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Lessons in Parenting
From Crib To Bed
Published on July 1, 2013 by guest author: J LeBlanc

After becoming pregnant with my second child, I began to wonder if I should move my son to a toddler bed and use his crib for the new baby. “Do it when he’s ready,” advised most of the people I asked. But how to know? The concept of a “big boy bed” didn’t mean anything to him and he was not yet at an age to be aware of where his peers slept, or to care.       

In any case, I knew I wasn’t ready. He’d only graduated to his own room at eighteen months, when I’d first become pregnant — I didn’t want to push him too fast and I wanted (especially in the midst of first trimester fatigue) to get some decent sleep myself. However, soon after this transition, my husband informed me he’d seen our son put his foot on the top of the crib rail. I panicked. Cooler weather was setting in, so I decided to put him in a sleep sack, which we had never used before. This would serve the dual purpose of discouraging him from climbing out and keeping him from kicking the blankets off now that we would no longer be inches away to replace them.       

The sleep sack worked. It allowed me to put off dealing with the transition to a toddler bed for several months, getting me through pregnancy and the newborn period with my second child. He could have climbed out of his crib during this time if he had wanted to; he was certainly tall and agile enough and he demonstrated for us that he could get the sleep sack off quite easily. I think he chose not to because the crib felt safe to him — the rails imposed a limit that he wasn’t mature enough to set for himself and helped him relax into sleep. Not always right away — he would often sing or talk to himself or play with his stuffed animals before drifting off. Often, he didn’t even want to get out of the crib at the end of a nap, preferring to engage in more of this play and hand me one of his animals saying, “I want Mama to have this one,” and waiting expectantly for me to begin a conversation with the animal he was holding. If I tried to take him out before he was ready, he would throw himself down flat in protest, making it virtually impossible for me to lift him out.   

Recently, however, the return of warm weather had induced me to abandon the sleep sack. During a weekend naptime, as I was just about to take a nap myself, I heard a rattling at the door to his room and talking. I opened the door and he was there to greet me, announcing, “I get out of the crib!”     

“We have a situation,” I informed my husband, and together we listened, trying to suppress amused smiles, as he re-enacted his escape for us, narrating, “I put my arm like this and I get out of the crib!”     

That evening, I installed a sliding door lock on his closet and threw everything problematic (toys, the diaper pail) inside while my husband converted his crib to a toddler bed. “It has no sides,” my son said bemusedly, when we introduced him to his new bed. He then proceeded to climb onto it and jump off repeatedly.     

Because he hadn’t had a nap and because our room preparations meant he went to bed late, he fell asleep almost immediately upon being put to bed. We crossed our fingers, hoping our luck would hold, but a couple of hours later as we were going to bed ourselves, he began to wail. We tried to get him to tell us if it was the new bed or his teeth that was bothering him (he is also cutting two year molars), but he answered with only more hysterical crying. Finally, we let him sleep in “the big bed” with us and the baby — a last ditch resort that I am not eager to repeat, but which did seem to calm and soothe him, relatively. The next naptime was not much better — he began by rattling the doorknob and saying, “I want Mama,” for the first hour, then gave up and played with his animals for the second.       

Since then, things have gotten much better.  With the exception of some night wakings (due partially to anxiety over his new freedom and also to his being an energetic sleeper and falling out of bed), he has adapted to his new bed. The one exception was a terrible naptime near the end of the first week. He was off the walls and would not stay in bed, despite repeated time outs and putting him back into bed. I listened obsessively to the monitor for signs of what he might be up to, worried that he would use the window guards I’d installed to pull himself up onto the windowsill, which he did. Luckily, he is also in a phase where he narrates most everything he does; when I heard, “I climb up there!” I ran in and pulled him down. I will be sad when this phase ends, since it is as useful as it is amusing.    

I think the habits my son formed during the “sleep sack period” were invaluable in teaching him how to self soothe in a safe environment. Although he still periodically reminds us that “It has no sides!” his tone is now more matter-of-fact and less anxious. Next, we will be tackling potty training. Let’s hope I can at least get some sleep first. 

J LeBlanc is a former high school teacher who resides in Lebanon, N.H. She is currently taking a break from teaching to stay home with her toddler son and baby daughter.

Previous Posts By This Author: Pregnancy, Take Two

The Tough Job of Discipline

User Comments
Kate | July 23, 2013 20:22

Toddlers really are amusing! I love this phase! I agree that it's hard to know exactly when to switch from the crib to the bed. There's no special age or developmental sign except when they decide to climb out of the crib!

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