Friday, October 7, 2011

Big Boy Bed: How We Made the Transition from Co-Sleeping

Well, we did it. We finally bought a twin mattress for Buddy so we could get some real sleep wean him of co-sleeping (well, I guess the correct term is bed sharing). We also really needed to make this transition since I knew my hernia surgery was coming up, and I didn't want a painful punch to the stomach in the middle of the night. So, the time had come.

Let me fill you in on how we ended up going with co-sleeping to begin with. We've actually had Buddy in our bed full-time (naps and all night) since he was about 18 months old. It all started after I had given up on all the other modified "sleep training" methods I had tried and failed. At that time we lived in a one bedroom home and Buddy knew we were right across the room. How could we tell him he had to sleep on his own in his crib, but mommy and daddy got to sleep in the same bed? He's a major cuddle bug, and it just didn't seem right. Besides that, he had JUST figured out how to climb out of his crib and it was scaring the absolute daylights out of me since he wasn't careful about it. So, I said FORGET IT and went with my gut and began co-sleeping. I think what was holding me back from just co-sleeping earlier was the thought of what everyone else would think of having him sleep in our bed. Moms, go with your gut and do what's best for YOUR family (co-sleeping or not!). It was the best decision I could have ever made, and I no longer stressed over how horribly frustrating each night was at bedtime. It was no fun.

Now, 16 months later, our much larger, growing toddler that thrashes around through the night wasn't allowing any of us to get a decent night of sleep. A queen sized bed just isn't meant for 3 bodies. Buddy now communicates, listens, and understands a lot more and we just knew a transition needed to be made. It wasn't JUST the co-sleeping that has been getter harder, either. It's that Buddy wouldn't go to sleep without me right next to him. AND he takes forever to fall asleep. Some major changes clearly needed to happen for our family's sanity. Also, we moved to a two bedroom home in March, so Buddy now has his own room. We just had no bed in it...until about 5 weeks ago!

Yes, he's sleeping in his big boy bed!

Over the last few months, there are many little bed time habits and other things I've changed that have helped Buddy gain and learn independence to help make this transition successful. Maybe my experience will help some of you, but really, only YOU know what's best for your kiddo. Your child may be totally different, but here's what worked for us. 

#1: Although we still co-slept at night, I stopped laying next to Buddy during naps. Instead, I would sit in the living area (still in his sight), with the bedroom door open. I'd close it once he was asleep. This all occurred before we bought his own bed, so this was while naps were still in our bed. I had to constantly reassure him that "I'm right here!", but he was okay after a few days. (The hard part was for ME to not be tempted to crawl in bed and take nap too!) The other thing I taught him to do was come out to find me when he wakes up, and not call for me to come get him. I just stopped going to him, and catering to that very little tiny need and it helped him a lot.

#2: Less cuddling and interaction in bed. Before the transition, I made sure Buddy knew that beds are for sleeping, so I avoided silly stuff and any major cuddling once the lights were out. That all happened BEFORE we turned the lights out. I wanted him to learn that dark means sleeping instead of playing. Although this was a little sad for me, Buddy was fine with the distance I tried to put in place at bedtime during our final weeks leading up to the transition to his new bed. This has helped him calm down faster, and also fall asleep relatively quick at bedtime. Now that we're through with the big transition though, we don't worry about being super silly like normal again. :)

#3: Put the mattress on the floor. We have it on the floor for now, without a box spring or bed frame. Buddy can easily get in and out, and I don't have to deal with a bed rail or worry about him falling out and possibly getting injured.

#4: Simple bedding. This is something I thought would really help Buddy calm down and get to sleep faster. It's actually been a great decision. Before we started co-sleeping, I had recently changed his crib bedding to a "big boy" crib set with a comforter. It was ALL transportation vehicles and it was so distracting. He wouldn't go to sleep and instead, would sit up and check out his bedding forever. It was not a good choice! So, for his new twin bed I found some basic navy blue and white striped sheets, and a light reversible quilt that is navy on one side and light blue on the other. Both were on clearance at Target too! Simple, totally boy colors that will grow with him longer than a character/car themed set. Besides that, the quilt I found was soft and thin (Buddy's a hot sleeper), as opposed to the thick, scratchy sets you usually find in the kids bedding section.

#5: Dark room. I have drapes covering the window in Buddy's room to get it really dark. This was to encourage him to get to sleep faster, and sleep longer. This seems to be helping so far, especially when the sun comes up in the morning. He still stays asleep!

#6: This bed is SO cool! Talk it up. Make your child feel amazing and in control of it all. Tell him that you wish you could sleep in his new bed, and he'll get possessive of his new turf (so true for Buddy!). By doing this, they feel safe, confident, and more ready to take on this new-found responsibility of sleeping in a big boy bed.

#7: The first naps in the big boy bed. We're ready to start sleeping in the new bed! To make for an easy, smooth transition for us all, I started out with just naps in the new bed. The first couple naps, I laid down with him. Then, I sat in the rocking chair across the room for another few naps.

#8: Naps by himself. After a week, I began tucking Buddy into bed and walking out of the room. He didn't like this and told me to sit in the rocking chair at first. So I would try again, and tell him mommy needed to "work" on the computer, or clean something etc. He seemed to understand that I had a legitimate reason to not need to be in there with him. How exciting! He actually STAYS in bed and doesn't get up to play in his room or anything. I'm glad I don't have that problem at the moment! I'm absolutely shocked that he gets to sleep on his own without needing me. A little part of me is sad because he doesn't need me to get to sleep, but I'm so proud of my big boy!

#9: The first nights in the Big Boy Bed. The first night was easier than I thought. This was just 2 weeks after getting the new bed. I kept his door cracked a little, and did the same with the bathroom door across the hall, but kept the bathroom light on all night. We read our bedtime story, brushed our teeth like normal, and I tucked him into bed. It would have been smoother had he not remembered some silly, apparently traumatic occurrences (he lost his favorite car, etc). Otherwise, he was fine about sleeping by himself, just like the naps we started with. The rest is history!

We've had 3 weeks of successful, full nights without me in the room, or in his bed with him. I can hardly believe how smooth this transition has been. Somebody pinch me! I relaxed, calmed down, took it slow, and reassured Buddy everything is okay. And, it's working! Even better, he hasn't woken up in the night and been scared, or wanted to come into our bed TOO early in the morning. Although the big boy bed is now appropriate for our family, I will treasure those sweet moments of co-sleeping with him in our bed, forever and ever.

What helped you make the transition from co-sleeping or a crib to a big kid bed?


Anonymous said...

My son has never been one to enjoy co-sleeping. Sometimes I wish he would have, haha. There are days when I just want to cuddle him, but he tends to want his space. He is 20 months old and I've never had to rock him to sleep ... not even once. He has always just laid down with his binky and his blanky and gone right to sleep. Everyone tells me what a rare situation we have going on and that it's a blessing ... but I can't help but feel like I've missed out on some serious snuggle time. We haven't made the transition from crib to "big kid" bed yet, so I'll have to keep you posted when we finally do.

New follower from Her Little Mister; hope you'll visit me sometime at

LOVE your blog; have a great weekend!

YUMMommy said...

We have not made that transition yet. I think that we all still enjoy co-sleeping and will continue to do so for a while. However, I'm open to testing out putting a toddler bed in the master bedroom when we move to a bigger space and help Moo get started on transitioning.

Aubrie Williams said...

Way to go Ashley! I love your ideas on transitioning. I guess I'm lucky cuz my little one has always been so good about bedtime. We've had a couple nights where she has cried herself to sleep but she never figured out how to climb out of her crib. I coslept for the first 3 months but I would never have been able to continue past that. Even in hotels when we share a room, she's such a noisy sleeper, I hardly get any sleep at all. Thankfully, she has never had any major issues with sleeping in her own crib.

We made the transition to a big girl bed out of necessity about a month ago. Our house needed to be roofed and since our daughter's room is upstairs, I moved her to the full size bed in the guest room in the basement. I didn't have time to do the weeks of prepping that you did, but it went pretty well in spite. The bed is against a wall and I sorta fenced her in with pillows so she wouldn't roll onto the floor. The first couple of times, she woke up a little confused as to where she was, but she adjusted pretty well. Now she loves the room down there and I'm not looking forward to moving her back upstairs to a toddler bed. Haha... oh well.

Thanks for the great tips. I think the best thing you said was about going with your gut as a mom and doing what's best for your child and your family. It's not up to any other mom to determine what choices you make. I couldn't have co-slept with my daughter cuz it just didn't work for us... but that doesn't make it wrong for someone else... nor does it make my choice wrong. Every mother does what works for them and the rest of us need to just mind our own business and encourage other moms instead of judging. :) Keep up the great work. Your little Buddy has a wonderful mommy!