Climbing out of the crib is a sign of a major turning point in your child’s life and yours.
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For the past two years, my wife and I have been enjoying our sleep because our son was well sleep trained and spent most nights sound asleep in his crib from 8 p.m. to 7 a.m. We did not consider what would happen when our son outgrows his crib and is no longer “quarantined” to a confined space ….
The scene: I put my son, Jake, down to sleep at 8 Wednesday night, which is our normal bedtime routine. The little guy sleeps in his own room down the hall from our bedroom. He is a solid sleeper and enjoys sleeping in his crib. My wife and I are not the parents who did co-sleeping in our bedroom or allow our son to sleep in our bed. So, you can imagine my surprise, when someone was tapping me out of a deep sleep at 2 in the morning, and it wasn’t my wife. Jake was holding an empty box of tissues from our bathroom and telling me that we “need new box of tissues.” Instead of explaining to Jake that I don’t need a tissue, nor do I have to refill the box at 2 a.m., I scooped him up and quietly placed him back into his crib. As some parents know, the game was over for having our toddler contained in his crib every night.
Fortunately, Jake decided to spend the rest of the night in his crib (I still didn’t sleep a wink as I was half expecting him to come back later for another visit or imagined him scampering around the apartment unsupervised). When he awoke in the morning, he decided climbing out of the crib was best, did so and visited me while I was in the shower. As an active father who takes napping, sleeping and schedules pretty seriously, I realized things were not going to fare well for his afternoon nap. The scene here was almost comical: I put our son down for his afternoon nap and watched via the video monitor him climbing in and out of the crib at will … it was a game to him. To avoid injury, I popped the little guy into his stroller, and he fell asleep as soon as we hit the great outdoors.
I was exhausted and fed up that things were slowly going to spiral out of control. We went to Planet Kidz, a local and overpriced one-stop shop for everything baby/toddler. I bought a pressurized gate for my son’s room and a bed rail to keep him inside what would become his “Big Boy Bed” as soon as we got home. I was determined to get back on track with the sleep routine!
I pulled off the front side of the crib and converted it into a “big boy bed.” The next step was to discuss some of my challenges with a friendly and knowledgeable sleep expert, Dr. Whitney Roban of Sleep-EEZ-Kidz. Sure, the door gate made common sense for safety, but I was treading in uncharted territory, and wanted to ensure I was navigating on the right path. Dr. Roban suggested:
- a reward system similar to that of a potty training process to incentivize my son to stay in his bed instead of roaming free in his room all night.
- NOT to put a comfy duvet cover on the floor in case my son rolls off (my intended plan) so his new bed becomes his ONLY sleep option.
How are things going?
Most importantly, Jake’s night sleep seems to be a fairly smooth transition. He sleeps in his big boy bed through the night and goes down relatively quickly. The main difference is in the morning. When he hears my wife getting ready for work, he knows he can pop out of bed independently, so he is up a bit earlier and stands by his door calling for us ready to start the day.
Unfortunately, my son’s nap is an utter disaster since the transition to the toddler day bed. We use the same routine in the past of lunch, books, nap time … only, as soon as I close his door, he pops out of his bed and starts playing with everything in sight.
Day 1: I watched him in the monitor throwing his balls all over the place and then neatly place all 20 of them in his bed = no nap.
Day 2: I tried again to nap him in his room – no such luck! After watching him climb on his toddler guard rail and jump down several times as well as throwing the balls around the room — I scooped him up for a stroller nap — he napped for 90 minutes in the stroller.
Day 3: I tried again to nap him in his room without the balls or the toys he usually plays with — no such luck! He found some other stuff that was entertaining – like his books and stuffed animals. After watching him climb onto his toddler guard rail and use that as a chance to climb over the gate on his door, I threw down the towel. I scooped him up for a stroller nap – he napped for 90 minutes in the stroller.
I have learned a lot through this extremely frustrating nap process. First, my son in still in need of an afternoon nap. Second, psychologically, even though he is exhausted, the freedom of his room during a daytime nap, trumps sleep. Third, I need my son to take his nap so I can have some downtime. Fourth, the stroller works, but what happens in the event of rain or snow: S.O.L? Fifth, I refuse to try to nap my son in his room anymore so he does not learn any negative behaviors that could translate to night sleep. Finally, these nap challenges that I am facing and whining about are not major issues. Most importantly, for the most part, our son is a healthy and happy toddler … and that is what really counts for our family. This phase will end at some point, but I would be fibbing to you if I din’t say it is driving me bonkers.
Please feel free to share your best practices or infinite wisdom on how to get my son to be successful at napping at home again.