In our household, we find ourselves constantly transitioning...to a big boy bed, from a bottle to a cup, to more finger and table foods, as well as to self-feeding. Change is difficult no matter the age, but there are a few things you can do to help the process.
For babies, transitioning with food (to pureed, finger and even table foods) can be a fun and enjoyable experience. Babies learn about their environment by putting things in their mouths, and eating is an experiment to them.
Expose to and offer your baby a wide range of textures and flavors, but be patient with this new process. Just because your child dislikes a food you’ve offered once doesn’t mean you should abandon it. Try again the next day, or wait a few days—or even a few weeks—before trying again.
Embrace the messiness. Let go of your need to clean and reach for the camera instead. You’ll be glad you did.
When moving from a bottle to a cup, give your baby time to explore. Preferably use a cup with handles and a soft spout, but be prepared to try several different cups until your child finds one he likes. Dr. Harvey Grossman of Pediatric Specialists in Overland Park says, “Allow the infant to imitate you and make it fun. If you're enjoying the experience, most likely your child will, too.”
Sleep is perhaps one of the harder transitions, as it often directly affects you too. Whether you are transitioning from bassinet to crib, crib to toddler bed, two naps to one or eliminating naps altogether, it’s all challenging.
When transitioning to a new bed or sleeping area, formulate a plan and stick to it. Carry out your plan in a firm and consistent manner and give it a fair chance, which could mean a couple of weeks or even longer. For us, changing to a big boy bed has been a long and tedious process (and yes, there have been some tears!), but we are now seeing the payoff.
Start slowly and pay attention to your child’s cues. Jean McPherson, mother of two who is expecting her third, says, “Experience has taught us transitions are easier when you let them (your children) lead the way. Having a hard deadline adds pressure to complicate the process.”
If you’re transitioning from two naps to one, realize naps may temporarily shorten, and your schedule may be off for a bit while going through the adjustment. If your child normally naps around 1:00, moving to a 12:30 or 12:45 nap for a short time might help ease her into the transition. Also, be sure to establish, and keep, a bedtime routine. This is important to help your child settle down and be ready to fall asleep. If your child still struggles with settling or falling asleep, look into using a white noise or constellation machine, soft music or cuddly toy.
Transitions are a learning experience for everyone, and not all children are the same either. “One of the most important things I've learned through raising each of my children is every child is different. There is no perfect way to transition a child from one thing to the next,” says Heather Reidy, mother to 3-year-old twins and an 8-month-old.
Enlist the support of others. Maybe it’s a friend to hold you accountable to your “plan” or your spouse to help trade off nighttime duties with you. Also, seek advice from other parents who have already been through the same situation.
Dr. Grossman sums up by saying, “Infants’ and toddlers’ transitioning to new developmental stages, such as bottle to cup or crib to bed, should be a positive and enjoyable experience for parents and children. Each child transitions at his own pace, and we, as parents, should positively guide and nurture our child along while enjoying each stage.”
No matter what transition you find yourself in the midst of, remember to celebrate successes, even the small ones. These changes can be frustrating, time consuming and seem never ending. However, after the fact, you might realize it only lasted a short time in the grand scheme of things. Instead of wishing the time away, remember transitions are temporary, and will end all too soon.
I’m confident that from here on out, all of the transitions you encounter will go as smooth as silk…right?!
Julie Collett writes from her home in Overland Park and has experienced (and still is) many transitions with her 2 ½- and 1-year-olds.