I am tentatively writing this one (don’t want to jinx anything)! We are now 2.5 weeks into the crib to toddler bed transition in our house, with the first 10 days being some of the worst I’ve lived as a parent, but the past week being totally fine/great. I know we have more sleep hurdles in our future (nightmares, bed wetting, etc.), but dare I say that at least the crib to bed transition is behind us?
Right around Frankie’s second birthday, we started to experience our first real sleep struggle with her. We went through a major bout of separation anxiety that had her launching herself out of her crib the second I made any type of movement towards the door. I responded by getting out the alan key and converting her crib to a toddler bed so that she could at least dash after me without breaking her neck.
The next two weeks sucked. I sat by her bed for every nap (reduced from 3 hours to 45 minutes, tops) and every bedtime. It took hours for her to finally settle for the night, probably because having me sit next to her was novel, not something we’d ever had to do for our easy sleeper. To add insult to injury, she was often up at least twice in the night and required the whole routine to repeat itself, meaning I was basically sleeping on a hardwood floor. I did a lot of reading and asked for a lot of advice and, really, the general consensus was that two years old was just too young to understand the concept of “stay in bed.”
The separation anxiety seemed to pass (as most things do), so I decided to give the crib another shot. But instead of reassembling the whole thing, I just turned the bed around so that the “open” side faced the wall and the “crib” side faced the room. She settled right back into her easy sleeping habits and we didn’t experience anymore climbing over the rails.
Cut to June, four or five months later, and she was daytime potty trained. I still put her down for naps and nighttime in a diaper, but because she still drinks a bottle of milk before sleep times, she would often need to pee shortly after being put in her crib. Stuck in the crib, she resorted to taking off all her clothes and diaper and peeing in the bed. As a minimalist, I just didn’t have enough sheets for those shenanigans!
I thought maybe potty training and toddler beds went hand-in-hand, development wise, so decided to give the “open crib” another shot. She’d done so well at potty training and, at 2.5, was really just so successful doing things by herself, all of a sudden. The open crib really ruined nap time for us, and I could tell she still really needed the nap. Plus, I still really needed her to take the nap — full days with a toddler (with no one walking through the door to help you at 5:00pm) were not sustainable for me.
Unfortunately, once I turned the crib back around again, she started climbing out again. A couple of days of freedom and she was having none of the crib confinement any longer. Since we had another baby on the way anyways, I decided to buy her a whole new bed, thinking it might be easier for her to understand the “new rules” if those came with a whole new piece of furniture.
We lost our nap again right away, but the first few nights actually went really well. But then — a few days in, when Pierre was catching his flight back to work — it all unraveled spectacularly. Not only was she staying up all day, but, after a fight to get to bed and a few hours respite where I cried and wished desperately for a glass of wine, she was awake again, sometimes for hours. I’d finally get her back to sleep (usually in my bed, usually sometime between 3:00 and 5:00am) only to have her rise at the crack of dawn to do it all over again.
This went on for a full week. She was miserable and overtired. I was beyond miserable and overtired. If I had had any type of time to reassemble the crib, I would have, but I wasn’t sure how that would play out, even if I did have the time to put it back together. If I reassembled the crib, should I disassemble the bed? Should I reassemble the crib, but leave the bed assembled, too? I couldn’t imagine she’d want to go back to sleeping in her cramped, confining crib if the bed was available. (For the complete disaster this was shaping up to be, she did love “the bed Daddy made,” her pink sheets, and the new elephant she got for her new bed.)
Pierre came home. We talked through my week of hell. He took her to the grocery store and I made a few changes:
- I moved her bed back to its original location even though the new bed encroaches on the closet opening by a few inches
- We put her back on goat’s milk (we had been trying cow’s milk for a few weeks and I was wondering if she might be having trouble sleeping because of digestive issues)
- We bought some melatonin gummies to give to her for a few days to reset her sleep schedule
- We took a few books out from the library (I Sleep in a Big Bed was very similar to the book I used to introduce potty training, Once Upon a Potty)
That day she napped. And slept through the night. And she has every day and night since (with one hairy day/night exception)! I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the one day she didn’t nap was also the night she was up for hours. Good daytime sleep is essential for good nighttime sleep, which is why the first week of our transition was just so awful — she wasn’t getting either! We used the melatonin for the first two days, but not after that.
Our new schedule is:
- Up for the day at 6:00am — this is new, she was always up closer to 7:30am or 8:00am before
- Nap at 12:30pm/1:00pm and I wake her at 3:00pm to ensure bedtime isn’t ridiculously late
- Bath/bedtime routine at 8:00pm and asleep by 9:00pm
I’d love to get a slightly earlier bedtime back because we’re often heading to bed within an hour of her (and it’s hard to go out on a date with her late bedtime), but it’s a small price to pay to have our daily, lengthy naps back. I imagine bedtime might creep up as the days get shorter and I know we’ll have an earlier bedtime back once she drops her nap for real.
Now that we’ve worked out the kinks, I’m really glad we’ve made this move. No more peeing in the bed, for starters, and I love that we’ve been able to give her a bit more independence and she’s acing it (minimal “returns to bed” from us). She also has more space (this affects her large collection of stuffed bunnies more than her, I think) and, now that I’m 15 weeks pregnant, it’s really nice not to be lifting her in or out of the crib. Definitely a bonus that we now have the crib, mattress, and linens available for baby number two, although I think having a new baby is a stupid reason to transition a toddler from a crib if they’re not ready. Glad she’s in a bed, but happy I haven’t seen the last of our crib! Hard to believe we’ll be reassembling it before the end of the year.