One morning when Evan was 18 months, he jumped out of his crib, so we knew he was too big for it. We bought him a car-shaped toddler bed, hoping the fun look would ease the transition. Since he always slept through the night in his crib, in his own room, we thought he'd adjust easily.
The new bed gave him more freedom to get in and out, so he started visiting us at 2 or 3 in the morning. He didn't want to sleep by himself—he saw Mommy and Daddy sleeping in the same room, so he didn't understand why he had to sleep alone.
What I did
I walked Evan back to his bed anytime he came to our room, and I stayed with him until he fell back asleep, which took anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour. This soon became almost a nightly occurrence, and I became very tired during the day. (I was the one who woke up because I worked part-time, and I didn't have to be at my job until noon. Plus, my husband is a very heavy sleeper!)
What I realized
After about a month, I figured out that Evan was in such a daze when he got up that the more I talked to him (reassuring him that he'd be fine in his own room or explaining why he had to sleep there), the more awake he'd get and the longer it would take him to fall back to sleep. It was better simply to walk him back to his room and tuck him in without saying a word.
Evan would now fall back to sleep pretty quickly, but I was still tired during the day from the interruption, so after a few months, I asked some mom friends of mine what they did to get through this phase. Some put up gates on their children's bedroom doors so they wouldn't be able to leave the room, but I knew that wouldn't help because Evan would yell. I couldn't bear to hear him crying all night, so I'd be awake anyway.
A new tactic
I was going to be switching to a full-time work schedule in a few months, so I really needed to put an end to these middle-of-the-night visits. As a last resort, I decided to try offering him a reward for staying in his own room.
Starting a sticker chart
For each night Evan stayed in his bed (getting up no earlier than 6:00 a.m.), he earned a sticker. And for every three stickers he earned, he could choose a Hot Wheels car (his favorite toy). In about two weeks, Evan became more consistent about staying in bed, so I increased the amount he needed to get a car to five stickers, then seven, then ten. About three months after I started the sticker chart, I managed to wean him off the trips to my room—they were history! Now I'm using the sticker chart for potty training.
What I would do differently
I just wish that I hadn't been so reluctant to use a reward system!