Toddler Beds & Weaning
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.
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.