Friday, August 8, 2014

Moving on up... to a Big Boy Bed!

One of the decisions that comes with having a second baby so close to the first is whether you will invest in a second crib or transition the older child to a big kid bed.  We quickly decided on the second choice since Liam will have just turned 2 when our second son is born and the transition would be inevitable at some point a year or so after that.  We wanted to start the transition well before baby brother would arrive, but we decided to wait until after we had settled somewhat into our new house and Liam had adjusted to the new environment before springing more changes on him.

Meanwhile, I started searching for the "perfect big boy bed."  I read online articles and asked people I knew their opinions on twin vs toddler beds for almost 2 year olds.  This decision seemed a lot harder to me because both sides seemed to have pros and cons so I went back and forth on what was "best" for us.  On the one hand, a toddler bed seemed to be most crib-like.  In fact, Liam could keep the same mattress he was already using.  Many people said kids, especially younger ones like him, feel more secure because of the familiar mattress, size, and the close rails.  I liked that they are so low to the ground and have rails (though most of the rails seemed inadequate to me, leaving plenty of room to fall out).  We also really wanted his new bed to be something fun, which seemed to be something easily doable with a toddler bed.  I wanted this transition to be exciting and all about him being a "big boy" and nothing to do with little brother being on the way. As for the pros associated with a twin bed... we could buy a mattress that he could use possibly until his college days.  I also liked the thought of being able to cuddle before bedtime and read stories in his bed (I'm already dreading when we move the rocking chair out of his room). But I wanted all of the pros.  I didn't want to choose between the two.

I waited and waited.  Searched and searched.  Nothing felt right so I couldn't make up my mind.  Then one day, I was looking at a car bed and realized that it came in a twin-sized version.  The mattress could be lowered quite a bit, creating side rails all around.  Aha!  My "perfect" big boy bed.  It was fun and cute, low to the ground, had rails to keep him from falling out, had a long-term mattress size, and we could lay in the bed with him!  I even managed to find two on Craigslist, but one was sold.  That left one but the price was too high for us.  My husband haggled a bit then my mother-in-law and I went to see it that same day.  I fell in love even more when I saw it for the first time.  We couldn't wait to set it up the next day when my hubby was off work.

Immediately after we set up his bed.  He was so happy!
We spent his day off shopping for a mattress and bedding.  I loved seeing my husband so excited about the bed.  He actually picked the bedding (and therefore the theme for Liam's room).  When we set it up, my son went crazy with excitement.  He kept yelling "kai! kai! kai!".  (This is his word for car, one of his absolute favorite things.)

My hubby wanted to start trying to put him to bed in it that night so that he could be home on the first night (his firefighter schedule has 24 hour shifts).  Of course using the bed the same day you set it up is not the recommended method and I really understand why now.  I suggest leaving the new bed up and letting the child get used to it.  Despite Liam adoring his new bed and laying down in it immediately after we set it up and saying "night night" over and over, he was WAY too excited to sleep in it.  I've honestly never seen him so hyper.


We did our usual bedtime routine with reading in the rocking chair then listening to his bedtime song, and me singing to him (except I snuggled with him in the big bed for the last two parts).  But he could not settle down.  He jumped, he climbed, he stared into his night light pillow pet, he kicked the side of the bed, he pointed out things in the room and wiggled. I was very grateful we had decided to leave the crib in his room as well.  That first night, I moved him to his crib where he immediately fell asleep.

First night he fell asleep alone in his new bed
Parenting is often filled with trial and error.  And that is what happened with this transition.  Getting him to sleep in the big bed at night was my first goal.  He's always been a great night time sleeper but a horrible napper so it made sense to start with the easier transition first.  Each night I tried the same thing.  He would get calmer each day but as soon as I got up, he freaked out.  He'd climb out of bed and stand at his door sobbing.  The newness of the bed was just too much I guess.  He seemed scared to be alone in it, but he was too excited to fall asleep as long as I was in the bed with him. On the fifth night, his daddy cuddled with him in the bed for about an hour.  Daddy fell asleep.  But Liam fell asleep too!  A huge step forward!  After that, we had no trouble getting him to sleep alone in it at night.  Something in his brain must have clicked in place.  I'm not sure exactly why but that's all it took.  The next night and every night since then, he falls asleep alone in the car bed. We do our routine.  I lay with him a few minutes then I get up, tuck him in, tell him to have beautiful dreams, and I leave. He lays in bed and rubs the tie of his Michaelangelo pillow pet and falls asleep.

The next hurdle was getting him to sleep THROUGH the night.  The first night, he woke up at 2AM.  The hubs and I decided that for a while we would just put him in the crib if he woke up at night.  I wasn't keen on the idea of getting in his bed in the wee hours because I feel like a walking zombie and I know I would immediately fall asleep.  Just when we were thinking it might be time to lay him back in the car bed soon, he slept in it until 8:30AM one day.  And he's slept through the night in the car bed ever since then.  I guess he just had to get used to the new environment so he could be reassured when he opened his eyes and drift back to dreamland during those natural middle-of-the-night partial wakings that we all have.

The last and biggest hurdle was napping.  Like I said, he was never a good napper.  Not even when he was a tiny baby.  He pretty much never napped at daycare and when he was tiny, we had to use his swing or take him on a walk.  Since I've been home though, I've gotten him on a fairly good routine. It's not perfect since errands have run into nap time many a time, but nap time follows an hour or so after lunch.  He sometimes cries a bit or chatters but falls asleep well in his crib.  The big boy bed was just too much freedom though.  Without the confinement, he couldn't bring himself to lay down (which is what he needs to fall asleep).  He would get up and play in his room or chatter to me if I was laying with him.

One day I decided to try the method that worked at night.  I snuggled with him over an hour but to no avail.  (Some of the highlights of this mommy torture: me falling into stage 1 sleep about 50 times to be woken up by a jab or kick or wiggling, Liam picking his nose for the first time, kicking the bed, naming everything in the room including doors and stars, and my favorite was the headbutt he gave me that reduced him to sobbing from exhaustion and pain.)  I decided that this method could not work for me.  I was too frustrated and could not see the point in wearing myself out that much for a short break.

First nap in his car bed.
We switched gears (thankfully to a method that works).  I started reading Liam one story then laying him in the bed for nap time.  I had a talk with him each day informing him that he had 3 chances to sleep in the big boy bed (he very obviously prefers sleeping in the car).  If he got up a third time from his bed, he would be put in his crib.  Nap time would happen either way.  It was up to him to choose where he would sleep.  I stuck to my word.  No anger or frustration on my part just consistency (which is why I ditched the previous method...I couldn't meet this most important requirement).  It didn't work the first 3 days but I kept trying anyway.  It was at least a method I could deal with.  Nap time wasn't post-poned forever and I had a reasonable limit so I didn't feel frustrated beyond belief.

Today, it worked!  My big boy is sleeping in his car.  He stayed after the first warning and I am on cloud 9!  I've gone from being sad about this change to being quite ready for it.  Moving the crib out of his room and into his baby brother's is the final piece to completing his amazing Cars themed big boy room.  It is also the final touch needed for the nursery.  And we are close now.  I am one proud Mama.