Winning the Toddler Bed Transition

Updated: Aug 4

It's been about a month since we transitioned Gideon to his big boy bed. He is doing AMAZING!! I want to share our experience and some details about making this a smooth transition. First of all, if you're wondering whether or not your child is ready for this transition, check out a previous post I have on that. Toddler Bed Ready?

As with most of my big decisions, I made this one on a whim. Gideon has been day-time potty-trained for almost a year now, but was still wearing a pull-up at night. We were at the end of the diaper box with enough left for about three nights. So, I either had to buy another box, or transition him to a big boy bed so that we could get rid of the night diapers. I wanted him to be able to get out of bed and go to the bathroom himself if he needed to.

I mentioned the choice to my husband, Evan, and he said, "Let's go for it!" If you've read my post on our potty-training experience, that will sound very familiar! So, we decided to take the plunge and switch him to a big boy bed AND get rid of his night diapers all at once. I assumed it would be a challenge and expected some accidents and bedtime battles, but I was pleasantly surprised!

The Set-up

First of all, let's talk about his bed. Some sleep consultants urge people away from using a crib that turns into a toddler bed by taking one side off. I whole-heartedly agree with this IF you are making the transition before age 3. A child simply doesn't understand invisible boundaries before that age. When you take the side off of the crib, a young toddler will think, "Cool, the side of my crib is gone!" instead of, "Cool, I'm in a big bed now." However, if you've waited as long as possible and you're child is at least 3 (which is 100% my recommendation), then I don't think using the transitional crib-bed is an issue.

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Gideon was 3 years plus 3 months when we made the transition. We let him help us take the side off and put the toddler rail on. We talked it up BIG TIME and made it sound so exciting! He was definitely excited and so proud to be in a new big boy bed.

Secondly, we also talked about being a big boy and not needing diapers anymore, even at night. He had no hesitation about it; he was ready. So was I...I was ready with pee pads...just in case. I got these really great stick-on disposable bed mats at Target for less than $10. These ones from Amazon are similar. You just peel and stick them onto the mattress in case of an accident. I put it under his sheet so he wasn't sleeping right on top of it. This was mostly meant to boost his confidence. I didn't want him knowing he was sleeping on a pee pad.

The Progress

It's now been a month since we made the big boy bed transtition and he's doing so well. There were a few minor hiccups, though. I assumed him wetting the bed would be one of them, but in a month, he has only had one accident. Let me tell you...those bed mats were well worth it! My husband, Evan, and I were able to get in and out of his room within five minutes and without waking Phoebe. Evan got Gideon changed into dry pajamas while I ripped the sheet and wet bed mat off the bed, and put new ones on. He went right back to sleep and hasn't had another accident since.

I was also expecting some issues at bedtime with him now being able to get out of bed on his own. This is VERY common; in fact, I have helped so many parents work through it with their little ones. Thankfully, Gideon didn't get out of bed much after we tucked him in, although I was ready with an arsenal of training methods if needed. We were very careful to nip any stalling and getting up before it got too big to bear. Sometimes with toddlers and young children, if you give them an inch, they will take a mile.

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The biggest hurdle we had to work through was mostly due to Gideon and Phoebe sharing a room. Gideon would wake up in the early morning needing to pee. So, we'd tell him to go and then get back in bed. However, Phoebe would also wake up during this exchange and begin yelling, "I wakey, Mama...out Mama...I wakey!!" She would yell that the entire time Gideon was in the bathroom. Then, when he'd come out, most mornings he also cried when we told him to go back to bed because it wasn't time to get up yet. We had quite a few mornings of both of them crying at 5-ish a.m. because they wanted to get up. They always fell back asleep, but I still knew I needed to find a solution.

Enter the Hatch Rest. I went out and bought a Hatch Rest mainly for the ok-to-wake function. The fact that you can control it from your phone was also pretty exciting. We set the Hatch to come on automatically at 7:25pm, five minutes before bedtime. It comes on red, and I keep it on very dim red the whole night. This is the only light in their room. Then, I have it set to automatically turn green at 7:00am.

We taught Gideon (and Phoebe by default), that if he wakes up and it is still red, then it is not time to get up yet. He's allowed to go to the bathroom and then must go back into bed. It took about a week before he caught on and stopped fussing. When he wanted to stay up, I'd ask, "Is your light red or green?" He'd see that it was red and know he needed to go get back into bed. He tried to argue here and there for the first week, but he let that go once he realized we were sticking to it! Phoebe is still a little young to fully grasp the concept, but even she is fussing less when Gideon gets up and leaves the room.

One final thing I want to mention about the Hatch...did I mention you can control it from your phone? One night after we put them to bed, I realized it was still a bit brighter than I wanted it to be. So, I was able to go out and make it dimmer from my phone. This morning, I was exercising and still needed to shower. It was almost 7:00am and I knew the light would be turning green soon. What did I do? I got on my phone and changed the time to 7:15am, then I jumped in the shower! A toddler lock can be set from your phone so that the buttons on the machine itself won't work while it's locked. That way, your child can't play with it when they should be sleeping! You can also control the sounds and volume on your phone, but I don't use those since we already have another sound machine we love.

Now, a month in, Gideon (and Phoebe) are both doing extremely well with this transition. He is so proud of himself and loves sleeping in his big boy bed. We usually say our prayers in the rocking chair, but lately, he's been wanting to say them while laying in his bed. He gets in it himself, covers himself up...okay, tears may be happening. My first baby is such a big boy now!

Quick Tips

To bring it all together, here is a quick glance of my main tips for winning the toddler bed transition:

  • Wait as long as possible, at least after age 3. If your child is younger than that and is climbing out of the crib, making it unsafe, try these tips before giving up and moving to a toddler bed. There are some other general tips for the toddler bed transition there as well.

  • If you are also transitioning out of night-diapers, use a disposable bed mat to keep the mattress safe and make for easy, quick changes at night.

  • Nip any stalling maneuvers in the bud before they become too big to bear.

  • Use an ok-to-wake clock, like the Hatch, to let your child know when he is allowed to get out of bed/out of his room and avoid earlier mornings.

  • If you have any issues with bedtime stalling, early mornings, or lots of night wakings...I can help! One of my custom sleep packages could help you solve any issues surrounding the toddler bed transition, as well as anything else that could be affecting your child's sleep.

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The toddler bed transition one is an exciting sign of growth and development for your child. However, it can come with its own challenges. Waiting as long as possible will help!

~Ashley, your pediatric sleep consultant

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