The time creeps up faster for some than others where you as the parent have to decide – is it time to move from a crib to a toddler bed? The toddler bed transition is one of the most anxious transitions for parents!
The opinion from one family to the next about the right time will always differ so I ask you to look at your toddler and ask yourself?
Do I think my toddler is ready?
Am I ready as a parent to commit?
If both of your answers were yes then when to transition to a toddler bed is now! You are ready and you feel confident your toddler is ready then switching from a cot to a bed shouldn’t be something to fear.
I know my 20 month old daughter was ready when we returned from a week holiday. I was 20 weeks pregnant and she was going backwards with her sleep. A leap I put it down to or teething or change. I made an excuse for it all before I questioned perhaps she just doesn’t like the cot anymore? Perhaps my little baby is truly and independent toddler and wants the opportunity to be treated like a big girl with a big girl bed!
It didn’t matter that a friend moved her daughter at age three and swears on doing it no earlier or that a friend moved her baby at 14 months of age and had no issues. There children were different to mine and I had to just trust this was right for us.
For us, I knew I was ready and would prepare to move her at 20 months old when I found out I was pregnant a few months prior. I wanted to set our daughter Elle up to be as self sustainable as possible knowing I would soon have a newborn and a toddler.
Time to transition to a toddler bed
Before I tell you how we did it; I must be clear that we had Elle in a great sleep routine. She knew how to go to sleep independently in the cot (thanks to following Little One’s Sleep Program from the 4 month regression) and the only reason I changed her was because she was beginning to need my assistance for sleep in the cot. She began to reject going into her crib and it became a negative space for her. I felt this was the perfect opportunity to move the toddler from crib to bed.
As this was my first time being a toddler mum and engaging a transition that felt somewhat daunting based on the very many mixed online opinions I sought out the advice of a sleep teacher that you can check out by clicking here.
Together; we determined the routine below would be best which changed the habit of putting her in the cot and walking out of the room to instead laying in her bed together and reading one book we call her ‘bed time book’. We read this book three-five times before kissing her good night and letting her know it is bed time now and leaving the room.
Introducing a ‘bed time book’ made the process an easy transition!
We read her the book called ‘Follow Me Bedtime’ which you can check out here. I highly recommend it as it indicates bed time activities and winds her down. We have found this book to become an integrated part of bed time and over time she now happily reads it to herself after we leave the room falling asleep with it in her presence or waking in the mornings to reach for it and read it to herself until I am ready to wake up and come in to her room.
The first time we began the successful sleep in her big girl bed did not happen without first confusion from our toddler. As I left the room, she immediately followed me and proceeded to hit the door. I watch on the camera ensuring she was safe and allowed her to wait two minutes before returning to her room, walking with her back into her bed and standing beside her brushing her little head and telling her that it is bed time now and time for sleep. I said mummy and daddy are downstairs and we will see you in the morning. Spending no longer than two minutes in there I then kissed her goodnight and left the room.
I watched on the camera again and she got back out of bed and went to the door again to repeat. I was prepared by our sleep consultant this could happen and could be a few attempts and if I had to go in three times to then just resort to laying with her all the way to sleep as our aim was not to distress her or create distrust in her bedroom either.
As I prepared to wait for time to pass before I could go back in I then saw her run back into her bed and lay down. I was shocked and amazed! She then slept until 7am the next morning and after two weeks prior of her amazing 7pm-7am sleeps being very disrupted with frequent wakes and me constantly needing to settle her to sleep I was very impressed she slept until 7am.
The next night we had no issues with her going to bed. She didn’t get out of bed this time and she again slept right through and has every single night since we transitioned her to a big girl bed.
TODDLER BED TRANSITION ROUTINE
The best part for us has been the transition on family holidays has become more pleasant. We used to really dislike going away from home for holidays with our toddler because she did not like being put in a port-a-cot. I think she felt trapped. It was always a struggle and we would end up very tired on our holidays.
On our holidays now she sleeps in a ‘big girl bed’ too so we have continued to toddler bed transition and either utilise a mattress on the floor or their roller beds that are lower to the ground for her to sleep and keep the same routine with her bed time book, sound machine and the same cues ensuring once we finish the book we leave the room.
We had her mattress in the same bedroom as us during our holidays and it didn’t upset her sleep times. She would still sleep 7pm-7am with only two mornings having an earlier wake than usual which we didn’t mind!
If I can give one piece of advice as to whether it is the right time to transition your toddler to a bed then it is to just look at your toddler and ask yourself again. Do I think they are ready and am I ready to commit?
It doesn’t need to be scary or hard, just have yourself set up with the right knowledge, supportive people which may be a sleep consultant like it was in my case and prepare that it might not happen on night one but that soon it will be a distant memory.
If you come across road blocks or less than smoother moments which even occurred for us a few months later when our daughter learnt to open the door and thought it was safe to let herself out in the morning and go downstairs on her own while I was fast asleep (heart attack moment!) then just deal with them as they occur. We introduced a door latch to close her door more securely from the outside so she couldn’t just get out of her room when she wakes in the morning and after a week she stopped trying and now is back to sitting in her bed, reading a book or chatting to herself until I come in of a morning and we go downstairs all together.
I do try to keep an open communication with my toddler, although yet to be two years old I know that they are a lot smarter than we give them credit for sometimes and therefore always communicating what you are doing and why is important. For example ‘It isn’t safe to leave your room in the morning without mummy or daddy, you need to wait in bed until we come and get you’.
Whether transitioning at 18 months of age or three years old there will be no right or wrong. You just do what works for you mama.
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