We have been working on transitioning our 2-year-old (was 2 in July) to sleeping on the infant/toddler mattress (same one that was in the crib) on the floor. Although not completely unheard of, it is not the usual route. Here are the reasons why we chose this and why we are doing it at this time.
WHY MATTRESS ONLY?
1) Ethan was starting to climb ALL furniture, including his crib, mostly from the outside during the daytime, but he was able to scale it almost entirely from the outside, so naturally he could do it easily from the inside as well! Also, ours has a changing table connected providing a nice place from which to practice his Evel Knievel stunts!
2) We looked into using the transition toddler bed parts that came with his crib/changing table combo, but decided against it because it was still too high off the ground for our comfort (Also, I think the changing table would still be attached, thus the Evel Knievel platform would still be in place!). We still do not know if Ethan has spine/neck instability as some kids with Down Syndrome have, and we didn’t want to have something go wrong in our experimenting with transitioning to a bed. I don’t know that a fall from the toddler bed or any bed would really cause a problem; but since the only perk in our eyes to a toddler beds is they are possibly more aesthetically pleasing, we figured we would go with fall prevention. Also, he’s a shorty!
3)I like the idea of him being able to get in and out easily to go use the potty. Hopefully he will be able to do that before he outgrows his mattress.)
First, Ryan disassembled the crib during the day and we went ahead and put half a pool noodle (a cross-section since it was a pretty fat one) and stuffed it under the fitted sheet/mattress pad cover as I had seen suggested by Mommy blogs via Pinterest. (and a friend said it worked pretty well for them keeping their little boy still.) Also, Ryan did extra baby-proofing and vacuumed making sure little objects were off the ground since Ethan would have free reign of the place. We also removed his dresser as it was tall and unstable if drawers pulled on by tiny toddler hands. You can buy furniture straps, but we figured we could just add it to our furniture collection in our bedroom in our apartment. When you go from living in a house to an apartment, you get creative with your space! I’m glad Ryan took the crib apart early enough in the day that Ethan could play on his mattress and get used to the new look of his room without the crib. I think if we waited until bedtime to stick him in this now bigger-looking room and lie him on a mattress with no bars surrounding him, he would have taken MUCH longer to fall asleep.
The first night, it took about an hour for Ethan to fall asleep. I pretty much had to lie my head and shoulders on top of him so he would stay still.
I talked to others about their bed-training experiences and decided to try the mattress on the floor, patting him on his back at night then eventually letting him get himself to sleep as he has already been doing in his crib most nights. I thought about taking the pacifier away from the first night but when I saw how hard it was to get Ethan to just STAY on the bed at all the first night even WITH a pacifier in…I thought “okay, he can have it until
he gets used to this.”
NIGHT 1-The first night, it took about an hour for Ethan to fall asleep. I pretty much had to lie my head and shoulders on top of him so he would stay still. We had discussed taking turns sleeping in his room on an air mattress or floor since this was new to all of us and we weren’t sure how wildly Ethan would sleep etc. Turns out he DOES move quite a bit (even though the snoring is gone after the tonsillectomy-yay!) We had to put him back on the mattress several times.
FIRST WEEK EXPERIMENTATION-We later realized after people discussed how their kids were positioned on their beds/mattresses that we needed to put Ethan’s head in the corner (mattress was already there, so we just flipped him and added a piece of the pool noodle to foot of bed.) We also scooted his toy chest closer to his mattress so that would provide another barrier. We thought about adding a corner protector to the toychest corner (and I DID put a cloth diaper that is pretty well padded since its double inserts!) buuuut what can I say, it fell off at some point and it seemed to be fine so we didn’t bother with the corner protector for the time being. It was pretty high up there and he had a bit of space between he and the toychest anyhow. He’s a wild sleeper so anything can happen though I suppose. That’s why I thought of the corner protector!
The second night, we didn’t even put Ethan to bed-his grandparents (my parents) did. We randomly decided to go on a date night (which we don’t get to do much, so hey, don’t judge us for going right at the start of this bed training haha) It went great, though! My dad said he told Ethan “okay, time for bed!” and Ethan just walked to his bed and laid down, then was asleep 30 minutes later! Stinker, gave Mom the hard part the first night! haha I do think the novelty of the bed helps. He plays on it during the day. Maybe that helped, maybe it didn’t. He was also pretty tired that day and yes, during nap time he did have to lie down on the bed. It didn’t take as long as the first night. Each night the time to fall asleep was less and he didn’t fight it as much each night. Singing and patting his back or chest helped him and even at one week I still allowed him to have his pacifier because the training was progressing and I didn’t want to mess it up!
DAY 7-Without being told to go to bed, when the bedtime prayers and story were finished, Ethan toddled himself to his bed and laid down! Unfortunately, we had forgotten to brush his teeth but it still wasn’t too hard at this point to get him to settle in. During the week I had tried having him rub his own hair to fall asleep and I wanted to start being able to back out of the room or sit further away, but he still seemed to need close surveillance to stay in bed, if you will.
I got to thinking that the reason we are transitioning him is to keep him in a safer bed and it may not be all that necessary or realistic to expect that within a few days he would be able to have the maturity to remain on his bed, while awake, while falling asleep. I remember when I was in kindergarten I wouldn’t even stay still for nap time because I had appointed myself the class social butterfly I suppose. I visited anyone whose eyes were open. I don’t want Ethan to have my insomniac nature though, so I’m trying to not force anything and make falling asleep relaxing while not having him be too dependent. He is able to fall asleep on his own without crying, no doubt…he has done this almost every night for several months and did it often when he was younger too. When I started working fulltime, I think he was just too excited to see me to fall asleep with rocking every night so from about 10 months of age he has had LOTS of practice with falling asleep on his own. So the real trick here is maturity and routine to stay in the bed…
A perk of a mattress only is the extra playspace it provided! We do usually try to dress up the bed with stuffed animals and blankets. You could always add some wall stickers near the mattress…I think a little picket fence or 100 Acre Wood sign would be cute to go with his Winnie the Pooh theme. Some people do low hanging wall hangings for kid rooms but I wouldn’t consider that “babyproofed.” And I would get sick of putting art back up on the wall. That is why his Winnie wall hanging is up high! We had some items on shelves and so forth, but with moving some of the furniture out, I will have to hang some of his hangings on the walls. Also, to be quite honest when we were hanging things in the apartment we forgot about his room and haven’t gotten around to putting them up, so they were in easels on the tops of furniture.
THINGS TO CONSIDER BEFORE TRANSITIONING
1)IS THIS TRULY BRAND-NEW TO MY CHILD? Ethan has never been to a daycare/center where he is expected to lie still on a cot, so it may actually be easier for kids who already do this at a center to transition. e.g., maybe you won’t have to lie your head and shoulders on top of your child the first night of bed training haha
2) DON’T MESS WITH A GOOD THING. As others had forewarned, don’t mess with a good thing: if your child isn’t trying to climb out of his/her crib, leave them be. Some say wait until the child has actually already crawled out, but that makes me too uncomfortable. I’ve already seen my son climb furniture then just fall over backward and hit his head on the coffee table. He has the climbing skills but not the planning and long-enough legs to get DOWN safely from furniture sometimes. Also, if I know he has the ability to climb out any day, we thought we would just bite the bullet and transition rather than wait until Ethan knocks furniture over or learns to climb the gate that leads to the stairs! He does great going up, but NOT down unassisted!
3) FIND AN IN-BETWEEN IF NEEDED.If you have a busy workweek, you are about to go on vacation, or your child is sick there MAY be a safe in-between: We realized the need to transition Ethan to a mattress just before his tonsillectomy, but we didn’t want to start something new just to have him be in the middle of a surgery recovery. We noticed Ethan was NOT able to climb out of his Pack N Play due to the netting not providing good footholds, so he slept in his Pack N Play during his recovery until we caught up on sleep and were ready to transition him to his mattress. If your kid is a bedding connoisseur, this may not work for you, but our son alternated sleeping in the Pack N Play and his crib when he was a few weeks old. Just the way it turned out sometimes; we didn’t have a bassinet. Also he sleeps in the Pack N Play when we are out of town.
4) If your kid has already had some experience with falling asleep on his/her own, bed training might not take quite as long. (But I’m not a stickler for that…I believe in rocking the older babies some if they will let you. 🙂 At least when they are still in the crib.)