The parenting path can feel like one transition after another, and some transitions can be a nightmare while others are a smooth as silk experience. Transitioning to a big kid bed is no exception. To make the transition as successful as possible, you need to decide if the timing is right, plan for implementing the change, and be available to support your little one for as long as the transition requires.
Timing for Transitioning Sleep Setup
Timing is one of the biggest keys to success when making any changes with your little one. When is it time to transition to a big bed? Believe it or not, it isn’t necessarily when your child says they want a big bed. In fact, that is often the worst time to make the transition because their request is usually at the exact time when many other developmental events are taking place. Many developments at once usually mean there will be bumpy nights and resistance. Therefore, it is best to try to avoid the “big changes” times for this reason.
The best timing is when you feel your little one will best listen to you. For example, what would happen if your little one was in a big bed and you expected her to stay there? Could she? If not, would she head back to her bed if you told her to go there? If she wakes up in the middle of the night, will she stay in bed and call for you or would she get up and wander out to look for you, or maybe even look for something fun to do?
If you think your little one will challenge you at every turn, your first step will need to be to wait for a time when cooperation is more the norm. Once you know you have cooperation in place, by all means get started with the plan.
How to Plan for Bed Transitions
How does one plan for such a big change? You do so by covering all the bases. For example, where will your little one sleep? What will they sleep on, a twin bed, a converted crib, a futon, or maybe in the family bed? Will they need to sleep in a room with a sibling? If yes, get both children ready for that change. Spend more and more time in the bedroom with them. Make comments about them sharing a room.
How will you provide the support they need? What is your plan if it takes them forever to fall asleep? Be well prepared for this potential, because it is likely it will take them a long time in the very beginning. What if you don’t see progress? Do you have a plan for that? Be sure you do!
There is no rule that says the change has to be made in one fell swoop. Taking your time is actually the best plan of all. Step one might be as simple, yet significant, as reading about sleeping in a big bed, or it might be for you and your little one to sleep in the new room together one night.
Once you figure out the timing and your plan for first steps, or more, you’ll need to figure out how best to support your little one. How does one provide support for such a big change? Usually the decision has to do with your parenting style, as well as your child’s expectations. Are they used to you being very close at all times? Are you happy to hold your little one’s hand and stay physically connected during this transition, or are you more inclined to encourage them and then let them do it on their own? Ideally, this change will mostly be all about them, but, not surprisingly, it will also have a great deal to do with you and what you are comfortable doing. Therefore, what works for you and what works for them must be figured out and built into the plan. Note: I have found that toddlers require more than a standard cry it out approach so it is usually best to avoid this as part of your plan. Get some help, if you need it.
Parents Need to Be Ready Too
While this process is mostly about your little one, let’s be real and recognize this is a big change for you as well. Your baby is transitioning from a crib to a big bed. That is a big change! It may actually only be a symbolic change, but symbolic changes can feel huge.
Therefore, take a moment to ask yourself if you are ready. If yes, then by all means make the change. If not, perhaps you wait a little bit longer while you find a way to mentally prepare yourself. It’s perfectly fine to need time to adjust to your baby growing up. Trust me, this won’t be the only time this may come up for you. Plus, as long as they fit in their crib comfortably, you are okay. Just don’t wait so long that they are bonking their head or cracking their feet on the rails.
Get Help With Sleep Transitions
If you feel you need some help with making this big change, seek it out. Ask a friend, read a book, hire a sleep consultant (make sure the consultant has plenty of experience with working with toddlers), or maybe use an online resource. Contact me to learn about how I can help you transition your baby, toddler, or young child into their next sleeping arrangement.
Measuring success is best done with a large dose of reality. The best approach is to have the attitude that little shifts in a positive direction are successes. Try not to push too hard or rush the process. Know that with the right timing, planning and support, your little one will be sleeping soundly in their big kid bed. Plus, thanks to all of your planning and patience, you’ll be sleeping soundly as well.
This post is adapted from a guest post originally written for Natural Resources in San Francisco, California.