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Transitioning to the Toddler Bed

Posted on . Last updated .

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Cara Dumaplin

toddler bed with a nightstand holding noise machine and ok to wake clock

Hey mamas! I’m Jennifer, a Sleep Consultant with Taking Cara Babies. I’m also mom of 3-year-old Lukas. Cara and I wanted to share Lukas’s recent transition to the toddler bed with you!

Prep Work

First, Lukas is three. Yes, three. He loved his crib, was a fabulous sleeper, and never tried to crawl out. We were in no hurry to transition because we know transitioning to the toddler bed too early can cause major sleep disruptions. How did we know Lukas was ready? I've got a blog ready for you on signs it’s time to transition to a toddler bed.

Before we moved Lukas to his toddler bed, we started talking about it daily with him. We actually started a countdown with him every night for the few days before the big transition. Doing this made sure Lukas felt as prepared as possible and not surprised by the change. At this age, he really understands so much, and we wanted to make sure that he had the opportunity to deal with this gently.

During that week, we also talked about how the only thing changing was his bed. Just like he stayed in his crib and waited until we came to get him in the morning and after naps, he would stay in his big boy bed the same way.

This video is from the last night in his crib.

Bye Bye Crib

Because we knew that Lukas had an emotional attachment to his crib and we wanted to keep the transition as seamless as possible, we moved the crib out and the toddler bed in while Lukas was at preschool. We didn’t want him to get upset seeing us take it down OR to allow him the option of moving back to the crib.

Safety Patrol

After replacing the crib with Lukas’s new toddler bed, we did a quick safety check. We anchored tall furniture to the wall and made sure that all of our electrical outlets were covered. We also had to make some adjustments to our decorations AND to the door in order to make sure we would know if he left his room.

Created a Plan

My husband and I decided on a plan of attack if Lukas did get out of bed. We decided what we would say. “Lukas it’s nighttime; everyone is sleeping. You have to get back in your bed.” This would be the only thing we would say. If he didn’t climb back in bed himself, we would pick him up and put him back in bed. No drinks of water. No new interventions. Firm but calm and consistent. No conversations or eye contact; this is unnecessary engagement and can encourage continued struggle. Check out this blog if you find that your toddler is fighting bedtime.

First Night in the Toddler Bed

Lukas was excited to see his big boy bed when he arrived home, but he did get pretty emotional about his missing crib when it came time for bed. You can see in this next video that I tried to allow space for him to feel validated in his feelings, but I also stayed calm while I talked to him about what was going to happen and about his concerns.

Mamas– remember, our little ones can read our emotions like a book, and their emotions feed off of ours. If I had allowed myself to cry or get upset about his feelings in this moment, he would likely have felt like moving to his big boy bed was not okay.

(Full disclosure: I sobbed after I left the room. That sad face plus my sweet little boy growing up was a lot for my mama heart to handle.)

After this video, we turned off the lights and did the rest of our bedtime routine just like always: we sang 3 songs and prayed. We made sure to pray that Lukas would feel safe and sleep well in his big boy bed. After we kissed him goodnight, he still looked pretty nervous, so we promised to come check on him. I checked on him after 15 minutes and gave him another kiss. By the second check, he was already asleep.

In the Morning

Because Lukas was already such a great sleeper, we were confident that falling asleep in his new bed would be the hardest part. We didn’t have any issues during the night, and this video was the next morning:

Sleep Changes with the Transition

The transition has been pretty smooth, but we did notice 2 things over the next week:

  • A few nights at bedtime, Lukas asked when he could have his crib back. We reminded him calmly that he doesn’t have a crib anymore; his crib was his old bed, and the toddler bed is his bed now. He seemed to accept that pretty well.

  • He has been waking up a little earlier for the day than he was in the crib. During the light stage of sleep in the morning hours, he simply doesn’t drift back off to sleep quite as easily as he did in the more familiar environment of his crib. It’s possible that as he gets more comfortable in his toddler bed, he will start sleeping in later. (Again full disclosure: The “earlier” mornings mean he now wakes around 6:45 or 7 instead of closer to 8. The “earlier” mornings are NOT a real problem; we were just spoiled by the later mornings before. If you are struggling with true early morning wakings, please see10 Culprits for Early Morning Wakings: Why is My Baby Waking Up Early? Early Morning Wakings. Some people find that an “OK to Wake” clock can be very helpful for toddlers.)

The most important factors in our smooth transition:

  • We waited until Lukas was 3 years old.

  • We gave him time to prepare and talked about what would happen.

  • We stayed consistent with everything besides the bed: bedtime routine, bear and blankie, life routine, etc.

  • We stayed calm and validated his feelings when he became emotional.

  • We started with a great sleeper! Lukas has truly been an amazing sleeper since he completed The ABCs of Sleep at 5 months, and I can tell you that in this transition and so many others, this has made all the difference.


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Fair skinned baby girl with bow on head and caption 'Sleep tips for the holidays!' African American baby swaddled tightly to his mother's chest Cara Dumaplin wearing jean jacket embroidered with the words 'tough as a mother' in script font Asian baby boy, standing in crib, arms reaching towards the viewer Happy African American baby sitting in a kitchen sink captioned 'Fun facts about baths.'