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sleep, baby, sleep: in the big girl bed, please

Posted Sep 09 2009 10:14pm

What's a Baby Buncher's biggest challenge?  Sleep, apparently, as we've gotten yet ANOTHER reader question about sleep issues!  Here goes...this one's from Baby Buncher Kirsten - help out if you can!

Q:  We are about to transition our 23-month-old daughter from her crib to a bed so that we can move our 5-month-old son out of his mini crib into the much needed extra space of a big crib.  The big bed has been in her room for a while now because we attempted the transition back before the baby was born (yeah, not a good idea, apparently). I'm wondering what the best way to get her psyched up for the move into the bed would be and how to make the transition as smooth as possible for her. The other problem is that she's just starting preschool and already a little unnerved about that and I don't want to freak her out too much all at once.  If you or any of your other blog contributors have any advice it would be greatly appreciated!

A (from Cara):   In my mind, the "transition to the big girl/boy bed" question really has two parts:  1) safety and 2) security of the child.  When it comes to safety, you have two concerns - falling out of bed and leaving the room.  To address the falling out of bed concern, either temporarily forgo the bed frame and box spring and put the mattress on the floor (low to the ground) or invest in bed rails.  When I transitioned my kids, I pushed one side of the bed up against the wall and put a bed rail on the other side.  This creates a boxed-in, crib-like feeling that may actually address some of your concerns about her feeling secure enough to sleep in the bed.  To address the leaving the room part, put a baby gate across the door of her bedroom.  In case she does wake up in the middle of the night, this will keep her in one place until you can get to her.  Again - may help her feel more secure too, as it just turns the room into a really big playpen.  And always, always be sure that the room is thoroughly baby proofed, including bolting any large furniture items, such as dressers and bookcases, to the wall.  

So now how to get her to feel secure enough to make the transition?  My first suggestion would be to wait, if you can, until she has a week or two of preschool under her belt.  If she's anxious about that and since the start of school is upon you anyway, give her a couple of weeks to get settled and feel comfortable there if you can.  While you're waiting, really talk up the transition to the big girl bed.  I am not above a little bribery, and with my kids, I identified a "big kid activity" that they really wanted to do, but hadn't done yet.  Then I would tie that to the bed transition, potty training, etc.  For example - at age 2 1/2 my oldest was DESPERATE for a DustBuster (yeah - he's a little weird like that).  I told him that Dust busters were for grown-ups and he would have to be a big boy to use one.  Part of being a big boy is putting your pee pee in the potty (or sleeping in the big boy bed) and once he was able to show me he could act like a big boy, he could use the DustBuster with Mommy's help.  It took a few weeks, but worked like a charm.  Another suggestion is to start the transition during the day.  See if she will first take naps in the big girl bed, since they are of a shorter duration.  Once she gets used to naps, you can move towards the longer periods of sleep in the big girl bed.  Familiar items, such as a blanket, that could make the transition from the crib to big girl bed would help, as might a nightlight so she can see what's going on in her room.

My kids could not WAIT to be free of their cribs so they could wreak more unrestrained havoc, so I don't have first-hand experience with this. 

(from Linda) My kids were also anxious for the big boy/girl bed--well, my son more so than my daughter. We made it a big event, which also included a new comforter and room decor with the arrival of the new bed. My kids started out on an IKEA bed that sits 4 inches off the floor. On the first night of the big-kid bed, both my kids fell out of bed (we put a bunch of pillows on the floor) and after that it was fine. The gate for the room was critical with my oldest. He had just turned two and my daughter was about 8 months at the time, and I needed him to have a place that was safe for him to be in while I was dealing with her. We used a Kiddy Guard Gate and it was worth every cent we spent on it. My husband traveled/worked late so this helped doing the bedtime routine solo, too.

In the end with both kids, the transition went smoothly. I think it may be a bigger transition for us than for them. Saying goodbye to the crib is hard.

We'd love to hear from those of you that have successfully tackled a similar situation!

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