10 Tips for Transitioning from Crib to Toddler Bed

Transitioning from crib to toddler bed

Preparing for baby number 2 means a whole new list of to-dos that weren’t part of my “preparing for baby” list the first time around. This time, a handful of tasks actually revolve around my first child, like her multiple eviction notices – from both her room and her crib. Her “nursery” was small. Much too small to act as her big girl room and accommodate a toddler bed. Plus, as the big sister, we felt she should have the bigger room rather than her new baby brother.

With this decision came multiple challenges. Will she think she’s being replaced? Will she see this as getting “kicked out?” After much research, we concluded that the best way to approach this change was to build excitement around it and shed a positive light on it.

We did not take this “eviction” lightly. We spent nearly 2 months preparing her for the big move. And, somehow, it worked.

10 Tips for Transitioning from Crib to Toddler Bed

Tips for Transitioning from Crib to Toddler Bed (in a new room)

1. Build excitement around the new room. Clear it out, paint the walls and set up the new bed a few weeks before the official move (make that the only thing in the room for the time being). We set up my daughter’s bed in her new room about a month before the big move. That month, each night at bedtime, we would go tuck in Minnie and her stuffed monkey in her new bed, then we’d continue her regular bedtime routine in her nursery with crib. We spent at least a few minutes each day in her big girl room playing on her toddler bed so she could get accustom to her new surroundings.

2. When it’s time to make the move, empty the old room to avoid any backtracking. The change will not only be visible, but will also prevent him/her from trying to revert back to sleeping in the crib. Don’t seal up the nursery as if it’s some danger zone, just don’t bring much attention to it. When my daughter would walk into what used to be her nursery, I would just say “This is where babies sleep. Your brother will sleep in here soon. It’s so nice of you to lend him your old crib.”

3. Focus on the new, not the old. Bring his or her current nursery theme over into the new room for familiarity – curtains, wall art, etc – but also get a few new things that make the new digs feel like home. We bought a big [AD] canvas bucket and filled it with her books (rather than use her bookshelf from her nursery since I’m terrified she’ll try to grab something in the middle of the night and it’ll topple over on her). She loves to grab the books of her choice before bedtime for me or my husband to read to her. This is a new opportunity for her and allows her a bit of independence as she is making the decision which book to read.

4. Keep the routine the same. We just transferred the bath, diaper, PJ, sound machine, book routine into the new room.

5. One change at a time. This is not the time to try to get rid of that pacifier or push potty training (although both of those are on our to-do list for the near future).

6. Place an extra mattress on the floor. It’s so tempting to just say, “forget it” and bring him or her in the bed with you. Go to them rather than letting them come to you. During the first few nights, I laid on that [AD] mattress for nearly an hour waiting for her to fall asleep. I wanted her to know that I was there so she would be comfortable in her new surroundings. After the first few nights, I would slowly make my way to the door. If she would pop her head up, I would just say “Mommy’s right here” in a calming voice. Then I would quietly open the door and sneak out.

7. Tend to the cries. My daughter was scared in the new surroundings, so when she would wake up in the middle of the night, I forgot about the cry-it-out method for at least a week and would jump out of bed to comfort her. This only happened for the first few nights, then she became comfortable sleeping through the night in her toddler bed.

8. Change lock around. Why bother buying a doorknob child-proofing devise when you can save a few bucks?  Rather, my brilliant husband had the idea to just switch the lock from the inside to the outside of her bedroom door just in case she decides she wants to go for a midnight stroll.

9. Watch for his or her cues for readiness. Just because a new baby is coming soon, don’t make the switch unless your child seems ready. For example, my daughter is an amazing sleeper (don’t be jealous because it wasn’t always that way). If she wasn’t sleeping through the night by now, we probably wouldn’t want to make the switch just yet. Remember, nothing is worse than pushing your child to do something he or she isn’t ready for. You can always get a bassinet, pack-n-play, or borrow a crib from a friend for the first few months of baby #2’s life.

10. Accept that the process will not happen overnight. Remember, the crib and his old room is all your child knows and he is mourning a loss. Let her grieve and allow her to go through the stages of loss – denial, anger, bargaining, sadness, and acceptance.

After we switched rooms, it took about 7 days for the crying to substantially decrease after we left the room. Now, almost a month later, she weeps for less than 5 seconds and then falls asleep.

These tips are not the end-all, be-all, but they worked for us and I hope that if you are going through something similar, maybe just one of them will work for you!

Disclaimer: I’m no early childhood expert. I’m just a mom who found the following things worked for transitioning my kid from her crib to her toddler bed.

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Ashley traded Prada for pacis in 2012 when she became a member of the elite club of motherhood. She is married to her high school sweetheart of nearly 15 years and together they have two toddlers - "Bear" and "Little Man." She spends her days as a marketing professional and nights writing this blog. In her [not so] spare time, she enjoys reading trashy tabloids, large glasses of buttery chardonnay, and shopping clearance racks.
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