Today is a little different from the last two days of Twin Toddler Boot Camp. Below you'll read two different perspectives on transitioning to toddler beds. Rhea is sharing her experience with Montessori Floor Beds and Meredith gives tips on a more traditional toddler bed transition. Two different experiences, both successful and what was best for that particular family.
Rhea shares her story first...
Montessori Floor Beds
Hey ladies! First off, a little bit about my family. I have two insanely cute twin daughters, Raegan and Violet, along with a stellar husband, Austin. The girls turned 18 months this week and are as vibrant and sassy as ever. I work full time as a Marketing Assistant for a family-owned company that produces scientific instrumentation and Austin is a stay-at-home-dad. I'm also a painter and photographer. I love running, rugby, road trips, roller coasters, thrifting, geraniums, and ice cream. We live in beautiful Pullman, Washington.
Like the rest of you, when we found out we were having twins I started looking into different sleeping methods. Because what the heck do you do with two babies?? We did know early on that co-sleeping was a must for us. I hated the idea of separating our girls. Plus, living in a small two-bedroom apartment, space was tight and money was tighter! I’m part of a local Moms of Multiples Facebook group and the most common thread was repeatedly how horrible it was to transition twins from cribs to toddler beds. This was always in the back of my mind.
A new crib was outside of our budget and since we travel all over the state, we decided to borrow a Boppy Play-yard from a friend. Fast forward to February 2014. The girls turned 9 months and were getting rather cramped in their shared bed. Violet started to get a little too physical and was harassing Raegan, ie climbing on top her and covering her face with a blanket. To keep the gladiatorial battles at a minimum, we needed a new sleeping arrangement, ASAP. My husband and I both started Googling alternative bed methods and we discovered Montessori floor beds. We did some more research and decided it was worth a shot. If it meant not spending a ton of money on cribs, I was all for trying it. And I have to say, seriously, this is one of the best parenting decisions we ever made.
Before I get into how we made the transition, I just wanted to say a little bit about what the theory behind Montessori floor beds is. There are a ton of resources out there, but I really like how simple and straight forward this website is: http://www.babysleepsite.com/sleep-training/montessori-floor-beds-baby-toddler-sleep/
Here’s a brief snippet:
“The idea behind a Montessori floor bed is in line with the general principles of the Montessori Method: a child should have freedom of movement, and should be able to move independently around his (carefully childproofed!) room. For this reason, a floor bed is preferable to a crib, since a crib restricts movement and limits independence.”
Obviously Montessori style beds aren’t a good fit for every child. Our girls were great sleepers and great nappers going into this, so we thought it might be a good fit. They co-slept as infants and are very independent. Plus we sleep trained starting at 11 weeks. All that played a huge role in developing their strong sleeping skills. Side note, I’m a HUGE fan of this sleep training method and recommend to literally every twin mom I meet. Sleep training doesn’t have to be scary or mean. http://www.amazon.com/Healthy-Sleep-Habits-Happy-Twins/dp/0345497791
So how did we do it? Slowly! Step one: We acquired a toddler mattress. Step two: We carefully went through the room and baby proofed. (As the girls got older we’ve had to baby proof along the way. Live and learn!) Step three: Decide which baby to test it on first. That was pretty easy for us. Violet is the much more dominant and curious twin, so we transitioned Raegan first to test the waters. We started with a Saturday at naptime.
Here she is:
We kept them separated like this for about a month and a half. They definitely missed each other and on more than one occasion we found them like this:
A month and half went by and we transitioned Violet out of the Play-yard and onto her own mattress. She wasn’t super mobile yet, so that was helpful. Be prepared to let your child sleep anywhere and everywhere in the room. Here are a few of my favorites:
I love how independent our girls get to be. It’s been super fun to see them explore more and more as they’ve developed from babies to toddlers. They wake up every day and then get to play and giggle until we get them up. They don’t cry, they don’t whine, and (usually) don’t bang on the door.
Traveling! This style of sleeping has been sooo beneficial when we travel. The girls will sleep on any floor in any room or tent. The first night is always a little rough. It’s a new space and there are some new things to explore, but overall, they’ve slept like total champs in so many different environments.
At my in-laws we just lay down a spare twin mattress and some pillows:
On our vacation to Kansas this summer the girls and I shared a mattress on the floor:
Not always going to sleep when they should. It’s true. This method does allow your kids to play and play to their hearts content. Sometimes they just won’t sleep. We’ve definitely struggled with this, but we’ve figured out some tricks along the way. Define playtime and sleep time. When it’s time for a nap or bedtime, we close the blinds, put all the toys and books away, and have a quiet time routine. When it’s time to play, the blinds are wide open and toys are out. We’ve really tried to help them learn the difference by association. For a while, my husband would nap in their room with them and it worked wonders.
Destruction. Having free range of one’s book collection does mean that sometimes we go in and find the girls sitting in a shredded pile of coloring books. Their dresser is also open for business. We would frequently find them asleep in piles of clothing that previously had been neatly folded in their dresser. Now, at 18 months, they finally pull out less clothing since they’d rather climb the shelves.
It sucks having to clean up these messes, but for us, the good has outweighed the bad and you just adapt. To keep them out of the closet for example, we have a sophisticated locking mechanism; we wedge their baby bouncer in front of the sliding door:
Questions you might have...
But what if they fall off the mattress? I read online that you can either use a pool noodle or a rolled up towel under their sheet. Pool noodles weren’t available in March in the Northwest so we opted for the rolled up towels. It worked great! They could easily crawl over it when they were awake and kept them on the bed while the moved around in their sleep.
What do pediatricians say? I was so scared to tell our pediatrician that our girls slept on the floor. I felt like some weird alternative parent and I wasn’t even going to tell him. Then my husband freely offered the info haha. And guess what…he was totally cool with it! He said that it was a really great safe place for kids and that so many children fall off of/out of cribs.
If they fall asleep on the floor or in the stuffed animal pile, do we move them? Not usually. As long as they’re happy and not on top of each other, I just leave them. However, if they fall asleep in front of the door I will move them for emergency reasons.
How do you keep them in their room? We lock them in. Once they figured out how to open the doors, we flipped the doorknobs around and lock them in from the outside. Works like a charm.
Do they wake each other up? Yes and no. Our girls have always slept together and learned to ignore each other pretty early on. When they were infants, one could literally scream in the other’s ear and not disturb her. Around the house, we aren't quiet when they're sleeping, so they're super used to loud noises coming from us. That being said, there are definitely days where one girl will keep the other girl up during naptime and then they both are horrendously tired and cranky the rest of the day. Nine times out of ten, left to their own devices, Violet is bugging Raegan. It usually involves pacifier stealing, steamrolling, blanket snatching, and bed hogging. No matter what we do, we know it's going to happen. Raegan has to learn to deal with it and fight back if needed. What I mean is, no matter how many times I put Violet back on her bed, she wants to be up close and personal with her sister regardless. So they both have to learn to cope. We do referee and remedy problems, but we try and let them sort it out between themselves. Our main objective is to keep both on the same schedule and let them learn that they need to sleep in any environment. We just let it happen and roll with the punches!
This has definitely been an adapt-as-you-go experience. Even now we’re still constantly trying new things to help them be the best sleepers they can be. This includes rearranging the room, taking things out, putting things in, door locks, closet locks, and most importantly a flexible mindset. Next stop: bunk beds!
Feel free to email me at email@example.com and to see lots of sleeping baby pics follow me on Instagram: @rheabooth.
(You can also visit Rhea's gorgeous website: www.rheacreates.com!)
Toddler Beds (Converted from Cribs)
Our motto for toddler beds was very simple: Cribs for life. We had no interest in introducing Jude & Sloane to toddler beds at a young age, which I will admit was due to laziness on our part. Most of our friends waited until their kids crawled out before they made the switch and we decided that sounded lovely.
I am not a toddler bed expert. Three months later we are still a work in progress over here. I do, however, have some tips that really helped us with the switch to traditional toddler beds.
1. DON'T DO IT - I'm kidding. No, but seriously. Wait as long as possible. I have a friend with 3-year-old twins who completed a successful toddler bed transition in one night. ONE NIGHT. They were old enough to understand the concept, "Stay in bed" and when their parents said it, they ACTUALLY STAYED IN BED.
2. LATE NAP / FULL BELLY - We had a strange schedule when they were still in cribs: Snack before 11:30 am naptime and then lunch after naps (2 pm). This did not work with toddler beds. They weren't worn out and their bellies weren't full. One day I decided to push the naptime back to 1:00 and fed them a full lunch at 12:30. HUGE difference. They were so tired/full when it was naptime that they asked to go to bed.
3. STAY CLOSE & BE CONSISTENT - I miss the days of being able to put my kids in cribs and walk away. With toddler beds, you do that and they immediately get out. What works best for us is to put them in bed and firmly tell them to stay in bed. Then we stand outside their room and wait the five seconds it takes for them to get out. As soon as they're out of bed we're in there putting them back to bed. The longer you take to walk back into the room, the more they play and forget it's naptime/bedtime. This will not always be the case, but in the beginning you're basically chained to the room until they're fast asleep. :)
4. DON'T TALK - This is dependent on the child, but my husband and I've noticed that most of the time they simply want our attention. Negative attention is still attention in their eyes and they will take whatever they can get. If/when you go in their room to put them back in bed, say very little or say nothing at all. The less you interact, the less they will test you.
5. THE NURSERY IS FOR SLEEPING - We've always been routine-driven parents and that includes our bedtime ritual of pajamas, stories, songs, and prayers in their bedroom. However, once there was no "fourth wall" to keep them in their beds, they wanted to continue singing songs/reading books in the same spot they were five minutes before (two feet away from their beds). Now we do their nighttime ritual in the playroom next door. We have a lamp in the room so we don't use the overhead light and (when we remember) we play soft music in the background. We read books, sing songs, and put on pajamas in the playroom (do this in any room other than their nursery). Now they look at the nursery as a place to sleep. Once again, this won't always be the case. For now, however, consider the nursery a sanctuary of sleep and nothing else. If you don't have a separate play area in your home (ie. all of their toys are in their nursery), just make sure they aren't in their nursery for 10-15 min before naptime/bedtime.
7. DON'T CHANGE THINGS UP - If your twins have always slept in the same room, introducing toddler beds doesn't mean you must split them up. In the very beginning of the toddler bed transition, Jude & Sloane were keeping each other up and I asked my pediatrician if we should split them. She said it wasn't necessary and if they'd figured out how to sleep together for the last two years, they'd figure this out as well. She was right. The newness wears off... eventually. You also assume that one will fall asleep first and the other will wake him/her up. This has happened, but it's rare. Remember when they were little and one would be screaming her head off right next to her sleeping brother? Twins are resilient. They can handle far more than we give them credit.
8. TAKE PICTURES - When you move them to toddler beds, funny stuff happens. They sleep in each other's beds. On the floor. In the corner. It can be infuriating but it is also so funny and these pictures will get you through the frustrating times. If you know it won't wake them, take a picture before you move them back to their proper bed. I took so many that they got their own hashtag on Instagram and received more likes than any other pictures I've posted. Why? Because twins sharing beds is absolutely adorable. Some days we let them stay in bed together, but most days we moved them back so they would get a full night's rest and have plenty of room to move around.
This was a difficult transition for us because our kids have always been great sleepers and now they're waking up earlier and going to bed later. It doesn't seem to bother them but it makes for long days for us. We're confident they'll get the hang of it eventually and we tell them daily "We know you can do this!" Encouragement and hugs go a long way. :)
If you have any questions, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!