The Crib to Toddler Bed Transition + Our Favorite Toddler Pillow!


*This process is going to be different for every parent and every child. This post is our personal experience of what we did with R and hopefully is helpful to you! 

A couple of months before J arrived, we started working with R on transitioning from a crib to a toddler bed. We pushed the issue mainly because we plan on R and J sharing a room at some point (right now he's in our room), and we wanted her to be used to sleeping in the bed before that happened; also we did not want to buy a second crib. However, I honestly have to say that I think it was too early. She was around 20 months old when we started, and I don't think she was totally ready. That said, we did it and I'm happy to say that after an initial rough start, she is doing well!

For some reason, most of the articles I could find online about moving a toddler from a crib to a bed (whether that’s a toddler size or a twin size) made it sound like a much more simple process than we experienced. Again, I’m sure part of that was due to R’s age, but it was still frustrating to keep reading posts like "And then we put her in the bed and she stayed and did great!" That is not what happened for us, so just know that if this is happening to you too, you aren't alone.

The first thing we did was move the bed into the nursery. My in-laws found the toddler bed at Goodwill for $50, and it fits perfectly in our shared nursery space. We wanted R to get familiar with the idea of a bed in her room before we introduced the concept of sleeping in it, so for a while it was just something she sat on occasionally, but she still slept full time in her crib for naps and bedtime.

The second thing we did was buy R a pillow. Until this point she had not been using a pillow at all, but I knew she would need one once she was in a bed! A friend recommended Little Sleepy Head pillows, which they bought because her son is sensitive to certain fabrics. The Little Sleepy Head pillows have hypoallergenic filling and are 100% cotton. They also have an organic option. All the pillows are made in the United States and are machine washable. (And trust me, I've washed and dried R's pillow a few times now and it's come out perfect every time!)

I got R a pillow and pink elephant pillowcase, and we loved it so much that I reached out to partner with Little Sleepy Head and share more about their products with you. They kindly sent me an organic toddler pillow, white cotton pillowcase, and gray alphabet cuddle case to try out. The cuddle cases are made with 100% polyester fabric and are suuuuuuper soft! I think this pillowcase will be perfect for wintertime. If you are in the market for a pillow for your little guy or gal, check out Little Sleepy Head!
After putting the bed in her room and getting her a pillow, we decided to move forward with attempting to transition to sleeping in the bed. The immediate problem was that she would not. lie. down. She kept crawling out and standing and jumping and just straight-up refused to have anything to do with lying down to sleep.

So we scratched it. We realized that we couldn’t force her to lie down and stay there, and sitting in her room for hours trying pat her to sleep didn’t appeal to either of us, so we continued putting her in the crib to sleep.

It was probably a few weeks later that we tried again. I normally do not rock her to sleep (I did that when she was a baby but never consistently because we wanted her to be able to fall asleep on her own), but one Saturday for nap time I rocked her until she fell asleep, and then instead of putting her in the crib, I put her in the bed. She slept for an hour or two before waking up, and we made a big deal about the fact that she’d slept in her big girl bed and we were so proud of her.

We still couldn’t get her to lie down on her own, but if I rocked her to sleep and then put her in bed, she had good success staying asleep. I felt like it was a step in the right direction because she was getting familiar with sleeping and waking up in the bed. After about a week, we decided we would give it another try to get her to lie down in bed and actually fall asleep.

Like I said earlier, so many people I’ve talked to or articles I’ve read about this act like their child either didn’t realize they even could get out of the bed or they actually listened when the parent told them not to get out and stayed in bed when they were told to. That was not our experience.

When she was in a crib, we would just close the door and let her cry it out for a bit. There are all sorts of opinions about CIO, but we personally are okay with it (within reason, of course), and most of the time she calms down and falls asleep within 5-10 minutes. Sometimes she’s still crying after that time, in which case one of us would go in and pat her, tell her we love her, and tell her it’s time for night-night.

In a bed, however, she would get out and stand at her bedroom door screaming “mama dada” and pounding on the door. When we first put her in bed, one of us would sit on the floor by her bed and pat her for a couple of minutes, and she would stay in bed, but she wanted to talk to us and play, and I think that us being in there was distracting to her. As soon as we left, she freaked out.

It took an hour or more and multiple times of going into the room and telling her to get back in bed before she finally fell asleep. We had no idea what to do to get her to stay in bed. It was very frustrating, and no one had any advice!

(I do want to be sure and add here that her cries were just because she wanted us in her room and were not because she was scared. You really can tell your kid's different cries, and I don't want it to sound like we listened to her cry out of fear and didn't do anything about it.)

So basically what we did is just follow the same routine night after night, and over time (we are talking a couple months) she started taking less and less time to fall asleep. We also did notice a difference after we let her cry it out at the door two nights in a row, which was super sad but I think necessary. She knew that if she pounded on the door and yelled, we would go in there, and once we stopped reacting so quickly, she slowly stopped doing that. Now she will knock on the door, but she hasn't pounded on it in a while.

That's what we did in a nutshell. Some nights are better than others, and we are just coming out of a pretty major sleep regression where she was waking up every couple of hours all night long. That was rough for everyone. Obviously she needed some time to adjust to the freedom of being able to get out of bed if she wanted to, and I don't know if doing anything differently than we did would have helped. Thankfully, she has been sleeping so well lately and not crying at all when we put her to bed!

I'm happy to answer any specific questions you have about the bed transition if there's anything that was unclear or something else you'd like to know about!

p.s. These next two pictures don't really have anything to do with sleeping, but I had to share. I was taking pictures of her in bed, and totally unprompted, she carried her pillow over to the rocking chair, climbed in with her book, and started reading to herself. And my bookworm heart melted over. The end.

*Check out Little Sleepy Head pillows here! We love them!
Torrie said...

When we put Raven's mattress on the floor to transition, we had similar issues, but now that her bed is up on its big twin frame, she's too nervous to try and get out on her own (just because it's a full size twin and not a toddler bed), plus we have a railing attached on one side of it, so it kind of feels like a crib to her, so she doesn't try and get out. But if R isn't afraid of heights or falling, that probably wouldn't have worked for you anyway! Sorry it was such a rough transition...we are one of those annoying ones without too much advice just because the whole process was pretty smooth, esp. once we moved her mattress up off the floor!

Here's hoping things continue to get better for you guys---

The Lady Okie said...

Her bed is off the ground, but apparently she doesn't care about that! haha. I wanted to share our experience because I could not find anyone who had our issues. Everyone was like you guys, and it was so annoying, but of course that's not your fault :) And my mom was like, Hmmm I don't know what to tell you... HELPFUL. lol. Thankfully she is doing better now. I really do think we started too early, and if it weren't for J, we wouldn't have done it, but I wanted her to be fully in a bed when he came so we didn't have to worry about transitioning later on.

Jes. said...

You are not alone! We got our foster daughter at 20 mo. and straight up put her in a toddler bed. The exact same thing happened with her as what happened with R. Unfortunately our daughter sleeps in the same room so letting her cry or just putting her back in bed ad naseum would not work. We tried for about a week but had to move her back to a crib because she kept biting Lizzy to get her attention. I hope when we upgrade her back to a bed it goes better.

Susannah said...

I'm so sorry the transition was hard for you guys! Thanks for sharing your experience! We were given a second crib while I was pregnant with Josiah so we have yet to move Caleb to a toddler bed and I'm more than ok with that. I feel like he wouldn't do well (maybe I'm underestimating him...) so he'll be in a crib until he figures out how to climb out or I'm having a third baby... Unless we're gifted a third crib, of course. ;-)

The Lady Okie said...

That's probably the best idea. She'll do it eventually. Can't have biting!

Sarah @ Sweet Miles said...

That last picture is the focus on her little toes. Perfection. We aren't planning on putting her in a bed until after her second birthday, and I'm hoping we can find a small twin bed so we don't have to switch her too many times, but we shall see! She sleeps on a mat or cot at school and is used to that, so in a perfect world it will be easy right? LOLzzz. JK, I'm sure it's going to be a HUGE undertaking haha. Good job mama!

Kari said...

Thanks for sharing your experience! Now that R's a little more used to the idea, does she stay in her bed, or does she just get out and start playing? Curious. Other Qs: Do you have a video monitor? Have you ever found her later asleep on her floor or somewhere other than her bed? We'll likely transition Ivy sometime in the next 6 months or so, and it's hard for me to envision how she'll react. I have a feeling, she'll just get out and play.

Jen said...

Thank you so much for sharing this! I've always wondered when the right time would be to transition E. Obviously she just turned a year old but it's still something I think about.

Jenny Evans said...

We just moved our 3-year-old out of the crib and into a bed. In his crib, he would look at books and then fall asleep for a few hours without any problem, so we just kept the routine the same for his bed. He lies there reading books but Does. Not. Sleep. He'll read in there for an hour and then say, "Can I come out?" "No, you have to go to sleep first." "I did!" Liar. At least he has an hour of quiet time a day, I guess.

AnneMarie said...

Oh wow, you guys are troopers! That sounds so stressful and exhausting. I'm glad that she's doing better with it. Also, that toddler bed is adorable, and those pictures of her with the book are super cute :)

The Lady Okie said...

She does stay in bed now and doesn't get out and play. The only thing really there is to "play" with in her room are books. HOWEVER, one night her baby doll got left on the floor, and in the morning it was in her bed, so clearly she got up and got it at some point lol.

We don't have a video monitor, but I would love one bc sometimes I'm dying to see what she's doing in there. We have never found her sleeping somewhere else! She's always been in her bed, so at least there's that! Once she falls asleep she usually stays there. (Unless she wakes up, in which case she walks to the door and knocks on it.)

The Lady Okie said...

I think you'll know when it's a good time! All kids are different :) We wouldn't have done it so soon if the baby weren't coming.

Laura Darling said...

I'm glad she is doing pretty well with the transition! She looks so big!

Beka @ Sunshine to the Square Inch said...

I'm glad R finally transitioned. That does not sound fun at all. I wonder why it is so hard for kids to transition?

Anna said...

We're going to transition Parker to a toddler bed in the next month or so and even though he's almost two and a hand I am so nervous. I'm not sure he's mature enough to stay in and I'm completely anticipating a few rough nights like you described. Thank you for sharing that it's not all rainbows and sunshine! I've been starting to feel like every other kid is such an easy treat.

What's R's sleep situation like at daycare? Is she in a crib there?

Amy @ A Desert Girl said...

Score on the cute toddler bed for an unbeatable price! Glad you snatched that up. And I'm glad that things are calming down and she's adjusting to the new bed and the transition, but goodness, it sounds like it was rough going for awhile. I'm sorry you had that experience. But! Light at the end of the tunnel and I bet J (and future kids) will transition easier because they'll want to be like their cool older siblings in a big kid bed! The first one was probably the hardest. :)

Rach said...

Whew, what a rough transition. I'm so glad she's in her big girl bed now, though! Good for you guys to stick it out!

Julie @ Just the Joy's said...

Those pillows are super cute. I just tossed full size pillows in with our kiddos. I never knew there were such things as little ones! I'm sorry your transition wasn't the greatest but I'm glad that it's been going well now! Hopefully the transition will be smooth once you add J to the room!