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5 tips for making the transition from crib to toddler bed! 5 tips for making the transition from crib to toddler bed!
With baby girl #2 arriving in just 10 days now, my husband and I are trying to sort through the list of to-do’s and... 5 tips for making the transition from crib to toddler bed!

With baby girl #2 arriving in just 10 days now, my husband and I are trying to sort through the list of to-do’s and we are trying to prepare ourselves as best possible for life with TWO!

Portia is nearly 26 months old now and there are so many ‘baby stages’ that I thought we would have phased out by now. She is still in diapers, still loves a warm bottle of milk before her nap and nighttime bedtime, and up until 10 days ago, she was still sleeping in her crib.

One thing I have learned as a parent is that every stage has to be accepted/welcomed when the time is right. Portia is just now displaying signs of being ready for potty-training, whereas some of my good friends had their wee ones using the big girl/big boy toilet at 18 months (or sooner!). While Portia is not yet on the big girl toilet, she IS now working on sleeping in her big girl bed! One milestone at a time, right?!

Switching Portia into a toddler bed, with 3 weeks to go until the new bundle of joy arrived no less, was a big decision for us. We have always been so lucky with Portia’s sleeping! From the beginning, she has loved her sleep and her naps (she still has a 3 hour nap in the afternoon!) but she has also always really loved her crib. Taking her out of her beloved crib and encouraging her to sleep in her new big girl bed has not been a seamless transition, to say the least. We have tried to ease her into the idea of her new bed, instead of ‘forcing’ it upon her, so these are the steps we took:

  1. Portia helped her daddy build her new bed a few weeks ago and we put it in her room for her to get used to, but we kept her in her crib for about a week still. We talked up the new big girl bed, had her show it to anyone who came over and tried to get her excited about this new stage she was entering.
  2. We took Portia to pick out her own special bed linens*, and after they were washed, we included her in getting the bed all set up with the new sheets. (*Portia was much more interested in a little pink stool she found in the store than with picking out her bed decor, so as much as we tried to let her make the decision, we ended up picking the two set we liked and asking her which one she liked best).
  3. Every day, the choice was given to Portia as to whether she would like to try her crib for a nap or nighttime sleep. She eventually went in the new big girl bed for a nap one day and slept for almost 3 hours, but when it came to nighttime bedtime that evening, the crib was was her sleep vehicle of choice.
  4. As Portia was not taking to her new bed as much as we had hoped, we figured that maybe she felt too ‘exposed’, so we took off the front panel of her crib and let her stay sleeping in her crib, but with that same feeling of openness (which came hand-in-hand with her ability to get out of her crib and come to mommy and daddy’s room whenever she pleased- and that was many many many times in the first few nights. I’d say 30-40 times before she finally tired and stayed sleeping in her 3-walled crib).
  5. The next thing we decided to do was remove her crib from her room entirely and hope she would ‘settle’ for her new big girl bed. Our thoughts at this point were that given the choice between crib and bed, it would only be natural that she choose what she is most comfortable with. So, we removed the crib and pushed her out of her comfort zone a little. She repaid us with over a week of sleepless nights! :)

Portia’s beloved crib


From the first night of no more crib in her room to today, it has been about 11 nights of us working on this transition. Translation: We haven’t slept through the night in 11 nights. (Actually, that is a lie. We did sleep 1 of those nights because we gave in and let Portia sleep in our bed with us. She slept for 12 hours straight and we got in a good 8 hours as well. Man, that felt good!)

I had resisted up until the other day, but I finally hit the www and started reading some articles about successfully making the crib to toddler bed transition. I have never been big into reading baby books and have always filtered unsolicited advice from other parents as much as possible, but Brian and I were now totally sleep deprived, and starting to feel slightly panicked that this was our chance to be getting good sleep before having a newborn again and we were completely exhausted instead.

With that all being said… we put together a plan that would work for us and that we hoped would finally allow Portia to make the big switch once and for all.

Here are my top 5 tips (that worked for us just last night! YAY!):

  • Invest in a sleep training clock such as the Gro Clock. At night you set it so that it turns from a blue star to a yellow sun when it is time to wakeup.
  • Start your bedtime routine up to an hour earlier! I know it sounds like a lot, but it allows time for your child to really chill out, for you to talk to them about sleeping in their bed and to let them know that you will see them when the sun comes out on their clock (if you are using the Gro Clock in your routine!).
  • Keep talking/engagement to a minimum. Portia has been singing, telling herself (and us) stories, making requests to eat, play, brush her teeth again and anything else she can think of to get out of going to bed. Both my husband and I are so quick to respond to her when she talks and asks questions. “Portia, it’s time to sleep now, not time to play.” “You just had your dinner Portia, now it’s time for bedtime.” “We already read our nighttime stories. Tomorrow we will read more books”. And on and on.
  • Stay in the room until your toddler settles and even until they are asleep. Depending on what works for you, this might mean laying in their bed with them, sitting in the doorway with a book for a while or sitting in a chair near your toddler’s bed.
  • Don’t give up and don’t give in. Keep bringing your toddler back into their room every time they leave their bed and try to resist the temptation of letting them get into your bed. (This is especially hard for us, because we LOVE cuddling and sleeping with Portia! It’s both mommy and daddy’s #1 weakness because it never used to happen!)

Portia’s new toddler bed


Guess what? We followed these 5 guidelines last night and Portia only got out of her bed twice! She also slept until 7:40 this morning which was a huge treat, as we were able to get in some extra zzz’s. Please keep in mind that I am FAR from a sleep expert, but I thought I would share what has worked for us in case one of these ideas (or all of them combined) also work for you!

Last night went like this:
I read to Portia in her bed. I told her to close her little eyes and I rubbed her back for a minute or so. I moved to a rocking chair in a corner of her room and assured her I was not going anywhere and would sit there until she fell asleep. After about maybe 5 minutes of Portia making her requests, telling her stories and not getting any response from me, she tired and just lay there cuddled up with her bear. Another 5 minutes went by and she was sound asleep! She slept until about 2am at which point I put her back into her bed and told her I would sit in the chair again until she fell asleep. At 4am when Portia came running into our room, Brian repeated the 2am routine and then she slept the rest of the night!

We have experienced many moments of frustration with this transition, but last night gave us some major hope, so we will continue to follow our plan and see how it goes.

Happy transitioning!

PS. Where to buy Gro Clock’s on the North Shore? We got ours at Jack & Lola, but I know they also carry them at Active Baby and through online purchase at Lusso Baby (for $10 cheaper-but there will be shipping & handling). On that note, what a great gift for a 1st birthday present! I am keeping this in mind 😉

Jessica Blumel

Nice to meet you! I'm Jessica a.k.a North Shore Mama. This site was born out of my love for my daughters and the desire to share my motherhood journey with fellow moms. I believe we're all in this craziness called 'parenthood' together and North Shore Mama is my way of reaching out to anyone who needs a laugh, a cry or dinner inspiration. Thank you so much for reading!

  • Lindsay

    February 15, 2013 #1 Author

    Great tips Jess! Sadie just transitioned to a big girl bed tonight – fingers crossed it goes as well as Portia’s did! :)


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