The Dreaded Transition: From the crib to the bed
My son loved his crib. I was in no rush to move him into a bed. His
3rd birthday came and went and he still happily went into his crib
every night. A few months later he declared, “I’m not a baby anymore,
I want to sleep in a bed.” And that was that.
My husband and I had been dreading the day he would ask for a bed. We
knew what we had was so good (12 hours in the crib) and we knew that a
bed can be a whole new ball game. We had been using the Gro clock
already for a while so that he understood that he can play in his crib
and when the clock turned yellow, we would come take him out and get
the day started.
The first week in his bed was smooth. But very soon after there he was
in our room in the middle of the night. I’m going to backtrack a bit.
About a month before he switched to his bed he wanted blankets in his
crib and to be “tucked in.” At some point in the night we would hear
on the monitor, “Daddy, can you tuck me in?” So my husband would go,
tuck him back under the covers and then he would go back to sleep. In
retrospect, we should have stopped it right then. I think because for
over 3 years he didn’t give us problems and since it was a 10 second
ordeal, and most importantly – since it was my husband and not me (I’m
not as willing to get out of bed in the middle of the night. Not on
principle, just because I’m tired) we just let it go.
But then it all turned on us. Now that he was in a bed and not a crib,
he would get out, come to our room and ask my husband to tuck him back
in. And then, when he woke up in the morning, he would come to our
room before the clock turned yellow. (GASP).
If you know me, you know that if I’m not happy with something I need
to make changes. My husband and I agreed that we needed to do
something. We spoke to our son and we reviewed that he stays in his
bed from when we say goodnight etc. That worked for a little and then
there he was back in our room. At first it’s easier to just walk him
back to bed because then the ordeal is over, and that’s a quick fix
and works for a few days. But then when we got frustrated that it
continued, things started to get bad. We would yell at him when he
came in and everything we believed in about our parenting philosophy
went out the window. We were tired and unhappy and we were desperate
to get him back to bed so we were mean.
I called a sleep consultant. It was funny because here I was
consulting with friends and strangers on sleep training their children
but I needed someone to help me.
Everything I spoke about with the sleep consultant I already knew and
practiced, except one thing. And the reason I called her was because
even though my husband suggested this, I didn’t know if it was
“normal” so when she suggested it, I knew it was worth it for me to
She said we discuss with him the sleeping and we say, “If you can’t
stay in your room until the clock turns yellow, we will have to put a
gate on your door.” The gate, a physical barrier, is sometimes exactly
what the child needs. They open the door, see the gate and that’s a
reminder “it’s not time to come out yet, go back to bed.” If the gate
didn’t work, she said then we lock the door. That’s what my husband
had wanted to do but I needed to hear it from her. This would be the
very last resort and I don’t know how I would feel if we actually had
to do it. I would assume it would be a 1 night ordeal and we have
cameras in his room so we could see him, but I’m hoping it doesn’t
come to that.
Ok so how did it all play out?
First of all, I know my son likes when there is a plan and he can feel
accomplished by it. So I told him that before bed we are going to call
a Sleep Teacher. She was going to help him and Daddy because daddy
wasn’t sleeping well either. He loved this. He was so excited. Before
bedtime we called her and put her on speaker and they had a
conversation that went something like,
“Do you want to learn at your house how to sleep or do you want to
come to my house?”
“My house.” (No shock there)
“When are we allowed to leave our room in the morning?”
“When the clock turns yellow” (obviously I knew he knew what to do,
was just choosing not to do it)
“Are we allowed to go into mommy and daddy’s room in the middle of the night?”
“no” (again, correct answer 🙂 )
“If you don’t follow the plan, your mommy is going to have to put a
gate on your door the next night. Do you understand? Do you want to
call me in the morning and let me know how it goes?”
She had a very friendly voice the whole time and our son was excited
for his task. He didn’t come to us before it turned yellow and he
could not wait to call her and tell her that he did it!
This act of the “sleep teacher” can be done with a family member or a
friend. Go over with them how you want the conversation to go. It was
obviously longer than what I wrote above and went over the
instructions a few times, but that’s the general idea. She also made a
whole thing that if Daddy doesn’t sleep he’ll need to learn at her
house so he has to make sure Daddy stays in his bed and if he doesn’t
he should tell her the next day. (This is effective because if he
comes to our room, Daddy can’t walk him back because Daddy has to stay
in his bed too)
This lasted a few nights but then as most things the excitement wore
off. He had completely stopped coming in the middle of the night. It
was almost like he was doing it out of habit and so that part lasted
after the excitement wore off. However the waiting in the morning
So, we put a gate on the door. He likes it and asks us to put it
there. Sometimes I hear him open the door, check the gate, and then
close his door. The gate doesn’t exactly fit the door, so when it’s
yellow he’s able to push it over and come to us which makes it easier
for us because we get to sleep until the minute he walks in.
He didn’t come in before it was yellow for a week and we went out to
ice cream to celebrate. It was more about the quality time we spent
with him than the actual ice cream but he enjoyed it. We’ve done it 3
times already for 3 weeks. If he did come out we told him we will have
to lock his door the next night, but we haven’t had to do that.
We leave him some dry cereal to eat because being up and playing for
an hour, I totally understand being hungry. He has toys in his room,
an iPad with Paw patrol and a movie on it, and he has a bathroom. If
his bathroom wasn’t in his room I would say he can go to the bathroom
(on his own) but then has to go back to his room. We have a camera so
when we look back we see that he sings, plays with his toys, watches his iPad, sets up a fort with his blankets, and has his snack in varying orders everyday.
We needed to put 2 clocks in his room. One is a traffic light and when
that turns Green that’s when he is allowed out of bed. The second clock is the Gro clock and when that turns yellow he’s allowed to come to us. The green light comes on at 6 am and then yellow light at 7 am.
He likes to go over the clocks and colours before he goes to sleep.
It has been an interesting ride re-sleep training. We are much happier
with the situation now because as I said, when it wasn’t going well,
we were tired and yelling and it really wasn’t pleasant. Now, even if
he’s up way too early, we are still sleeping, he knows what to do and when he runs in our
door at 7:01 on the dot and screams “it’s yellow!!” we give him hugs
and kisses and say good morning and start the day off right.
[…] If none of these work, and you’re not in a good place – mad and angry yelling at your kids when they wake you up – then you can put a gate on their door – I wrote about our experience with that here. […]
[…] most obvious one to me is the post The Dreaded Transition: From the crib to the bed I wrote about my son getting up multiple times during the night. My youngest is still in a crib, […]