We’ve been fully transitioned to the toddler bed for several months now, and I think it’s safe to say we’ve made it to the other side. What was an understandably rocky few weeks while we transitioned is now relatively smooth-sailing. We started out with Cullen coming out of his room over and over and over again — mostly in the early mornings and all through his nap time. It was a constant battle that I didn’t have the energy or time for, and everyone was very grumpy, tired and frustrated.
I started using our Pack ‘N Play as a temporary crib that could contain him after multiple escape attempts. And while it was effective, it didn’t feel very good. I didn’t want to be using punishment to get him to sleep comfortably. I wanted to empower him to feel comfortable and safe in his space and to choose to stay in there. I spent one very long night pouring over products and reading reviews on Amazon, determined that I was going to find a solution to our problem. Several hours and $3.99 overnight shipping later, the Sleep Buddy was on its way to our front doorstep.
I read a lot about the different toddler clock options, but ultimately I knew that something as simple as “light on or light off” was what would work best for my kiddo. The Sleep Buddy works on an internal timer so the light goes on and off during pre-programmed times. Among the features I was looking for were different settings for both bedtime and naps, and I also needed to make sure we had something that was easy to see during naps in a room that is still fairly bright. This fit the bill on all accounts.
All day I told him about the clock and talked it up. We opened the box together and I made it fun and exciting. I plugged it in and set all the timers so that the light would turn on and off when we wanted. Bedtime came and we sat in bed and read books and waited and waited. And at 7:30 PM on the nose, the blue light turned on, and we all celebrated and said our goodnights. I left the room and held my breath — he came out five minutes later.
It was definitely not an instant hit, and for the first few days, usually around 5 AM, I cursed the money spent on something that was accomplishing absolutely nothing. But we stuck with it and explained to him over and over again that he needed to stay in his room until the blue light turned off. And then magically, it started working. I’d watch him on the monitor at night, eyes open staring into the night — looking into the direction of the blue light (and staying in his bed!). Our biggest success was nap time, which had previously all but disappeared. He typically wakes up during his nap several times, and without the light he was coming out of his room after the first wake-up, usually about 45 minutes into his nap. Now that he has the light to tell him when nap time is officially “over,” he’ll wake up, toss and turn a bit, look at the light for a while, and then drift off to sleep. Would you believe me if I told you he is back to napping for three to four hours every afternoon? (Knocking on wood…)
The only hurdle that remains is the early wake-ups. He still usually gets out of bed at least once starting around 5:30 AM. And the conversation is always the same. “Cullen, is the blue light still on?” “YES!” he would say as he laughs hysterically and runs back into his room. This is usually followed by him demanding to have his diaper changed though, so I am hopeful that potty training might help break this cycle. Once back in his room, he will either lie in bed hugging stuffed animals and just looking around, or he’ll grab books off the shelf and pull them into his bed to read. I don’t mind if he wants to do a quiet activity in his room, and I actually love that he’s enjoying some independent play.
I think the main reason this has worked so well for us is that the “blue light” has become a third party in the power struggle that is inevitable between a 2-year-old and set of exhausted parents. With the Sleep Buddy in charge of sleep times, we are simply the enforcers of a higher power, and for whatever reason — it works. I’m really glad we stuck with it and have continued to be consistent in making sure he waits for the light (even when I know it is just a few minutes away from turning off!).
Moving him to a toddler bed was something I stressed about and struggled with through my whole pregnancy. I felt immense guilt that we were booting him out of his crib too early simply because his little brother would need it. But aside from a natural transitional period, it has actually been a much easier process than I anticipated. I’m happy to have it crossed off the “list” of daunting things to tackle with toddlers. Next up, the pacifier and the potty. Groan…