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Toddler Beds & Weaning

Toddler Beds & Weaning

By Amalah

Hi Amy! Congrats on the new house! We also just moved, so I remember all the feelings well.

I have scoured the archives (many times, for many things) but haven’t found something that quite fits this issue. My daughter is 22 mos and I am still rocking/ nursing her to sleep for nap and nighttime. Well, I was, until I decided that to continue on my weaning crusade I would cut her nursing short – after she stopped the initial forceful suck, give her her binky, rock her for a few mins more and put her in her crib. This was going ok, even well, to the point where she wouldn’t really cry or stand up. She’d just lay there and talk/sing/kick and then fall asleep. (At night, if she doesn’t fall asleep while rocking for nap she doesn’t nap.)

The problem is she has learned how to climb out of her crib. So now we’re feeling like we need to transition it to a toddler bed. (She fell on her face last night.) BUT how do I put her to bed not asleep in a bed she can just slide out of? It seems that even with the crib she can climb out of she’s more likely to stay in there, whereas if her toys are a few feet away and there’s no walls in between her and them she’ll just walk right out. For hours. She’s never been a good sleeper, she will still refuse to take a nap occasionally for two hours. I give up after that and I get really tired of watching the monitor to see if she’s climbing out, going back in there and laying her down.

The second problem with this is the weaning. I have tried just not nursing her and the binkies hit the roof. It’s another couple of hours of crying and screaming, she doesn’t want to be rocked, she doesn’t want her binky etc etc. So I’m left feeling that that is the one thing to calm her and sometimes, especially at nap time, put her to sleep. At the very least it’s not pissing her off so royally she screams for two hours.

I want to wean her, and I feel like she needs to have a toddler bed so she doesn’t break her arm. I’m just not sure how these two things can work together effectively.

Oh yeah, we’re going on a three week out of country vacation in three weeks.

Can I have my boobs back please?

So you’ve got two separate things going on here, and I would highly recommend you view them as two separate things. And handle them one thing at a time.

Transitioning to Toddler Bed

First, she needs a toddler bed immediately. I know it’s a pain in the ass, but a toddler who can climb out of a crib is a toddler on her way to a pretty nasty injury, so don’t wait any longer.

And you’re going to hate me for this, but I would demote weaning to the back burner while she transitions to her new bed. Or at least go at it very, very passively: the ol’ Don’t Offer, Don’t Refuse method of weaning. Stop offering her the boob, but DON’T refuse her when she explicitly wants or requests it. Which from the sound of it, is usually at nap and bedtime. So while I completely understand wanting to be DONE, I’d encourage you to rest easy in the fact that you CAN get her to (more or less) go to sleep happily with an assist from your boobs. Because otherwise, the transition to a toddler bed is pretty much universally as you described: Lots of climbing out on her end, lots of directing back into the bed on yours, over and over for many, many nights. Take the path of least resistance and DON’T mess with her pre-nap or pre-bedtime routine right now.

I also always recommend that parents be a little…flexible about the climbing out of the toddler bed. It’s going to happen. It’s not the end of the world. Make sure her room is super-extra-childproofed, move out whatever distractions you can (even just temporarily), but understand that she’s going to take advantage of her new-found wandering freedom and there’s no need to go apeshit bedtime dictator about it. If you have a video monitor, keep an eye on her. Give her a chance to return to bed on her own before heading in. Let her know she can get up for books or an extra toy but she needs to take it back into bed and playing on the floor is off-limits at nighttime. You can also try a sticker or incentive chart for staying in her Big Girl Bed and not getting out.

Be prepared for naps to suck. I just…yeah. I have no solution there. We actually kept our crib around for awhile after bedtime moved to the toddler bed because it was just easier, and I had a higher nap success rate there. But my boys weren’t climbing out (we usually made the transition for room real estate/sibling reasons), so I wouldn’t recommend you do that. Just downgrade “naptime” in the short term to “quiet time” while she learns to associate her new bed with sleep. You might need to move bedtime up earlier to accommodate both the 1) lack of naps, and 2) extended wandering/settling time before she actually falls asleep.

As for your upcoming vacation, making the transition to a bed now will probably be a good thing. She’ll have more new sleeping arrangements thrown at her soon enough. And I’ve found in hotel situations, having a kid who sleeps in a “real” bed and understands that she needs to stay in her “real” bed can make things easier.

Weaning

And now back to weaning, and my super-less-than-crowd-pleasing advice: The pre-sleep (nap and night) feedings are typically the very last feedings to go. So I would accept that you’re going to be dealing with them for a bit longer, but use them to your advantage to keep her sleep from going completely to hell, both with the bed transition and on your vacation. Stop offering any other feedings during the day (offer distractions), and then eliminate any feeding first thing in the morning. (Go straight from bed to the breakfast table, if you aren’t already.) DON’T REFUSE, though. If she falls and gets hurt and goes for your shirt for comfort? Fine. If the alternative to nursing at naptime is two hours of screaming? Oh helllll no. Let her nurse. This is the gentlest way to let weaning take its course, especially when she’s going through “other” transitions, like a new bed and an extended trip away from home. She might surprise you on vacation, by the way — my babies were always less interested in nursing when we were away or there was a lot of other fun stuff going on. Nursing sessions might get even shorter or be easier to skip entirely on their own. But if not, I’d wait on the weaning until after your trip, once the bed transition is showing signs of success and you’ve determined that she is capable of lying down and going to sleep like a somewhat reasonable human being.

Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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Janna
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Janna

I was stressed about my daughter weaning around the same time because it looked like she never would… but then right around her 2nd birthday she magically lost interest and weaned herself. She dropped from 2-5 times a day to 2-5 times a week and then by 25 months she was totally done. Hang in there!

Kim
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Kim

The nice thing about that for us what that my supply dwindled, too. So she could still nurse, but there wasnt as much of a pay off, and eventually it just wasn’t really worth it to her.

Frances
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Frances

When we moved my daughter to a toddler bed, we moved her toy box into the closet, and closed the door at nap and bedtime. We left books available, and she sleeps with lots of stuffed animals, so this felt like a good compromise. And honestly, she did get in and out of bed a bit, but as long as she was relatively quiet, we just let her do her thing. Playing by herself in the total darkness got old fast, and she always would up back in her bed for sleep. The only time I would intervene is if… Read more »

Lisa
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Lisa

Around the same age, we took a trip where my son was upset enough about the change of venue to fling himself out of the pack and play. And once he figured he could get out…done. I had to go to bed with him or sit in the room the entire trip. When we got home, he decided he could do the same thing with his crib. I actually had a crib tent on order, because NOOOOOO too soon. While we were waiting, one night after a couple frightening thunks, Daddy had a very stern scary Dad talk with him… Read more »

Isabel Kallman
Admin

Thanks for mentioning the clocks that help keep kids in bed longer. We did a whole review on these clocks here: https://alphamom.com/parenting/toddler-parenting/best-kids-clocks-to-stay-in-bed-longer/

Jeannie
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Jeannie

I would definitely second the opinion about one major change at a time. Deal with the toddler bed or the weaning, but not both. I’ve never had success with trying two big things like that at once!

Best of luck!

Trish
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Trish

What has worked for both my not-good sleeper daughter as well as my easy-going son after the bed transition: start off nursing, then gently say something like “it’s time to climb in bed like a big kid.” My daughter at 2 and a half actually suggested it. I was astounded. I gingerly suggested it to my son, never thought it would work twice, but it did! I still sit in the room until he falls asleep (cause I am a softie), but he (not weaned) no longer nurses down at night. He is in process of dropping his nap so… Read more »

Kerry
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Kerry

At 22 months old, my daughter was used to A) taking naps in our bed and B) having someone lie next to her until she fell asleep. And then her baby sister was born and we needed a new solution fast. We basically set up her bedroom as an empty room with a twin mattress on the floor with a few soft toys, shut the door, and then sat on the other side of it reassuring her that we were still there but that she needed to get in bed and go to sleep. The first couple of days she… Read more »

IrishCream
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IrishCream

My daughter transitioned to a toddler bed around 18 months; we wanted to make the switch before #2 was born, so she wouldn’t feel kicked out of her crib. Before the switch, we moved all toys out of her room–board books and stuffies only to minimize distractions and rowdy play. There were definitely naps and bedtimes where she played or wandered around the room a bit (plus the several months in which she happily slept on the floor next to her bed, WTF). But she either went to sleep eventually, or would get enough downtime to be restored. I think… Read more »

Allison
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Allison

So, I know this won’t work for everyone. (Nor will some parents be comfortable with it) but the only way we could keep our son in his room after he transitioned to a toddler bed was to put a childproof lock on the inside door. Serious, he was up until past 2 EVERY night coming out and messing around. Once he couldn’t get out, he went to sleep. So if it gets bad, know it is an option for sanity.

IrishCream
Guest
IrishCream

I second that! My daughter couldn’t open the door on her own when she first transitioned to a bed. When she got old enough to reach the doorknob, we had a few rough nights until we put the lock on. By the time she was out of diapers at night and needed to open the door on her own, she had outgrown the shenanigans (well, those particular shenanigans) and we removed the lock with no issues.

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[…] at Alphamom offers some brilliant toddler-bed transition advice. Namely, “she’s going to take advantage of her new-found wandering freedom and there’s no […]

Rebecca C
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Rebecca C

Really interested in seeing all these toddler bed transition tips! My little is 11 months, so she probably still has a bit, but we are moving to a new house in a couple months. When we do, we will buy her a twin bed for her own room. Right now bedshare and love it, but I like to be prepared!

Megan
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Megan

This happened to me just a month ago! My daughter was 25 months old and I didn’t know when the nursing to sleep would stop. One night she walked out of her room and said, “super easy jumping out of crib!” I put her back in there 50 times screaming and in the morning turned it into a toddler bed.  She was so interested in her new bed that she completely forgot about nursing.  With mixed emotions, I didn’t bring it up.  When she asked three days later to “have drinks” I said they were all done and she moved… Read more »

Autumn
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Autumn

My daughter figured out how to climb out of her crib at around 2, and I needed her in the crib a bit longer.  Husband was going to be traveling for work and I wasn’t really up for being the only one around for the first non-confined nights.  We were able to put her mattress on the floor wedged into the frame of the crib, so she wasn’t able to get her leg up high enough to get out.  Might buy you a night or two if you have the right type of crib to get everything else ready.  … Read more »

Jeanne
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Jeanne

I have a 22 month old whose hobby is nursing. We night weaned recently primarily by talking about it over a period of weeks. So when I’d put her down I’d say, “no drinks at night.” (But if she woke I’d still go in). Our bedtime stories would involve not nursing. I’d point out characters in books who were sleeping without crying or nursing. Pretty quickly she caught on.

So I guess my advice is don’t underestimate talk with toddlers.

Ali
Guest
Ali

For us, an invention called the “door monkey” (available via amazon) was amazing.  It keeps the kiddos’ door cracked, but they can’t open it all the way and escape.  My now 3 year old was constantly up when we transitioned him to a big bed, but the door monkey was a savior for us!

S
Guest
S

Cribs are definitely easiest for naps! Try a backwards sleep sack before giving up on the crib. Or even teach her to climb out of it safely. To keep the kid in the room (they sleep just as well on the floor, just aim for contained), use an owl ok-to-wake toy and a top-of-door lock. I do agree with the nursing. Once I started intentionally cutting back on nap/night boob without outright refusing (also at 22 months), all nursing was done within 2 months.

Bridget
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Bridget

Hey, my question! Thank you for answering and all the additional advice and comments. After she fell out of her crib I transitioned it to a toddler bed – but lo and behold during the move the railing was lost, so after i watched her get out on purpose a few times she finally layed down and I watched her roll out of bed accidentally and I lost my nerve. We have since a few stern talks, some from Daddy, about not climbing out which seems to have pretty much dealt with it, for now. I somehow cut out the… Read more »