The Nightmare of the Toddler Bed

by Ginger on June 17, 2011

in Mom Thoughts, Oh Baby!

So, if you don’t read my parenting foibles over at Noodle Knobs (why not, are you TRYING to make me cry?), or don’t follow me on Twitter, you might not know that my night-time freedom has ended.

That’s right. Jackson is now in a toddler bed.

When we were in Vegas, Jackson slept in a pack-n-play. Which he quickly, QUICKLY realized he could climb right on out of. Giant child versus small pack-n-play? Round one goes to giant child.

As an aside. My kid? He’s giant. He is. Last time we checked (a good 3 months ago) he was 36 inches tall and 31 pounds. He wears size 3T & some 4T clothes. He barely fits in his stroller anymore. He is a MONSTER of a little dude. But he’s such a cute 3 year old looking 21 month old!

Shortly after we got back, it dawned on the kid…Hey WAIT A MINUTE. If I could climb out of that other one, maybe I can climb out of my crib? And thus began three straight days of ninja-silent acrobatics to climb out of his full-sized crib. He would be out before we even had the door closed. It was…spooky. And a little worrisome. Despite watching the ease with which he did it (seriously, it was like he was a professional crib-climber. He’d throw his leg over, get his other leg over and the lower himself to the ground.), there were a few too many questions. What if he tried to do it at night, when he wasn’t quite awake? What if he missed and fell? I’ve heard enough horror stories, and worry enough myself to realize neither N.C. nor I would ever be totally comfortable with him in the crib again.

And so, the toddler bed emerged.

We have one of those convertible cribs. It converts from a crib, to a toddler bed, to a twin bed. For the toddler bed, you just…take off the front of the crib. Voila. And then you have a low to the ground, and yet completely open front toddler day bed.

If you heard a record scratching there, you’d be hearing right.

Because what this means is that:

  1. Our child has full access to the entire room without even the slightest deterrent.
  2. Our child can now roll off the bed in the middle of the night.
  3. Our child no longer has the security of feeling enclosed.
  4. Which all means, we’re all sleeping for CRAP.

Right now, nighttime looks something like this: put kid in bed. Lay next to him, saying night night every time he pops up like a little prarie dog. Get him almost asleep. Try to leave room. Wailing, screaming occur. 15 seconds later, the doorknob is being jiggled and the screaming gets louder. Go into room, lights are on (did I mention he can reach the lights? No? It’s as awesome as it sounds in this context). Say, night-night buddy, get back in bed. He toddles over to the bed, climbs in, we go through the routine again. This goes on for up to an hour and a half (though I sometimes just sit in the chair in his room until he’s asleep rather than do the back and forth).

From there, we generally are having between 3 to 6 wakeups per night. I know of at least two that have been him rolling out of the bed and being scared (nothing like coming in and seeing your toddler laying in the middle of the floor crying at 3 am!). We have pillows and stuff next to the bed so he’s not “falling” so much as “rolling into a squishy soft mess”, but still. Usually, the night wakeups include the lights on, doorknob jiggling routine.

We’re currently looking into buying a rail (which is cheaper, we think, than buying a new mattress for the twin bed conversion), to see if that will at least help #2 & #3. Because of course, the crib didn’t COME with a rail. What genius thought that up? But I know that the biggest part of this is probably just going to have to be that we suck it up until he figures it out. It’s a pretty big transition, particularly for a kid who LOVED his crib so much. It’s one of those cases where him being so physically large and advanced is kind of problematic given that he’s not REALLY as grownup as his actions might show. He’s still not even two yet, and we’ve now let the entire freedom of the room open up to him. So I think we just have to work our way through it.

But man am I tired.

Kerry June 17, 2011 at 1:47 pm

I’ve been through this. Twice.

Have you thought about taking the mattress and just putting it on the floor? In fact, you can put it in a pop-up tent (we have a Thomas the Tank Engine pop-up tent that is perfectly toddler-mattress sized). It prevents rolling off, it makes it fun, and it gives them an incentive to stay in it. It even helps make it a little darker in the room, which helps with sleep.

Ginger June 21, 2011 at 10:44 pm

The floor idea is looking more and more appealing. We may have to give that a shot. (is it sad I never even thought of it?)

jen June 17, 2011 at 1:50 pm

When we did the switch it took a few weeks, but eventually Kale realized that we would A) always insist on the same thing (get back in bed) and B) it got boring playing in the dark. We still struggle sometimes with him chattering away in his bed but we figure if he stays in it, it’s a win. We put him in a toddler bed at 19 months.

clara June 17, 2011 at 2:35 pm


Could you take the lightbulb out of its socket?

Yeah. I have never been through this, so I don’t have anything but — SUCKY. I like the mattress on the floor idea.

Tina June 17, 2011 at 5:03 pm

We tried that with#1. fail. DH would try to sleep on the floor next to him, etc.

Finally we put a full size mattress on the floor with some bed bugs/magic bumpers. They keep him from rolling out and from there we added the box springs and finally the mattress.

Same process for #2, except we don’t have a frame for her (we would have to buy one).

Can’t say enough good things about those foam bumpers though!

Ginger June 21, 2011 at 10:46 pm

Ooooh, bumpers! Why didn’t I think of that? I’ll have to look into those!

Sarah Lindstrom June 17, 2011 at 6:06 pm

Almost verbatim what our nights are like now. We are about a month into a toddler bed. Getting him to sleep is about an hour and a half process and he always gets up at least once. I wholeheartedly feel your pain. Does that help? 🙂

Ginger June 21, 2011 at 10:46 pm

At least I know I’m not alone! (I’m sad for us both…)

bekah June 17, 2011 at 6:30 pm

We have been debating putting Jack into a toddler bed…Im thinking we might wait! Yikes! He sleeps great in his crib, its just naps that he refuses to do in there, and he doesnt try to climb out…maybe I will learn from you and just keep him in there as LONG as possible!?

Ginger June 21, 2011 at 10:48 pm

If he doesn’t climb out and likes his crib? I’d keep him in a little longer–unless you need the crib for the baby, in which case it might be easier to deal with this now than when the baby comes. But I’m sleep deprived, so don’t ask me if that’s really a good plan.

Cloud June 17, 2011 at 9:21 pm

Oh, I hope it gets better soon!

We had a terrible first two years of sleep with my 4 year old. Then, when we moved her to a “big girl” bed at 2 years old, things got A LOT better. Most of that, I think, was just that she was ready to start sleeping better. But some of it was that she hated her crib.

But I guess we already had to rock her to sleep, so had a looonnng bedtime process. The big girl bed felt like an improvement, because at least I could just lie there next to her.

(I already told Ginger this, but for anyone else- we were able to transition to a better- by which I mean, SHORTER- routine when she was 3, and it was surprisingly painless.)

So anyway, I don’t really have anything useful or encouraging to say. Just hang in there. He’ll figure out this sleep thing eventually. They all do. I’m still harboring a bit of a grudge, though, and have plans to wait until my daughter goes off to college, and then start calling her at 4 a.m. to tell her that I lost my socks, or want a drink of water, or something.

Ginger June 21, 2011 at 10:48 pm

OMG, I think THAT’S why my mom would call me at 6 am on Sunday’s in college. Payback!

Megan June 17, 2011 at 10:40 pm

Oh, man. I am so, so sorry. That sounds dreadful. I hope you all find a solution soon.

Also? Holy hell, he’s big! I can hardly find 2T pants that won’t fall off the waist of my my 27 month-old. But, then again, she’s kind of a shrimp. She doesn’t get it from me, that’s for sure. My mom said that when my sister and I were young, everyone thought we were not terribly smart because we were much bigger than we should have been for our ages.

Random tangent is over. Good luck!

Alexis June 19, 2011 at 5:09 am

First, so sorry you are not sleeping well, that is hell on wheels. Second, I love the bed-rail idea and we are going to do that with Bitz. In a few weeks we will have a twin bed and a bed rail so we can ditch the crib. Just fair warning, check carefully when you buy the bed rail. I ordered one that I thought would work with the toddler bed too…it most certainly did not work with the toddler bed. So that is it, my only advice is to choose your bed-rail carefully. Nothing that is actually useful. I can offer the light at the end of the tunnel in that Cha Cha (4years) now sleeps well in her twin bed, with little arguing and she can even get herself to the potty and back at night. So that is only like two and half years away! (That sounded more positive in my head…) Good luck.

Ginger June 21, 2011 at 10:50 pm

We have looked at probably 10 bed rails, and none of them work with the toddler bed. Jerks. I think we’re going to have to buy the actual piece from the crib manufacturer at a ridiculous price. Jerks.

Allison June 19, 2011 at 9:30 pm

Oh Lordy. Please no babies figuring out how to climb out of Pack-n-Play. Lordy, Lordy, Lordy, no. Let me boiled in oil and locked in the sewers beneath Chinatown, but not that….

Nilsa @ SoMi Speaks June 20, 2011 at 9:12 am

Oh, how I don’t look forward to the day of mobility!

Have you thought about pushing some chairs backwards against his bed until you get a rail? That might make it appear he’s enclosed again and give him some security he’s missing? Just a thought… Good luck!

Ginger June 21, 2011 at 10:52 pm

You know, I did give some thought to the chair idea. I’m just a little worried about the part of Jackson that is part monkey–I’m convinced he’d be crawling all over the chairs, and since his new favorite thing is to try and tip them and pull them over…I dunno, I’m not sure that’s going to make me relax anymore. But if he keeps this up, I may have to give it a try…

Lex June 21, 2011 at 11:17 pm

I totally understand where you’re at right now; it’s a horrible, horrible phase, to say the least.

We had convertible cribs for both girls — the ones where you could adjust the height of the front rail and the mattress? When Midget was old enough I moved the mattress to the highest rung and then lowered the front bar. It was kind of like a bed/crib hybrid that she thankfully couldn’t fall out of but didn’t climb over. With Munchkin, we did things a little differently because she’s so tall. We went from the crib straight to a toddler bed.

A week of screaming ensued; I, too, would have to sit in the dark and be all, “There, there” until I felt confident enough in my ninja skills to creep out. She’s typically pretty good about going to sleep, but lately she turns on her light and plays in her room until either A) she gets tired or B) we scream “GO TO BED!” about a thousand times. Oh, and the trick to getting her to stay in the room? Baby gate in the doorway. I raise it just enough so that she can’t climb over it but keep it low enough to keep her from crawling under.

I hope you can get back to your normally scheduled sleep routine soon.

Ginger June 22, 2011 at 11:18 am

It’s the light thing that’s killing me. Actually, if he’d play in his room until he got tired, I’d just be like, Fine kid, go to it. But no. He turns on the light and then screams until we come get him. It’s like he doesn’t want to miss out on the fun.

It’s getting a little (smidge, minuscule amount) better. By which I mean it’s taking an hour instead of an hour and a half. Shoot me.

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