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Transitioning Sloan to a "Big Girl" Bed

And the changes we made to the rest of her room.
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big girl bed opener

There have been plenty of moments in Sloan's life that have been emotional to witness as her parent. Some of them have been rather predictable—the first time she smiled (at 5 a.m. after a long, sleepless night), her first wobbly steps, and when we dropped her off at pre-school. But other transitions have been slightly more subtle in their impact and have taken me by surprise. Most recently: The move to her big girl bed. 

I'd (jokingly) assumed Sloan was going to be one of those kids who would happily remain in her crib until she was five-years-old. She just seemed so content in there, nestled and cozy within the four posts. It wasn't until a few weeks back, during a rather tumultuous sleep regression period, that we realized she was on the precipice of such change. Sloan had been an excellent sleeper from about six weeks of age. She'd go down for 12-hour stretches and would even tell us when she was ready for bed. But all of a sudden, she started calling our names throughout the night and it would last for hours at a time. And she wasn't even upset—she'd just lie there on her back, happily chortling, and occasionally bellowing out to say, "Hello!" It felt like we didn't get a good night's sleep for weeks. And then at 2 in the morning on a Friday, we heard our door slowly creak open... and up into our bed she crawled. It was both startling and hilarious and we knew that we needed a solution immediately.

The next morning, G dissembled the crib we'd built nearly three years before. I'd been so freaked out and impressed by her athletic ability (you can see her impressive inaugural attempt here) that I hadn't understood the weight of the moment. As soon as the bars came down and in their place, a solitary mattress, my eyes welled up. It felt so important and monumental and I hadn't even seen it coming. Luckily Sloan was pumped about her new sleeping situation, which also meant I could now lie down with her while reading her bedtime stories and singing her lullabies. And perhaps one of the sweetest parts of this entire transition has been the enormous support I've received on social media. It was such an overwhelming development that I hadn't properly prepared for, and to receive so much amazing advice was really helpful. In order to return the favor to those of you going through similar situations, I've included some of the products and advice that we've found to be the most helpful:

Our philosophy. When Sloan was in the midst of not sleeping, the first thing I did was call our doctor. Prior to that, I'd only rung her when Sloan was sick, but it felt so nice to receive advice from the person we trust the most in regards to her health. And she told us to ignore her. Again, she isn't sad or scared—Sloan is mainly interested in staying awake all night long and is looking to just hang with us. We had been going in to either quiet her down or lie with her, but our doctor told us that only reinforces the idea that if Sloan wants to chill with us at 3 a.m., we're free to do just that. The first night, she pulled out all the stops—called our names on and off for hours, turned on the lights, sat in her miniature reading chair with books, and even did a little dancing (we watched her the whole time on our baby monitor). And we just let her do her thing. By night three, she was sleeping through the night again. It's not to say that this will work for every family, but it's what our doctor recommended and was the right choice for us.

Changes we've made. Sloan's room was already pretty baby-proofed, but now that she has full run of the place all of the time now, we made a few additional changes. After we took away her crib, we put the mattress she'd been sleeping on up against the wall. I assume we'll transition her to a regular bed with guard rails in a few months, but this felt like a good first step. We cleared the bookshelf near her bed of anything heavy and made sure all lotions in her closet are up high (she's very into her skincare routine as of late). It's a slightly uneasy feeling knowing that your two-year-old has that kind of unrestricted access, but I try to remind myself that this sort of independence is what's helping her become more confident and sure of herself. Additionally, we have Sloan participate much more in her bedtime routine. She picks out her pajamas, turns on her nightlight, chooses the sound on her sound machine, grabs the books she wants to read, etc. It now seems like less of something that is happening to her (she had started to cry, "No nighttime!" a few weeks back) and instead she's a much more active participant in the process.

Our go-to products. Here are some of the things that help our nighttimes run the smoothest in our home. 

Night light. Around the same time as Sloan's initial sleep regression, she started whimpering a bit every time we turned off the light to sing her lullabies. I'd bought this nightlight before she was born, but up until recently, it had just been a pretty moment on her bookshelf. She now puts it on by herself as we get ready for bed and we spend a few minutes looking at all of the little lights across the ceiling, which makes her feel empowered and not as scared of the dark.

Sound machine. We've always used a sound machine and Sloan now likes to alternate the noises each night from ocean sounds to babbling brooks. It helps lull her into a quiet state while also giving us a little wiggle room when walking past her door at night since our floors are haunted-house-level creaky.

Alarm clock. I received a ton of recommendations about "okay-to-wake" alarm clocks that change colors when it's time to get out of bed. Sloan understands that when it's green, that means she can get up, but has been slow to embrace it (i.e. she unplugged it).

Magic bumpers. One of the reasons why I thought Sloan wouldn't want to leave her crib is because she's an absolutely crazy sleeper. Throughout the night, she flips around and flails about pretty much the entire time (I'm the same way). Since we weren't exactly prepared for her crib departure, we didn't have the right setup that next night and improvised for a few days by putting her beanbag chair and pillows strategically around her mattress. It didn't keep her from moving around the room while she slept, but it does make her mattress feel much more cozy. We've since graduated to magic bumpers, which a good friend recommended (and still uses when she travels even though her son is now five-years-old). They're similar to pool noodles and slip under your fitted sheet to help create a barrier that keeps them in bed.  

Door lock and pinch guard. One of the things that stressed me out the most once Sloan was out of her crib was that she could potentially roam the entire house all night. I freaked myself out imagining her just leaving out the front door or getting into trouble in the kitchen, so I was beyond relieved when a friend recommended monkey locks. They attach up on high on your door and keep it from either closing fully (there's about a 3" gap so tiny fingers won't get crushed), or opening. It's very easy to get in and out for adults, so if I ever need to get into Sloan's room in a hurry, it won't add any extra time.

Footed pajamas. Sloan's been sleeping in footed pajamas since she was really tiny and is most comfortable in them. I like them because I know that her shirt or pants will never ride up or that she'll get tangled in them. I buy them at either Gap or Old Navy and always wait until they have sales because they frequently sell for as much as 40% off.

Sleep sack. Sloan still refuses to use a pillow and blanket (she literally chucks them across the room if you put them on her mattress), so we put her in a sleep sack, which is similar to sleeping in a very lightweight sleeping bag. Hers have little holes for her legs so she's able to safely walk around, but they provide a bit more warmth.

Sleep mat. At school, Sloan uses a sleep mat for her naps, which is a padded mat, blanket, and pillow all in one. On the first night in her "big girl" bed, we laid down her extra sleep mat since it was familiar to her and even if she doesn't use it the traditional way (i.e. disregarding the pillow and blanket), it gives me peace-of-mind that she at least has access to a blanket if she gets cold at night.

Baby monitor. I shared the kind of baby monitor we use in this post, but since I received a lot of questions about it on Instagram, I wanted to include it here. It's the best since it links to our phones, and we've been using it since Sloan was born.

P.S. Here's what Sloan's nursery looked like on the day we brought her home. 

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