From Crib to Big Kid Bed: Tales from the Frontlines

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TERRIFIED PRE-CONTEMPLATION PHASE: Ever notice how some moms like to humble brag about how young their kids were when they transitioned to a toddler bed (sleeping soundly and by themselves, of course)? Unbeknownst to me, this milestone was some kind of momming mark of excellence. Well, until recently my general attitude toward this milestone was the opposite. I wanted to brag about how long I could keep my kid IN his crib. Launching the teenage crib craze is my backup job fantasy. It’s a totally untapped market! #knowbettercontainbetter

It seems I’ve known countless moms who instantly regretted moving their kids from the crib to the toddler bed. Frankly, it kind of sounded like a horror movie. You’re dozing away in your own bed when suddenly you pop awake to see two tiny, beady eyes mere inches from your face asking for milk. Apparently toddlers can also resemble poltergeist-like apparitions floating down dark hallways. Yeah, not my bag. 

CRISIS PHASE: But before I could launch my queen-sized crib business, we were confronted with a dilemma. Buy a second crib for our baby girl or, gulp, transition our nearly three year old to a “big boy bed.” Envisioning the assembly of another crib, we picked the least bad option. Second dilemma: Sell our queen-sized guest bed and buy a toddler bed he’ll outgrow or offer our little tornado his very own luxurious, royal-sized sleep haven. We’re practical and don’t enjoy building furniture, so you can guess which we chose.  

PREPARATION PHASE: I must say, I crafted the most exquisite and kid-friendly big boy room designed to convince my son that sleeping in his own bed was way cooler than any other place in the house. I’m talking rotating stars projecting onto the ceiling, soothing music, a color changing nightlight, and a light-up MOON that cycles through its phases! Seriously, look up “Moon in My Room.” It’s cool. After it was done, even I was a little envious.

toddler sleeping“WINGING IT” IMPLEMENATION PHASE: But my toddler? Nooooo! He had about zero percent interest in sleeping alone in his big boy bed. An assertive and loud zero percent worth of interest. The moon helped for about five minutes, but after that no amount of pleading, negotiation, or sorry attempts at bribery seemed to work. That first week I ended up spending anywhere from 60-90 minutes laying with my son, playing dead like a possum until he finally passed out and I quietly snuck out of his room. Not sustainable. 

PROBLEM-SOLVING PHASE: I crowdsourced the question on social media and got a plethora of helpful responses. That said, it sounds like different methods fit different kids. But after much consideration, we decided to go with the Super Nanny-type “Night of a Thousand Walks” method with some alterations. Using this method, you essentially tuck your kiddo in and let him know that after this if he gets out of bed it will result in you bringing him back without further interaction. Again . . . and again . . . and again. No speaking. No eye contact. No reinforcement of any kind. {Okay, so we kind of altered that no reinforcement part because we recognized that he was understandably a bit unsure and insecure with this newfound freedom. So we did give him a little squeeze and kiss every time we walked him back — and I think this really helped!}

Toddler reading himself to sleep #amidreaming? (and yes, my kids sleep hot)

INFORMED IMPLEMENTATION PHASENight 1: May I recommend starting on a night when you’re well rested? It’s going to be a long night. SEVENTY TWO walks back to bed — 72! I’m pretty sure he cycled through just about every toddler-brained scheme for changing our minds. The most creative was singing, “Do you want to build a snowman?” from inside his bedroom door. It didn’t work on Elsa and it sure as heck wasn’t going to work on this mama, but it was pretty adorable. We stood outside his door with the video monitor for a good hour or more  repeatedly tucking him back in and eventually, perhaps by force of sheer exhaustion, he lost his resolve and fell asleep.

Night 2: SEVEN walks! Say what?!? Miracles exist. But he had swimming lessons, I thought. He’s exhausted, I thought. Surely his attempt rate didn’t drop by more than 10 times overnight! I assure you, it did. 

Night 3: EIGHT walks. Lots of squirming and a vested attempt to convince me to bring him some applesauce, but we didn’t even make it into double digits.

Night 4: “Goodnight Mommy, see you in the morning.” THREE walks. That’s all, three. The last was, “Mommy can you turn on my moon? We can’t forget my moon.” Fair point. Sure buddy, we can turn on the moon. 

CONCLUSION: So worth it. I’m not giving up my business idea, but at least we were able to take back our evenings, and quickly. And every morning when our kiddo exclaims, “I did it! I slept in my big boy bed!” we feel pretty darn proud.

RECOMMENDATIONS: I’m going to have to give this method my Mom Stamp of Approval. Whatever method works for you, I’m here to lend some hope from a big kid bed convert! Is switching to a big kid bed terrifying? Kind of . . . the anticipation is for sure. Is it possible? Absolutely, with some effort. And a moon.  

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Graduate school brought Laura from her beloved home state of Colorado to Texas (hard to beat the Rocky Mountains!), and meeting her beloved husband Jonathan convinced her to settle here. Now the two are overjoyed and exhausted parents to sweet Christopher (2015) and a little girl on the way (2017). In addition to her role as a mama, she also works full time as a clinical psychologist working with military veterans who continue to amaze her with their strength and humor. When she’s not busy juggling career and parenthood, you can find her cycling, enjoying local culture (and food!), baking, “hiking,” and embracing her love of travel.

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