HORRIBLE Transition to Big Girl Bed

Updated on May 07, 2013
K.F. asks from Minneapolis, MN
15 answers

My 2.5 year old 7 pm to 7 am wonderful crib sleeper has become a NIGHTMARE since switching to a big girl bed. Since, she figured out how to climb out we switched to the big bed. Now, she will not stay in her new bed. She comes out over and over and over...we have tried having someone stay with her in her room until she falls asleep, but this has taken 2-3 hours. Sometimes longer. We tried to have someone sit outside her door and carry her back to bed each time she came out, again, this could take 2-3 hours. Sometimes longer. She also wakes at all hours and comes to find me, and then is up for 2-3 hours trying to get her back to bed. (This is the least fun new trick!)

This has been going on for almost a month. I keep thinking it should be getting better...We didn't change a thing with her normal bedtime routine, except that she "sleeps" in a big girl bed. She shares a room with her 6 year old sister which has really affected her sleeping too. We've been letting her sister go to sleep in our room if the in and out routine is keeping her awake...

Anyone have any suggestions that have worked for them? I need HELP!

What can I do next?

  • Add yourAnswer own comment
  • Ask your own question Add Question
  • Join the Mamapedia community Mamapedia
  • as inappropriate
  • this with your friends

So What Happened?

To answer a few questions...it is a toddler bed, not a twin size. We are waiting for the bunk beds to arrive! She does have a rail on the toddler bed though, but it is the crib mattress. We sort of unintentionally changed her routine to mirror her big sisters, not a huge routine, they just brush teeth together, read together before bed. I actually found her a few mornings in bed with her big sister...We used to do 2 year old separate and she would be in bed, usually asleep when big sis came in 1/2 hour later...

I locked her in with a gate last night after 2 hours. She was MAD. I checked on her every few minutes, then she asked me to leave the door opened which I did, and she fell right asleep. Probably more from exhaustion. Her bedroom isn't completely toddler proof only because her big sister does have things out and about that I wouldn't necessarily want to leave the 2 year old with unsupervised. Maybe we should put some of that out of the way so she can be alone without me worrying about it...

I have thought about putting the crib back together, the husband is VERY against that. My gut feeling at the beginning was that she just felt safer/better in her crib. She has slept other places in a crib since all this began and slept great! One day took a 4 hour nap at my sisters in a crib! That doesn't happen here!

Thanks for all you thoughts!

We do still do a nap during the day though, she is so tired after being up so late, I do let her sleep a couple of hours in the afternoon. Maybe shortening that up would help at bedtime. We have had a lot of outside time today, see if that helps!

Featured Answers



answers from Anchorage on

I put a baby gate up so they could not get out and just let them fall asleep where they wanted the first few nights, and then after they were asleep I put them in their bed so they would wake up there. After a few nights they just started choosing the bed rather then the floor.

5 moms found this helpful

More Answers



answers from Oklahoma City on

Put up a gate to keep her in her room. Have a night light in her room so that if she wakes up she can play for a while then go back to bed. IF her room is child proofed she can't get hurt.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

My daughter slept in a crib until she was 3.5...she could climb in and out, never hurt herself. She just liked it in there - she would cover the top with blankets so it was like a fort when she went to sleep.

I would just let her go back to the crib so you all can get some decent sleep. Maybe it's just me, but I just didn't see them being able to climb out as a big deal or a reason to worry or switch them to a big kid bed. She probably misses her crib and would feel more secure having actual barriers around her instead of imaginary ones.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

It's normal and common.
That she was climbing out of her crib means she was already doing it - the transition to a bed just makes it a little safer.
Right about at 2 1/2 is when nightmares can start up.
Their imaginations go full tilt all day long and this doesn't stop just because it's time to sleep.
I really think it's a stage that marks cognitive development of the brain.

When our son started this - we did the same thing - take him back to his bed and try to settle him down again.
When he was small enough, one of us would end up sleeping with him in his twin bed.
I just could NOT take hearing the crying, the little voice in the dark "Mommy I need you!".
The poor kid was terrified and all alone (with a night light and tons of stuffed animals).
Finally, when he was about 3 1/2, our son got smart.
He figured out if he woke us up, we'd take him to his room - and he didn't want that.
So he started tucking himself in at the foot of our bed in the middle of the night without waking us up.
We'd find him there in the morning, sound asleep and holding onto my foot.
We ALL started getting a lot more sleep when he did this.
Try setting up a sleeping bag or a cot next to your bed.
If child comes to you in the night, settle her down in the sleeping bag.
Eventually she'll do this herself without waking you.
And then sooner or later there will be nights when she makes it through a whole night in her own bed again and that will increase till she doesn't need that sleeping bag anymore (but it can take a long awhile).
Being a parent means there's never a dull moment!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

probably not a popular answer - but if the child is doing something they shouldn't do, they should get the message loud and clear that it is NOT okay. we went super nanny on my son, only had to do it once (although it took a few nights). he had been very ill and had spent over a week sleeping in our bed. it was time that it ended and he was VERY stubborn. look up super nanny - she just puts them back in bed, over and over and over, until they get it. no talking, no cuddles, nothing. silently returning them to bed. i admit i did not keep my cool as i ought to have. it was very difficult and very hard on us. he got LIVID and threw the biggest longest tantrum i have ever seen. but we did it. honestly, this is a behavior issue. you have to teach her that it's not okay. and you have to outlast her. in my case, i got sleep deprived enough and frustrated enough that i got more stubborn than him. and yes, it worked. we never had another issue with him sleeping in his own bed, or staying in his bed. he is 6 now and i can tell you that what you're doing to your older daughter is not doing her any favors either. just my opinion - you really need to put your foot down on this.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Austin on

ok, Our daughter could climb out of her bed at 11 months.. she was like a Monkey.. Nothing worked to keep her in. Once my husband saw her hurdle out of the crib, even at its lowest setting. and yes, with a tent she could still get out. .

.. I was able to convince him, we were finished with the crib. we transitioned.

We first placed the crib mattress on the floor in the corner..

We placed a gate on her door way.. Ended up with 2 of them.. one stacked on top of the other.

She would get up after a while, and we just tried to ignore her. If she called for us and was crying, we would place her back on the mattress and tell her to sleep.. we might pat her for a while, but we kept this up..

Sometimes she would fall asleep on a rug. or half way on the mattress half way off.. we would go in while she was in deep sleep and place her on the mattress.

Then we purchased a bed for her.. She would place all of her stuffed animals on there. Extra pillows etc..

Yes, there was some crying, some shout outs of being afraid.. She was so young, but we just stayed strong.

Of course each time she was not feeling well, one of the first signs was that she would start having trouble staying in her bed. But we would start over again..

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

My son was in his crib even at 3 years old.
He LOVED his crib, slept WELL in it.
Sure he used to climb out. I told him it is not safe. One day, he fell out. Got scared and never did it again.

Then one day, HE TOLD US... he wanted to sleep in a regular bed.
So then we did.
And he was fine and slept well that way, too.
He, was ready.

Or, let your child sleep on the floor, on a mattress.
Kids often sleep well, on the floor.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

time for a new routine. start getting her up early no matter how late she stayed awake. get her up. dressed and into a daytime routine. then very short nap. lots of physical activity. supper, bath, story and then bedtime about 8pm.
now for the part you are probably not a fan of.
if she comes out she gets put back to bed with warning
comes out again
warning #2
3rd time she gets a swat on the behind and the door shut. and let her scream. take the 6 year old out of the room if need be. but god don't put her in your room or you will have a 6 year old who won't sleep in her own bed either.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Miami on

Boy, does she have you played! She gets all this attention that she didn't get before. That is is BIG change from before.

Let her room be her crib now. No more sitting outside her room (where she KNOWS you are waiting for her.) Turn the doorknob to the outside of the door and lock it so that she cannot open the door.

If you lack the gumption to do that, then send your husband to Lowe's and buy a cheap interior door and have them cut the door off up above the doorknob. That way she can see into the hallway, but not come out because it is locked from the outside. (Make sure to sand the top of the door so that you don't get splinters.) Ignore her when she calls out or cries. If she tries to stack anything in her room to climb out of the door (which is, in effect, a type of baby gate), remove it from her room.

It might take a few weeks of her trying to get your attention, fighting, crying, whining, etc. If you are willing to ignore it so that you can train her to sleep, then you ALL will have a chance of having normal nights.

I hope you'll do it for all of your sakes.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

when my older son got his big boy bed, he wasn't that whoopie about sleeping in it either. turns out what he wanted to do was sleep on the floor. for about a year, that's what he did. he called it his 'bear bed.' we'd just tuck him in on the floor next to his bed, with his stuffed animals packed in tightly all around him.
:) khairete

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Miami on

I would actually COMPLETELY change her bedtime routine. Big girl bed requires a big girl routine. I would suggest having her to do the same routine as her older sister.

Make sure she's really really tired too. Keep her active until it's time to go to bed and try to limit her daytime naps. I'm sure she's exhausted throughout the day if she's not sleeping at night! When she wakes up throughout the night, don't interact with her. Take her hand and walk her back to bed.... no talking, no cuddling, nothing. Just back to bed.

It will get better, but it's going to take a lot of consistency and probably several walks around the block before bed!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Jacksonville on

Do you have bed rails on the bed? We did for our son (he switched to a twin size bed at around 18 months). I don't remember him getting out of bed much at all.
(Prior to the twin bed, we went through the 2-3 hours of waiting it out in his room with him for him to fall asleep, too. He climbed out of his crib before his first birthday... and had his crib mattress on the floor for a few months. That was a nightmare. But once we had the actual bed---with the rails---all that stopped).

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Wausau on

Is it a full size bed, or a toddler bed?

My older son would never sleep in a toddler bed for some reason. It used the same mattress from his crib, but he'd have none of it. He didn't wander about playing or wake us up, but we'd find him sleeping on the floor, on the couch, in a chair...but not in that plastic bed. When we got him a regular twin bed, problem solved. So odd.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Since you've already changed her bed, I'd I think I'd stry & stick w/the new
Instead of using the crib mattress (they aren't as comfy on the floor), get
her a twin mattress & put it on the floor. Skip the box spring for now.
Let her stay up later. She's probably not tired at 7pm.
Shorten her nap (2 hrs) if she still needs to nap and again.....make her
bedtime later.
Make sure she's active enough during the day to be tired at bedtime.

Get her a nightlight for her room.
Have her bedtime routine start later when her sister's does (brushing teeth etc).
Transitions are hard. You may need to stay outside the room for a bit.
She's young. My son didn't like going to bed at night during his transition
period AROUND this age. So I would stay nearby the door for a bit.
That stage didn't last long.



answers from Portland on

I agree with AKmom. My 3.5 year old learn how to climb out of her crib a month and a half ago or so. I thought about switching her crib to a toddler bed, but she didn't want me to. She LIKES being in a crib and even yesterday we were talking about her friend across the street who has a "big girl" bed, and she wanted to know why her friend didn't didn't fall out at night. My dd does not want her crib to go away, so she still has it.

I don't know if this will work for you, but we tried 2 options. 1.) we put a ladder/step stool beside her crib so she can climb out when she wants to and will be safe doing so. 2.) we did the red light/green light thing. If the side is up it is a like a red light so she has to stop! if the side is down, it is like a green light and she can climb up and down, because green means go!

We have had only success with this idea, maybe give it a try? Good luck! I dread the stage you are at, and it is why I have not wanted to make the switch and deal with the in/outs and I don't want to go to sleep, I want to hang out with you. We had a few days of that until I came up with the light thing, then it quit, and Oh, boy, is life so much better now!

For Updates and Special Promotions
Follow Us

Related Questions