Ever since Wagon Jr. was a baby, he loved his crib. He’s slept in it every night since he was 4 weeks old, and he takes his best naps in his crib. He usually rolls around and sings himself to sleep. We hate to travel because he really sleeps poorly anywhere else other than his crib. And up until this week, he has never once tried to climb out of it.
Wagon Sr. and I took a 4 day trip (kind of our last hurrah before Lil Miss Wagon comes along) to visit friends in Florida and left Wagon Jr. with my MIL. Wagon Jr. absolutely ADORES her and she’s taken care of him overnight many times, so we weren’t too worried. He was fine while we were gone, but the transition back has been pretty difficult. Here’s a day-by-day recap of what’s been happening since we got back.
The very first day we came back, I went to put him down for his nap. As soon as I put him into his crib and left the room, he stood up and screamed. As I shut the door behind me, I heard a THUD. I shot back into the room and saw him lying on the floor, crying, face down and spread eagle. I looked all over his body for injury and for signs of a concussion, but since he cried immediately and he could focus on my eyes and answer my questions, I felt pretty good that nothing was wrong, even though I knew he had hit the hardwood floor pretty hard. The whole episode left him very tired and he let me put him down into the crib. I sat next to it with my arm through the slats, running my hand through his hair until he fell asleep a very short 5 minutes later. I stayed until I was sure he was definitely asleep, then I snuck out of the room.
I was worried about this happening again, so that night I did the same thing and sat with him until he fell asleep. We also surrounded the outside of his crib with big soft things: my Patrick the Pup (size medium… see the second picture to see how big it is), Boppy pillows, and body pillows. He awoke several times as he normally does, with crazy screaming and crying for a minute or so, but eventually going back to sleep each time.
The next night’s bedtime routine was the same, and after putting him down, he was pretty much ok. Hurrah! It had only taken him a day to re-adjust, and we were SO relieved. That is, until his regular night awakenings kicked in… he would wake suddenly with a scream, cry for several minutes, threaten to vault himself out of the crib, and eventually end up falling asleep again. He’s been having crying night awakenings since he was a baby, and now at 2.5 years old, it’s just as heartbreaking as it was back then. In the morning when Wagon Sr. went in to get him, Wagon Jr. had his hand out between the crib slats, petting Patrick the Pup’s head. He said “Daddy, touch it!”
The next night we decided to try a different tactic. We lengthened his bedtime routine by playing with a lot more toys in the bath and reading him a book before putting him down. This backfired big time. He didn’t want to get out of the bath, so he cried. He wanted us to read the book again and again and again, so he cried. Then Wagon Sr. had to sit with him for over an hour until he fell asleep. But we thought for sure this long, soothing bedtime routine would help with his night wakings and possibly help with being able to leave him to fall asleep on his own again. But he had a few crying awakenings as usual.
At 2:30am we were awakened by a crazy, high-pitched scream (I thought it was a tea kettle!) and as we watched on the monitor, in one smooth motion he immediately shot up to standing position, planted his hands on the crib rail and vaulted his body up onto it. He looked like an Olympic gymnast on the uneven bars. Wagon Sr. rushed in and stopped him from falling.
The rest of the night was a huge blur. Wagon Sr. was in there for over an hour trying to get him to fall back asleep, and when we eventually gave up and left him, he threw the biggest fit of his life. He was screaming so loudly that I’m sure his throat hurt, and he was bashing his body against the crib walls. Now that he can talk, it makes it even worse because he was screaming “Daddy sit right there! Mommy sit right there!” and pointing to the area where we sat by him while he fell asleep. We knew he was only throwing the fit out of anger, so we just kept an eye on him to make sure he didn’t hurt himself and waited for him to give up. Sure enough, after 25 grueling minutes, he settled down and eventually went back to sleep.
We easily convinced him to go upstairs for bedtime because he was so excited to “read a story together” again. He did ok with the bath and book (he did ask for the book again, but only cried a little), and when Wagon Sr. went to put him down, he immediately freaked out. But, as we had discussed, Wagon Sr. explained over and over that he would stay for a little while, he would rub his back for a little, he would rub his head for a while, but he had to go night-night and Daddy had to go night-night too.
When Wagon Sr. was able to leave the room, Wagon Jr. was lying flat on his back. He paused for a moment, then immediately screamed, stood up and vaulted himself over the crib bars, landing softly on Patrick the Pup. Wagon Sr. went back in, put him back in the crib, and said “No climbing; it’s very dangerous; do not climb the crib; no more climbing” over and over. Then after a few more sessions of “I’ll stay for a little, I’ll rub your back, say night-night Daddy!” Wagon Sr. was able to leave again. Wagon Jr. started crying again, but this time he did not attempt the vault. He approached the crib bars, but he didn’t try to climb. His protests started and stopped for about half an hour, and eventually he settled down and laid flat on his back and stared at the ceiling. Finally he fell asleep after about 20 minutes of silence, rolling around and cuddling with his blankie.
The rest of the night was actually really great. He had a few awakenings that didn’t involve crying, and he did wake up around midnight (his usual big awakening) with a bit of crying, less than a minute, and went back to sleep.
I really believe that the better bedtime routine has led to more peaceful awakenings. I think he’s just a fussy sleeper in general and will always have night awakenings, but a more peaceful bedtime makes for a more peaceful sleep. We used to literally just bathe him (aka hose him down), put on his pajamas, pray and sing with him, and put him down (a less than 15 min bedtime routine) so as he’s getting older, I think this lengthened bedtime routine with a book added in will help.
Even though he’s fallen out of the crib twice now, I really feel strongly that he’s not ready for a toddler bed yet. From everything I’ve read and all the advice I’ve received, we’ve decided (for the moment) to continue to discourage him from climbing out of the crib and see how it goes. Now that he can talk and understand us, I’m hoping it will be a dialogue between us and him about needing to lay down and go to sleep, and not climbing the crib. That, I think, will lead to a much smoother transition into a toddler bed, when we can talk about staying in bed until morning and not getting up and walking around during the nighttime.
I’m really proud of the way he obeyed after Wagon Sr. told him not to climb the crib, but I’m sure the day will come when he’s not so keen on following our instructions. But fingers crossed that tonight (and all subsequent nights!) will go well with a bedtime book and conversation about not climbing out of the crib.
How did you handle it when your little gymnast started climbing (or vaulting) out of their crib? Did you switch to a toddler bed right away?