Experiments in sleep deprivation

It turns out that toddler sleep, like American football, is a game of inches. In this particular case, the inches are the difference in height between the mattress and the crib rail and the distance between the crib and the nearest thing to which a toddler can climb. For Baby G., the crib rail was just low enough that he could swing a leg up to the top and a “mock Swedish” home-assembled storage cabinet (from a certain company with bright blue stores and a four letter name) was just close enough to provide a platform for escape from the crib. Given that Baby G. is turning into an avid climber, this suggested that the winds of change were blowing during this past week, and that we should get ahead of them.

Fortunately, we purchased a convertible crib. The crib first transforms into a toddler bed by replacing the front crib rail with a low guard that protects about half the length of the mattress. After that, it is possible to buy bed rails that turn the front and back crib rails into the headboard and foot board of a full-sized bed. Baby G.’s room is too small for anything more than a twin bed, but we figured that the crib to toddler bed conversion would be useful. When Baby G. actually got out of his crib a couple of times last Tuesday, we figured the toddler bed was worth a try.

The actual timing of the conversion caused some friction. Mrs. Geek was hoping that I’d convert the crib sometime before work on Wednesday morning. I was just feeling on the better side of a cold and had a company potluck luncheon to prepare for that day (I brought Texas-style chili con carne) and decided to wait until the evening. We were both a little worn out and irritable by the end of the day, and she was disappointed that we weren’t able to try the toddler bed out for his afternoon nap. This turned out to be just as well; we’d misplaced some parts needed for the conversion and a trip to the hardware store was required to find replacements. That was easily accomplished on Wednesday evening, and could not have been accomplished that morning.

Bed time that night and the following three nights were not, well, a disaster… but it wasn’t a picnic either. Baby G. has always been good at settling himself for the night, but it’s always been a SLOW process. We could put him in a crib for the night, but he doesn’t fall asleep right away as a rule. He usually takes 30-45 minutes of rolling around, walking around the crib, and sometimes chattering for him to calm down for sleep. Take away one wall of the crib, and he wants to get up, walk around the room, play with toys, and start climbing things. These new possibilities also excite him, so he stays up much later with the toddler bed than he would with the crib. Mrs. Geek and I eventually took 15 minute shifts trying to keep him in the bed… and he wasn’t always happy about it. With an 8pm bed time, he didn’t calm himself until about 10:15pm on the first night. He got to sleep between 15 and 30 minutes earlier on the other nights. His naps weren’t much better. Mrs. Geek and I got tired and irritable from playing “bad cop” for about 2 hours each night and an hour or so during the afternoon. It became a cycle of decreasing returns… where all of us just became more and more exhausted.

So today we decided to withdraw and regroup. The toddler bed is now a crib once more, with the mattress set the lowest it could go. The crib is now a few inches further away from the toy storage cabinets, because the crib is now closer to the wall and the cabinets have been moved as far away as some wall bracing will allow. Baby G. fell asleep on his own in about 10 minutes for his nap this afternoon, and in about 45 minutes without intervention from his parents this evening. The lower mattress and the larger spacing between furniture bought us some time… to consider our next move. The events of the last few days taught us that this needs to be a proactive, not reactive, process.

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One thought on “Experiments in sleep deprivation

  1. Oh…good luck! One of my sister’s kids learned to climb out of his crib at 16 months – thankfully, one of his older brothers caught him on the way down the first time this happened, and they were able to safeguard him until they could get him into a toddler bed.

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