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Toddler beds and baby gates

C holding sleeping O's hand saying, "Brother night-night!"

We just transitioned our 26-month old twins to toddler beds.

I posted a blog about the first time our twin toddlers slept in a real bed, which happened to be on a family vacation (read "Impossible"). They had actually been climbing out of Pack'n'Plays long before that. Before they were just climbing in and out of each other's Pack'n'Plays during our visits to my parents' house. The room they sleep in there has circular door knobs, not handles like where we stayed on vacation, and they didn't realize they could escape. I would just overly baby proof the room they slept in at my parents' house and pray that they didn't apply this behavior once we got home to their cribs.

When we got home from our family vacation, they did make the connection that since they could climb in and out of their Pack'n'Plays, they could climb in and out of their cribs. We had seen them try this before and we would sternly say, "No! We do not climb." This worked when they were little toddlers; as big, bad two-year olds they said, "Danger? I laugh in the face of danger-- ha, ha, ha, ha!" We knew they were climbing out of their cribs because not only would we find them in each other's cribs in the morning, but we would also hear the loud THUMP! followed by the loud cry, "Mooooooomma!" We ignored it. "Climbing out of their cribs? No... they only do it occasionally. They will learn to stop," we said. Shocked we were every time we found them out of their own cribs when we walked into their room in the morning or after nap, though we found them that way every time we walked in their room. Complete and utter denial.

And then we found them "planking" on the side of their cribs. Specifically, we found O planking on the side of his and C's crib, like a baby bridge. We could deny it no longer. This was indeed a problem.

With a heavy heart, we converted their cribs to toddler beds. They had their little Fisher Price baby tools in their bedroom helping me unscrew the sides. They helped put the screws in Ziploc bags so we wouldn't lose them. They helped make the beds and tuck their baby dolls in the bed, "See? Baby sleeps in a toddler bed. Baby doesn't climb out of bed. Baby likes staying in bed all night long and taking naps in his own bed, like is Momma tells him to. Good baby..."

While Baby may like staying in his toddler bed, C and O most definitely do not.

C sleeping behind the door in his room

It took our oldest about a week to figure out that he didn't have to stay in bed. Of course, he was about a year and a half old and thus much more obedient; our toddlers are just over two and like testing boundaries much more. However, our oldest didn't share a room with a twin brother and they are. I think it is much more tempting to crawl out of bed to see what your brother is doing when you have the freedom to do so. They crawled out of bed immediately the first night. We firmly told them, "No," and put them back to bed. I did stand outside their door and put them back to bed every time I heard them get up, regardless of how quiet they were being. I don't know if it was the sleep training-- they go to bed every night at 8 pm-- or my consistency, but they haven't had too much issues with bedtime.

We did have problems with one of the toddlers waking up in the middle of the night for about the first week of toddler beds. C would wake up around midnight screaming bloody murder. I'm not sure what would wake him up. The first couple nights he pointed to where the crib rail was as if he was upset it was gone. The next night or so I think he just got into the habit of waking up and having Momma tuck him back in. Realizing this, I told him, "Momma is going to tuck you in now. I'm not coming back in. You need to go to bed." I gave him a kiss and let him cry. It made me sad because we haven't really made them cry it out (we did 12 Hours in 12 Weeks Old: A Step-by-Step Plan for Baby Sleep Success by Suzy Giordano) and I didn't want him feeling like, "Oh, great. I don't want to be in a toddler bed and now Mommy and Daddy are abandoning me." It took him two or three nights and then the middle of the night hour long scream fest stopped. I would just go in the first time, tell him good-night and I wasn't coming back in, tuck him into bed, and then let him cry.

Before toddler beds, I was chaffing under our nap schedule. C would nap-- seriously-- from about 12 pm to 4:30 pm. If I put him down at 1 pm, he would get up around 5:30 pm, sometimes later. I was trying to push our afternoon nap back to around 2 pm so he wouldn't sleep so long (though he was then just napping from 2 pm to 6 pm or later). I felt like I was stuck at home all afternoon for him to nap between 4 and 5 hours; I wanted freedom. Oh, foolish thoughts.

After toddler beds, I wish I was stuck at home all afternoon due to a long nap. Naps evaporated-- poof! C really needs his nap. O would take a nap before the transition, anywhere between 45 minutes to 3 hours, usually at least an hour. He had some fussy afternoons after toddler beds, but C really took the cake for fussy. We are talking about full-on, clinging, screaming, flailing, breathholding temper tantrums. Over everything. E.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g. From the time he woke up in the morning to the time he went to bed. And because he was in a toddler bed, he would flail out of his bed and run to the bedroom door as soon as I laid him down; the convenient containment of a crib was gone. When he was in a crib and really needed a nap, I could lay him down, listen to him cry for a couple minutes, peek my head in, and see him sleeping soundly with his blanket shoved up his nose. Now we have this endless battle. Go in, lay him down, he screams, runs to the door, climbs over the gate, I go in, lay him down, he screams, runs to the door, climbs over the gate... Get the picture?

Oh, yes, and his twin brother then decides to join in. O may not need a nap as badly, but he is still more tired than usual. He hasn't had any down time-- a crib is great for providing a little quiet play in a familiar, safe environment-- and he wants Momma. Now. So I have O screaming at the gate down the hall for me, C screaming at the gate in his bedroom, and our oldest feeling very tired of the crying. And not only was our oldest D tired of the crying, but my husband and I were. It was a tense time for all of us, (read "Marriage").

My two other blog posts on this topic, "Keep calm and carry on" and "First time mom," help capture the essence of how crazy it has been around here. Our whole groove was thrown off. I was accustomed to having a four hour block of relative peace in the afternoon. Our preschooler was used to having some one-on-one time with Momma every afternoon, reading stories and doing a special project (usually just drawing pictures together). Laundry backed up, cooking "fancy" dinners stopped, and I felt like we were thrown into survival mode. We really were thrown off our groove.

I reached out to other moms about how they transitioned to toddler beds. I heard a lot of people say they separated their twins at naptime once they transitioned to toddler beds. This option doesn't work well for us as they can't nap in their older brother's room and our bedroom isn't exactly baby proof (it has become the catch-all of all non-baby proof things in our house-- our dressers are piled with things we don't want the babies getting their hands on). I also heard several moms say they sat in their children's room during naptime and bedtime to make sure they went to sleep.

My hubby and I talked. How do we want to enforce bedtime and naptime? I know I don't want to sit in their room for even 10 minutes every single night when we put them to bed, or for however long it takes them to nap every afternoon. We decided on a zero tolerance policy at bedtime. If we hear them making any noise at bedtime, we go in and put them down. This has actually worked. They've been in their toddler beds for-- what?-- three weeks now?-- and they go to bed without problems. Naptime is a different story. We decided that we would do a quiet time policy: if they are quiet, fine. Don't care if you are napping or playing quietly, you are staying in your room until I come get you. I really think we will switch to the zero tolerance policy for naptime as well; they just aren't going down for nap well.

Remember my blog post on the weird showering dilemma I had (read, "Showering")? Now I have nowhere to leave the toddlers while I shower. My boys have figured out that if you can climb out of a Pack'n'Play, you can climb out of your crib and if you can climb out of your crib, you can climb over a baby gate. I put them in their room and they climb over the baby gate. I put them in the playroom and they climb over the baby gate. There are only so many child-proof places that I can leave them for me to shower while they are awake. I've taken to showering at night after they go to bed or in the morning before my hubby leaves.

This morning was different in that I had plans with the kids and needed to shower. Hubby left early and so I was left with two toddlers and preschooler to entertain while I showered. I decided to set the preschooler up in the family room with Magic School Bus and his writing notebook to copy words down. For the toddlers, I put the gate up in the playroom and told them to play while Momma took a quick shower. I think they thought I was leaving because they flipped out. I comforted them, assured them I wasn't leaving, and then brought them down the hall to their bedroom so they could see and hear me while I showered. I put them in their room with the gate up, went to turn on Magic School Bus for D, and when I came back down the hall I found two naked toddlers dashing around their bedroom. I didn't want to leave them naked as they are nowhere near potty trained and so I got new diapers, explained they need to leave their clothes on, and then got them dressed. This distressed O greatly. He screamed, "Naked! Naked! Naked!" as he pulled on his shirt. He then had an epic meltdown from which I could not recover him from. Forty-five minutes later my hubby comes home as I'm trying to get C to play in the playroom while I attempt to get a screaming O to nap in his bedroom. D is now on his third or fourth episode of Magic School Bus. Hubby comes in, takes O from me, and tells me, "I've got this. Go shower." I took a ten minute shower. Ten. Minutes. That is all I needed to get clean, children. Why does it have to be so hard sometimes?

Emptying the dressers in their bedroom

Hubby went back to work after I got out of the shower. I wanted to blow dry my hair and throw on some make up, another 10-15 minute process if I'm hurrying. Didn't happen. I did some more back and forth between the playroom and the bedroom. The toddlers escaped from the playroom and tore apart the kitchen. They were having so many meltdowns and being so impossible to control that I said, "Okay! Early naptime!" I put them down for nap. They refused to stay in bed and climbed over the gate. I put them down. Again and again and again. Until finally they fell asleep. I don't know why they caved and fell asleep, but they did. This is when I decided that Momma needed a writing break and so I sat down to write this blog post. Over an hour later, I hear O yelling at the door, "Momma! Momma!" I worried that he would wake C up so I went down the hall, cracked open the door, and just stared at what I saw. C is sleeping behind the door (fully dressed with his blanket). O was standing butt naked in the middle of a disaster zone. Every drawer is emptied, the contents scattered all over the floor and piled on the chair. They pulled everything off their beds. The toy bin is upside down. Holy smokes. I lifted the naked O over the gate, closed the door, and brought him out here with me. He is now sitting at the table eating a peanut butter sandwich wearing only a diaper, big smile plastered on his face.

Not every day has gone like this since we transitioned to toddler beds. Many have though, which is why we have all been a little stressed. To get them into a routine, we stayed home for about a week and figured out a new nap schedule. This put us on the world's worst nap schedule. As my husband wisely said, "At least they are on a nap schedule." C would go down for a nap around 10:30/11:00 am and nap until 1:00/1:30 pm. O would go down for a nap around 1:30/2:00 pm and nap until about 3:30 pm. C would then go back down for a nap around 4:00/4:30 pm and sleep until 5:30/6:00 pm. We were home rotating naps all day. Once we got them napping, we started pushing back C's morning nap, getting it closer to O's afternoon nap. This shortened C's second nap. Now we try to put both toddlers down around 1:30/2:00 pm. The first day we put C down at this time, he slept for over 5 hours. I think he was exhausted from lack of sleep. Now they nap for roughly 2-3 hours, still shorter than C's pre-toddler bed nap of 4 to 4 and a half hours, but better than no nap at all.

We have also had a difference in our wake up time. In cribs, the boys went to bed for the night at 8 pm and woke up around 7:45/8:00 am. I usually got them out of their cribs around 8:15/8:30 am. Now they are waking up anywhere between 6 am and 7 am. I am not sure why so early. I suspect that O is waking up early and getting C up. I have tried to either make them wait until 7 am before I get them or for 15 minutes. For instance, if they wake up at 6 am, I don't go get them for an hour. If they wake up at 7 am, I make them wait for 15 minutes. I'm *hoping* (<--fingers crossed) that I can push their wake up time to at least 7:30 am. I'm not sure if it will happen or not. Even if we can't push back the wake up time, we are not waking up any earlier than 7:00 am. Momma is not a morning person.

Both toddlers climbing over the baby gate

Besides naptime, the hardest part of this whole process has been the ineffectiveness of the baby gates, now called "baby hurdles" at our house. Our garage is a baby gate graveyard. If you are looking to buy baby gates, here is a run down on how they will do when you have toddlers:
  • Summer Infant Sure and Secure Extra Tall Walk Thru Gate: we own one of these. It works fine for infants, but all toddlers have to do is shake the gate really hard and it will eventually open. The more they do this, the easier it is for it to open. This gate is much more of an alarm system, really. "Oh, hear the gate? The toddlers made it through."
  • Safety 1st Perfect Fit Gate: we own... three of these? Four if you count the one we left at my parents' house. We bought the first two (including the one at my parents' house) when our oldest was a toddler. It is the kind with the holes in it. It looks a lot like this gate, but white. The holes make it, essentially, a baby rock climbing wall and, let me tell you, they are always up for the challenge. The next two we bought were for the twins and they are the smooth fancy looking version, like in the link. The toddlers are 26-months and just deadlift themselves over this gate. They perch themselves on the top to swing their legs over and go down the other side (see above picture). That is why we call it the baby hurdle.
  • Regalo Easy Step Walk Thru Gate: we own two of these. This is the only gate they haven't been able to get through when locked. You press the handle down and a tab slides over it. You have to pull the red tab back to release the handle, then pull the handle up to open the gate. The two step process is hard for their little hands. It is also pressure mounted in our doorways and they haven't felt bold enough to attempt climbing this one, perhaps because of the space in the bars. Regardless, l-o-v-e this gate. Downside: we frequently trap our house guests in rooms with this gate because it is trickier to open and, if you don't lock it, they can just lift the handle and walk through. I think I say "remember to lock the gate" 800 times a day.
  • Carlson Extra Wide Walk Thru Gate with Pet Door: we own one of these, made by the same people who did the Regalo gate, same wonderful latch. We haven't put this one up because it is too wide for our doorways in this house. I actually got this one free! Someone put it on the side of the road with a "free" sign on it and I picked it up one day on our way home from church.
The swing gates are great if you want to leave it up long term, such as the one we keep in the hallway going down to the bedrooms. They are also easier to get through when carrying an infant (or two). The pressure gates are great for doorways you won't use often, if you want to leave it up and permanently block infants and pets from entering a room. The pressure gates are also great for when company comes over and you want to block their kids from going to certain parts of your home. I'll put them up for the afternoon if I want the kids (and their parents) to know certain areas are off limits, especially when there will be lots of kids coming over, which tends to happen when you are friends with mothers of multiples. These pressure gates, though, only slow our toddlers down from going in or out of an area; they are so easy for them to climb over. Hands down, I love the Regalo swing gate.

It has been a trying phase, most definitely. I feel like we have finally reached some sort of routine, finally caught our balance and adjusted to our new schedule. It was such a sudden shift in our daily routine. In "Terrible two's," I mention that these phases of motherhood come in waves. I don't want to jinx it, but we are figuring it out and, perhaps, getting the hang of having two two-year olds in toddler beds!


Evie Perrett said…
Toddlers have this sense of safety over the things they're used to—especially their beds. So, it's kind of difficult to transition them to some new stuff. And they're really, really very active. On the lighter flipside, their energy keeps them very curious. All the more reason to place baby gates. Anyway, toddlers must be kept watch for the most part of the day. Or better yet, babyproof the house. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, by the way.
Kimber said…
You are very right! And thank you!
Alex de Miguel said…
I would like to know your opinion about the best mattress for kids, it is a subject that interests me a lot, but I can't find much information about it.

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