Changes at Home
A “change” of location for your baby can occur right within your own home. If the change is a minimal one, such as moving his crib from one room to another in the same house, you may think the impact on him will be little if any. But understand that from his vantage point on the mattress of the crib, though the crib may be familiar, the whole world outside it is not. The furniture is different. Even if it is the same, it's arranged differently so it appears different to him. The color of paint or pattern of wallpaper on the other side of the bars, the color of the carpet, and the pattern of shadows on the wall at night, whether from a hall light, a streetlight, a night-light, or other source is different than it was in his previous room. Even the sounds may be different in this room than in his old one. All this adds up to unfamiliarity, and unfamiliarity is disturbing at his age.
Your baby is likely to fear abandonment, too, in a big move. Since everything else has changed — his familiar room has “gone away” — he fears that you may have gone away, too.
Moving to a New Home
What if your home itself changes? Often a young family, starting to grow, will find a move to a larger house necessary. The move may be precipitated by a new pregnancy, by needing more room for your existing family, or it may simply be a matter of the family being now able to afford a larger house or being able to move to a house from an apartment. The move may not have anything to do with family size or family purchasing power at all; maybe you are moving to another city or town or simply relocating within your city or town to live in another neighborhood. No matter the reason, the result is that your baby is going to find herself in different surroundings.
Departing from the Crib
Most parents (except cosleepers) keep their babies in cribs until around age two, or toilet training, or until the baby is able to climb out on his own, at which point it's safer to put him into a bed. But sometimes it's necessary to move the baby to a bed sooner, perhaps because Mom is pregnant again and will need the crib for the new baby. You'll want to make the switch before the new baby is due, not only so your toddler doesn't have too many changes to get used to at once, but also in case the new baby arrives unexpectedly early.
You can make a big deal out of the new bed and even have a “graduation party” if you wish. If your toddler is resistant to the idea of giving up his crib, you can tempt him with new sheets with his favorite cartoon characters on them or some other treat that will make the new bed more attractive. You can even point out that the dog or cat can now sleep on the bed with him, and won't that be nice?
The transition will be easier if the toddler is himself a second child; he'll be eager to emulate his older sibling, who's a big boy or big girl sleeping on a big-boy bed or big-girl bed, as your toddler is now about to do. If there's no older sibling to point to, then “just like Mommy and Daddy” can be your catch phrase.
If your toddler is a bit young for a real bed, consider giving him just a mattress on the floor at first or getting a protective guard rail to keep him from rolling out. If you don't choose either of these options, at least put some pillows on the floor so that if he does roll out he lands softly.
Making the New Seem Old
The key to a successful transition is to try to make the new room as familiar as possible. If it's practical, it may help to put the new bed in the same place the crib was. This way, the room will look familiar when your toddler wakes up during the night to resettle himself. If you're putting an expected new baby in the same room with the toddler you're moving out of the crib, move the crib to another spot in the room and put the toddler's new bed in the spot where his crib was. You might even want to take the crib down for a month or two and then put it back together before the new baby is born.
In the case of a move from one house to another, you might consider painting the walls of his room the same color as the walls of his room in the house you're moving from. That way, when he looks out between the bars of his crib on the wall side, he sees the same color as always. In addition, to whatever extent it's practical, you can try to arrange his furniture in a manner similar to its arrangement in his first room. When he looks out the bars of the crib on the other side, he'll still see the familiar toy chest in its usual place, the corner of the dresser, and so on.
If he's used to having a night-light or to having some light coming into the room from a hallway light, try to emulate the same level of light he's used to. If he's used to sleeping in the dark but seems fearful after the move or during the temporary stay in unfamiliar quarters, you can try leaving a night-light on for him. Though it will emphasize the unfamiliarity of the room, he will be able to see that there is nothing fearful. The light will illuminate Mr. Bear or whatever other stuffed furry friends he has in the crib with him, whose presence will reassure him.
If he's used to hearing music or the sound of the TV coming from the living room, maintaining these familiar sounds can aid in reassuring him, too. The more familiarity you can lend to his new or temporary surroundings, the more security you can offer him. Even familiar smells can help, if this is something you can arrange.