she was having a growth spurt, teething, or just generally feeling icky, but for the most part she slept through the night from 6 months on, from 6:30pm to 6:30am (or even as late as 8am on weekends).

I give a lot of the credit to Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child┬áby Dr. Marc Weissbluth. He is an advocate for early bedtime, which I think single-handedly changed the way Vivi slept. He also says that it’s not as much where you put your baby, in bed with you or in a crib, as much as it is that you are consistent. While I also like the Dr. Sears’ collection of baby books, it just never made sense to me to put our kids in bed with us. I have seen many households where bed-sharing lasts throughout childhood. Even now I feel a cold shutter just envisioning that unfortunate predicament. And as I’ve said, I love and need my sleep, and I just can’t imagine giving up our tranquil bed (a king size with flannel sheets=my idea of heaven), even for my beloved children.

When it came time to transition Vivi out of her crib, I knew that we could encounter some difficulties. For one thing, we weren’t making the switch because she asked us for a bed (one of the traditional reasons) but because Charlotte needed the crib. We had also been having trouble with her climbing out of the port-a-crib when I was at my mom’s, so I figured as soon as the jail cell walls came down, she would be getting up at all hours of the night to play or visit with us. I had even read that some kids will wake up at 5am and assume they can get up, so they come storming into their parents’ bedroom to start the day. My worst nightmare realized!

Luckily, Vivi’s great sleep habits have continued on to toddlerhood. Since we moved her to a bed, we haven’t had a single night of her getting out of bed. Naps are a different story, but when she gets up before it’s time, I simply use Dr. Weissbluth’s “silent return” technique, which works like a charm. More about that method and others are on this website. Mommy bloggers gave me some additional ideas that I think also helped. Below is the timeline of what we did.

1. Transition slowly; put the bed in the room before you plan to use it. We let Vivi sit on the bed during story time or jump and play on it until it became a regular part of her room and not something scary and new.

2. Get a book that explains the transition. I recommend this trick for potty training too. Vivi loved her Elmo book and wanted to read it over and over.

3. Let them pick out their own sheets. This tip would likely work with picking out the bed too, but we got ours as a hand-me-down (thanks Uncle Joe & Aunt Kim!). Target has some adorable and reasonably priced bedroom sets.

4. Buy a toddler clock. This clock is expensive, but it’s worth its weight in gold. No kidding, get one of these!! It turns blue at bedtime and nap time, and it turns yellow to signify it’s ok to get up. I was amazed that Vivi understood the concept right away. I found out about this idea accidentally when googling “good night light” because Vivi has gotten to the age when she’s a bit afraid of the dark (this clock came up in my results). The reason I got the pricey one is that it also turns green when you want to have some “special play time.” It turns red for time-out too, although it seems a bit melodramatic to take your kid to their room and turn the clock red for a 2 min time-out. There are even some features I don’t use: it will play music and/or white noise, and it will read a story. Why you’d want your clock to read a story to your kid instead of doing it yourself is beyond me, but to each his own.