I’m not going to lie, I was completely petrified by the idea of moving my toddler from a cot to a bed. No longer would he be confined by those four railing sides. No longer could I be sure that he wasn’t getting into the nappy rash cream (yes he’s done that before). Would I be continually getting up to put him back in bed for the next umpteen nights? I had the most vivid imaginations of weeks and weeks of no sleep and crankiness. But it needed to happen. My baby was becoming a “big boy”.
When he was 18 months old, he had climbed up the rails of the cot, in a fit of anti-sleep rage, and fallen with a huge thump onto the ground. Thankfully I wasn’t home at the time because I would’ve had a heart attack, but poor hubby had to deal with a very shocked and distraught little boy. There is some debate over whether to move straight into a grown up single bed, or use a toddler bed. For us the decision was easy. We didn’t have much money to buy a toddler bed, his brother needed the cot (which can become a toddler bed) and we had been given a single bed for free. So the next weekend we bought a new mattress, pillow, doona and all the frills to redecorate my childhood bed. We set it up in his room next to his cot but didn’t make a big fuss. It just became part of the furniture, it was normal. We sometimes read stories on the bed and (to my horror) his dad played “jumping on the bed” (probably not a wise move). We didn’t try moving his sleeping to the bed, mostly because I was too scared of the consequences and he didnt try and climb out of the cot again. But the time to transition was rapidly approaching.
When the time came, there had been a few reasons for my renewed motivation. Firstly, his 6 week old baby brother was rapidly growing out of the cradle and would need to use the cot soon. I wanted to transition him now so that he could have time to adjust and wouldn’t think we were giving his sleeping space to his brother, who was already taking so much from him (namely, his mummy’s time and attention). Secondly, the night before we took the plunge, he got his leg stuck in two different cot railings at the same time and woke up screaming. It was definitely time.
There was another reason I was apprehensive though. A few weeks earlier my little boy had sat in the bed, pulled up the covers and said “bed sleep now”. So, naively and with no preparation whatsoever, we said ok and did the normal, read a story, sing a goodnight song, bedtime routine but this time kissed him goodnight and left him in the bed. It did not end well. Five minutes later he was hysterically screaming and bashing against the door. He was inconsolable and only after giving him a bottle of milk and cuddle in the lounge room for half an hour, could we put him back to sleep… In the cot of course.
I think this attempt failed for a few reasons. For starters we hadn’t prepared ourselves or our toddler at all. We had just tried to be casual and go with the flow, especially since he showed interest without prompting. I now realise we also made one big mistake. He had been used to sleeping with the door shut, in the dark. With his new found freedom and new surroundings, he was undoubtedly scared in the dark. He needed a night light. An easy fix, yet so easily overlooked by us silly grownups.
So with my mind made up and steely determination on my side, we commenced our journey into this new stage of our toddler’s life. This time we were prepared. For about three days prior to transitioning him into the bed, at every sleep time, we talked to him about how “big boys” sleep in “big boy beds” and in a few days he will be so lucky because he will start sleeping in the “big boy bed”. On the day he first slept in the bed, we tried to make him as tired as possible. We ended up having a picnic with extended family and getting home after his normal bedtime so we had to skip most of the normal bedtime routine. In hindsight this probably wasn’t a great idea but it luckily worked for us. As we drove home we spoke to him about his normal routine and how tonight he was going to sleep in his “big boy bed”. The conversation was simple, it went like this: “When we get home, we’re not going to have a bath and we’re only going to read one story because it’s very late. We’ll get you into your pyjamas and guess what? You’re going to sleep in your “big boy bed, isn’t that exciting”. We did just that, making sure to leave a nightlight on and sing his normal bedtime song. Then with a kiss on the head, a bottle of milk (his most treasured and only real vice) and cup of water, we left the room. We didn’t even hear a peep. He was so tired he just passed out.
He only woke once during the night. I think it was probably when he normally stirs anyway but not surrounded by the familiarity of the cot, he was not able to put himself back to sleep. I refilled his milk bottle at his request (I know, I know, “you shouldn’t give anything but water after they’ve brushed their teeth and gone to bed” but I’ll fight that battle when he’s used to his new bed), gave him a quick, rocking cuddle then put him to bed again and left the room. Success again, straight back to sleep. He woke earlier than usual but I didn’t try and put him back to sleep because he woke up happy. I put a playschool dvd on and gave him a cuddle, praising him for being such a good boy sleeping in his new “big boy bed”. This routine continued for about 5 days before he didn’t wake in the middle of the night. Pretty good really.
We’ve had a few technical hitches with the night light. Firstly it uses 2 AA batteries per night, so I bought some blue plug-in fairy lights, thinking they would give a nice soft twinkle. How wrong I was. They were so fluro neon blue that they gave me a headache and looked like the anti-drug lights in the bathroom at some train stations. Needless to say (haha, stupid saying) we used them for one very broken nights sleep because of frequent waking and reverted back to the unobtrusive battery powered nightlight. Hubby had a lightbulb moment (pun intended) and started using rechargeable batteries. I think I’ll still invest in an electrical nightlight but just haven’t found the right one yet.
Overall a pretty painless experience. I really shouldn’t have worried. I don’t know if I’m just lucky and have a pretty easy going kid, or if it was helped by the fact that he was “ready” (whatever that means) but I hope my experience can help others who are contemplating the inevitable task of transitioning their toddler from a cot to a “big bed”.