Since the day baby boy #2 moved into the same bedroom as his big brother, my husband and I have dreaded the future move to big boy bed. The dread was there for several reasons. 1. My little Teddy Bear is a busy, noisy guy. 2. He has to fall asleep alone. 3. He takes FOREVER to fall asleep. Before last night, our bedtime routine consisted of both boys getting jammies on and brushing teeth together, then Teddy Bear and I would huff it up stairs to read books, rock, sing, and snuggle one on one, while Mr. Skinks and daddy picked either read a book or a show to watch together. Once the above mentioned steps were complete, I would put Teddy in his crib and join the other two downstairs.
While finishing up the show with my bigger boys, I would listen to the little one talking to himself through the monitor. When the show/book pile was complete, Liam and Joe would head upstairs, Liam would lay down, and Nolan would jabber on for who-knows how long. Usually, Liam would fall asleep quickly and eventually Nolan would too. See my problem?
How would I deal with a boy who has never liked help to sleep, is busy, knows how to open doors, likes to talk, and takes a very, very long time to go to sleep? We needed a game plan, because we were sure that this transition would not be as easy as it was with his big brother. However, since we were so successful the first time around, we decided to use several of the same tips, as discussed in the post Big Boy Bed Tips.
We did have to adjust several of the tips to fit the new situation, but they still seemed to come in pretty handy. Here is how we modified them this time around:
*Talk about the move before doing it: We did this, however on a much shorter timeline than with Liam. Since Nolan learned how to climb out of his bed, seemingly in one day, we had to rush this a bit. We did talk about it the whole day of the move though, especially at nap time (which was his last sleep in the crib).
*Let them pick out new bedding: We had just purchased new bedding a couple of weeks ago, so we didn't do this specifically for boy #2, but he did pick out his new sheets when we got them and we transferred his usual bedding to the new bed.
*Have them help with the assembly process: Again, we had to make some changes as Nolan moved into Liam's toddler bed, and Nolan's crib was converted into a daybed for Liam to sleep in. We did have both boys help with the deconstruction of the crib though. They loved helping daddy!
*Keep the crib in plain sight: As the crib has become Liam's new bed, this was an easy tip to fulfill. It's still right where it has always been.
*Don't go back: So far, so good! We learned the first time around, that you should not go back from making the switch. It makes it difficult for the little one to get comfy in their new surroundings and just prolongs the transitional period. This is a tip we will follow this time too.
*Be consistent: This pertains to how you redirect. Before making the switch, my husband and I sat down to discuss how we would get him back to his bed, if he tried to get up. Being on the same page, and having the same reaction to the situation is pretty helpful. We agreed on a course of action and are consistently dealing with it the same way, every time.
*Thing ahead: We had to do this even more so, than we did with Liam. Nolan is adventurous by nature and has no fear. This made preparing the room for more freedom a bit more complicated. When Liam moved to the big boy bed, we made sure distractions were minimal, but mainly focused on making sure that the room would be safe for him to wander alone. Knowing that Nolan would probably take his new-found independence to a new level, we practically cleaned out the room. The only things remaining were the beds and a dresser that has been bolted to the wall.
*Follow the same routine: We did this as best we could, but we did make a couple of tweaks. We still put on pjs and brushed teeth together, but now Nolan and I read books while he lays in bed, then I gently rock him in bed (more on this below) until Joe and Liam come up or he falls asleep, which ever comes first.
*Be positive: We did our best to make the switch fun and exciting for both boys. It was especially helpful to have big brother on board. As I would assume with most siblings, Nolan looks up to his big brother more than anyone else, so if Liam is excited for the change, so is Nolan.
Now for my additions:
*Help them as little as possible: This looks different for different children. For example, with my oldest, we literally put him to bed and walked out of the room. This worked well with him and he learned to put himself to sleep. However for my youngest, this won't do. If left to his own devices, he will be up until the wee-hours. Instead, I have tired a couple of strategies, listed below. The point of this tip is that you should be doing as little as possible. The sooner they put themselves to bed, the better.
-Rocking in bed: If you have a little mover on your hands too, gently rocking them while they lay in bed is especially helpful. Put one hand on the small of their back, then slowly rock them back and forth. The pressure from your hand will give them comfort as they fall asleep, while the rocking motion helps to reduce distractions as it makes it difficult for them to focus on other things. I also realized that not giving them eye contact during this time, speeds up the process. You want them to essentially, forget that you are there so they can drift off to sleep. Once they close their eyes, slowly stop rocking. If they don't open their eyes, slowly reduce the pressure on their back, until you are able to get up and leave the room.
-Play dead: For some kids, just having you in their room will help them to stay in bed and relax enough to sleep. Lay by the bed (not in it) and pretend to be asleep. If you need to redirect, do it non-verbally. Cause as little distraction as possible.
*More consistency: Above I discussed being consistant with redirects. You also need to be consistent with how you help your child get to sleep. Obviously, if something is not working, you will need to try something else. However, don't do this too often and try not to make changes while in the midst of helping. Changing your plan, while it's in motion, can make it difficult for the child to know what your expectations are. It's also a welcomed distraction from the goal- sleep.
*Switch the beds, but bring the mattress: Liam and Nolan switched beds so that they each got the "I'm growing up" feeling, however Nolan took his mattress to the toddler bed and Liam took his to the daybed (converted crib). This is important as mattresses shape themselves to the person laying on them and with all of the changes your kiddos are going through, you want them to feel as comfortable as possible.
*Reduce distractions: This may seem like a no-brainier, but things that would usually not bother your kids in a normal scenario, may be just the distraction they need to stay awake when trying out a new bed. Because of the all the new things associated with this transition, a child's senses are heightened, so the slightly wet diaper, the not-quite full tummy, the music that is a smidgen too loud, or the neighborhood boy playing basketball in the street can be all it takes to ruin a perfectly good rest.
*Enlist the help of the older sibling: As I stated earlier, when big brother/sister is excited, so is the little one. This philosophy will also work when it comes to "monkey see, monkey do". If the older sibling lays down quietly right away, it is more likely that the little one will as well. Ask the big boy/girl to be your helper and praise them for doing well. Make sure that any expectations you have of them are doable and clear before sending them into the lion's den.
*Remember this is a transition for both siblings: Be patient and clear with both children. Also, make it a happy experience for both. Don't let the older sibling feel as though it is all about the younger one. They need to feel appreciated and responsible for their actions as well.
After about 30 minutes of back rubs and snuggles, I left my boys to fend for themselves and here is what I found 10 minutes later. Here's hoping for a repeat this evening!
As with my first set of big bed transition tips, take what you can use and ignore the rest. YOU know your child better than anyone. If something doesn't sound like it will work for you/them, use your best judgement. The move from crib to big boy/girl bed can be stressful and frustrating for everyone involved. No need to add to it.
I will update this post to let you know how things are going in the next week or so. I will also add new ideas, if any come to mind. Please share your experiences with these tips and any ideas you have. I hope there is a great deal of rest in your future!