Transitioning to a Toddler Bed

Emme has typically been a pretty good night sleeper (naps have been another story). She sleeps 11-12 hours, goes down early and relatively easily, and sleeps through the night. We go through phases — some are harder, some are easier — but for about a year now, we’ve laid our little angel in her crib at 6:45 p.m., knowing that 9.9 times out of 10, she’ll sleep peacefully until 6:30 a.m.

Tips for Transitiong to the Toddler Bed

“Nigh nigh Mommy. Nigh nigh Daddy,” she says as we turn off the lights, exit her room, and smugly pat ourselves on the back for another easy, breezy toddler bedtime routine. 

Silly parents.

In August, our barely 2-year-old daughter changed her tune without warning. One night, after a typical bedtime routine at a normal time, we put her down in the crib, and she went ballistic. We calmed her down, and once her hysteria subsided into a mild whine, we made a move to leave the room.

The moment we walked away from the crib, she was hysterical again, begging us not to leave her. Then, she stood up, swung her leg over the crib railing, and hoisted her little body over it.

My husband grabbed her before she fell to the ground.

After three days of attempts to escape the crib, late bedtimes, and makeshift sleeping arrangements, we decided we had no choice but to move her out of the crib and transition to a toddler bed.

Now, I don’t know what we were thinking, but I, a longtime fan of Google who consults the Internet for basically everything, did not so much as type the words “transitioning to a toddler bed” into my browser. We just winged it. We took the mattress out of her crib, put it on the floor, and ta da! Transition to the toddler bed complete. Right?

It kind of seemed like it might be OK at first, until it wasn’t. We went about a week with 10 minutes of protest at bedtime before she would go down. But then, the hysteria started again—more tantrums, more begging mommy and daddy to stay in the room and sleep with her. We tried reasoning with her. We tried explaining to her the concept of being a big kid and the privilege of sleeping in a big kid bed. We tried staying in the room until she fell asleep. But it wasn’t working. This grand experiment was becoming a massive parenting fail.

So, I did what I should have done in the first place, and I searched “transitioning to the toddler bed.” I found this article most helpful, though I read similar advice in several places. Here are my two main takeaways:

  • Most toddlers aren’t ready to transition to the big kid bed until at least two-and-a-half (if not three or three-and-a-half). They have a better chance at “getting it” at that point, which makes sense to me — the cognitive differences I see between Emme and kids who are about six months older than her are pretty significant. She also doesn’t seem interested in being a “big girl” yet (my guess is that a toddler with an older sibling would probably feel differently). And I am A-OK with my baby not being my big girl at this point.
  • Just because a toddler climbs out of the crib doesn’t mean you have to immediately begin transitioning to the toddler bed. This little nugget of information is far less intuitive for me. I mean, truly, at the end of the day, what do you do if your kid can potentially get hurt launching themselves over a crib rail and falling four feet to the floor?

I don’t want to end up in the emergency room with my kid, but after another night of hysteria and refusal to stay in her bed, we decided to put her back in the crib (which I’ve read that you shouldn’t do, but oh well). She immediately seemed less upset, and though she halfheartedly put her leg on top of the rail, she quickly removed it and laid down.

Maybe she just felt more secure in the crib?

Since then, she’s been fine in her crib, but I sense we’re on borrowed time. The switch to the big kid bed is coming, and I’d like to be in front of it this time instead of scrambling.

The first thing I’d like to figure out is what kind of toddler bed we’re going to get. Putting the mattress on the floor was a stopgap; I want something more permanent so we can potentially have it in the room to talk about and get comfortable with before we make the change.

I’m considering three options for transitioning to the toddler bed:

Options for transitioning to a toddler bed

Option 1. Convert her crib.

Pros: We have a Pottery Barn crib and could order the conversion kit online. This seems like the easiest solution to the big kid bed and would probably ease the transition because it would be familiar to her.

Cons: Obviously, there wouldn’t be time to set up the bed and get used to it before Emme had to sleep in it. The switch would have to happen immediately. I also hate to the make the $129 (+ $20 shipping) investment for something that is temporary — potentially even more than a regular toddler bed would be if we decide to have another kid (maybe?) in the near-ish future.

Option 2. A toddler bed.

Pros: I like the idea of having my little girl in a toddler bed that is appropriately sized. The Uptown Toddler Bed from Land of Nod is attractive and low to the ground, which I think means she could sleep in it without guardrails.

Cons: I’m actually not thrilled with the idea of a toddler bed. It’s a $300+ investment for a short-term solution.

Option 3: Buy her a real big girl bed.

Pros: I love the HEMNES Daybed from Ikea. I searched the ‘net for daybed/trundle bed options, and this is by far my favorite. Not only is it reasonably priced at $299, but it also has storage, and you can pull out the trundle to fit a double-bed mattress. This would be a nice option for sleepovers with friends or if we needed extra room for an overnight guest. And the daybed is perfect for cuddling and reading before bedtime and naps. We would also have to buy a mattress for this bed, but this set up would easily work for a decade, if not longer.

Cons: It’s a big bed for a little girl, and Emme may not feel secure in it. Safety-wise, it’s higher off the ground, and the bed frame has an odd shape above the storage drawers, which could be a challenge when adding a guardrail (I actually have zero understanding of how guardrails work).

Right now, I’m torn between options 1 and 3. I think option 1 would be the least painful transition-wise, but option 3 will be a lasting solution. But, wanting option 3 might be more about what mommy prefers rather than what’s best for Emme at this point.

Any advice? Share your tips on transitioning to a toddler bed in the comments.

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