Wednesday, April 11, 2012

More on the Montessori Floor Bed


Now that Henry is over a year-old, the concept of a Montessori floor bed doesn't even feel novel anymore. It just feels normal. I've written several different posts about the floor bed, including this one about our original decision and an update when he was four months-old, .

I think it's done a lot for Henry's independence and his sense of his place in the world to have the freedom to get in and out of his own bed. I wanted to answer this question from a kindred spirit related to floor beds:
I'm currently pregnant with my first and have been considering trying a floor bed. I'll probably keep the baby in our room in a co-sleeper for the first several months, but was planning on trying the floor bed for naps early on. I have two nagging questions, though.

My first concern is really logistical. I really want to use a non-toxic, safe mattress, but I also would prefer a thinner mattress in case of roll-offs. We have room for a twin, and I'd prefer that for longevity. I do have access to the thinner Ikea mattresses, but I don't know how safe the contents really are. More importantly, I don't know that it's possible to get a safe, tight fit with the sheets and mattress cover on a thinner mattress. I wouldn't think there'd be sheets out there for a mattress only 3" thick. I also found an organic futon online, but it looks relatively soft and quilted, and I worry about SIDS with a softer, pillowy surface. Frankly, figuring out all these logistics are making me lean more towards a crib, because it's just easier to make it all add up, and I figure safety is the most important thing. Loose, baggy sheets aren't an option. I'm wondering if you've heard how any other people have solved this conundrum.

My other question is about a baby's comfort in an exposed sleeping environment. I'm sure that many cultures - Japan and Native American cultures come to mind - may not use a crib or cradle, but in those cases the baby probably sleeps close to its mother. Might there be an instinctual fear of being left so exposed and vulnerable? Has anyone noticed a baby's discomfort with the floor bed because of this?

There are many things I really like about the idea of a floor bed, but these two issues currently have me stymied. Any thoughts you or your readers have would be really helpful.
First, congratulations!

Second, I hear all your concerns. Doing something that's not mainstream can be scary, especially when it's related to something as precious as another life. Plus, it's difficult to find thin, eco-friendly mattresses (that fit in the budget). Here are some ideas that have come up in our Montessori in the Home group:

You can mitigate the height by putting a soft carpet next to the bed. Kylie's son Otis uses a thick mattress, and he doesn't seem to have any trouble with it. Link

As for making the sheets as tight as possible, you could easily sew some elastic strips across the underside to pull it tight, like I did for Henry's co-sleeing mattress.

To address an infant's need for closeness like you described, Montessorians recommend using something called a cestina basket. It's shallower and wider than a Moses Basket, but you could also use a Moses Basket, since cestinas are hard to come by. The idea is to create a womb-like experience for the first 6-8 weeks of life (which is considered to be the Symbiotic Period in Montessori child development theory). When they graduate out of the basket and into their bed, you keep the bed in a corner, so they are surrounded on two sides.

I definitely advise planning and thinking through all your options like you're doing, but also remind yourself that your child will have his/her own opinions about where to sleep. Henry spent the first three months of his life taking every nap in the Moby wrap on our chests. At night, he didn't want to sleep in either of the two co-sleeper options we had set up; he wanted to sleep in my armpit. Matt and I followed Henry's need, but we also kept our ultimate goal in mind (Henry's independence) and looked for opportunities to transition him into more independence. At two months we stopped co-sleeping at night. At three months, Henry was ready to nap on our bed instead of our chests. I think around four months he finally started napping on his floor bed (but I had to lay with my leg on him to get him to fall asleep). Finally, he learned to put himself to sleep for naps and at night.

At every step of the way, we looked for those opportunities to transition and teach him the next level of independence. Babies change so fast! I find that Henry is usually ready for things before I realize it.

I also want to point out that using a floor bed felt risky to us at points. Henry was clearly more comfortable sleeping on his stomach, which freaked us out to no end, since we were directly violating the "Back to Sleep" campaign. We also worried that he would roll off his bed and smother himself somewhere in the room. I tried to examine my fears through a rational lens. Thinking about the documentary Babies helped a lot. I would ask myself, "What would the mother in Mongolia do?"

Ultimately, we all need to make decisions that feel right to us. That's the best we can do with our lives. If those choices lead to negative outcomes, we can at least find some comfort in the knowledge that we did our best.



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14 comments:

Anna said...

I know in Japan the baby sleeps with her mother for the first year or so. They don't use cribs at all.

Speaking from my own experience, I didn't notice any discomfort with the floor bed with my son. He took to it rather quickly. But he also did not being in his crib so maybe just the fact that he had a sleeping area that didn't contain him made him comfortable with it.

Since you're planning to do this when your baby's several months old, he will be mobile so babyproofing will probably be a bigger concern rather than him feeling any "vulnerability".

About your bedsheets question, maybe you could buy those bedsheet fasteners on Amazon. I haven't tried them myself though so I can't say how well they work.

And to Sara, I'm on totally with you with the documentary "Babies". I think the same thing! (The DVD will be a contest prize on my site - bedstart.com - in the near future.)

Jenny said...

Thank you for this post. We tried to use a traditional crib with our first son and it was a bit of a battle. He hated the crib. We ended up mostly cosleeping, but none of us slept very well with the arrangement. We finally put him in a floor bed (without realizing it was part of the Montessori method) when he was a little over a year old. It made a huge difference in his sleep. Our biggest issue with the floor bed is that we have two very large dogs who were under the impression the bed was for them! I'm now pregnant with our second and we'd really like to figure out a different way.

Elizabeth said...

Thanks for this timely post, Sara! I am 31 weeks pregnant and we're in the process of figuring out sleeping arrangements. We have an Arm's Reach co-sleeper for the first 2-3 months, and are planning on a floor bed after that. I was just in Ikea last weekend, looking at their mattresses and I think we'll do a thin twin-size mattress. We don't have room for anything larger! We'll also be doubling the movement mat and the floor bed, or at least using the same space. I need to go back and read your post about baby-proofing a room that is doing double duty as an office / music room and baby's room - I think I just have to get everything two to three feet off the floor, but I still have to work on keeping the room simple and clean for baby. Good thing we have two months left before baby, and a few more after that until baby needs the room to be baby proofed!

Kelsey said...

We plan to use a floor bed set up when we have a baby. But living in Arizona - I'm a tiny bit nervous about scorpions! A sting could be dealy to an infant and we have maybe 5 in the house every summer (despite getting regular treatments, they seem to be inevitable). We have rarely found them in the bedrooms though, usually near a door.

Maybe I will have to find some Arizona Montessori moms to calm my fears. And we could check the room every night with a black light. I do not want to sacrifice safety but I'm also very in love with the floor bed set up.

Kylie D'Alton said...

Kelsey, I have seen some good frames to put the mattress on which would provide a bit of a barrier but wouldn't protect your baby once they moved off their bed. I hope you can find some Montessori moms nearby.

We only used the thicker mattress because it's all we could find that we were happy with. We don't have Ikea in my city and transporting a mattress so far wasn't cost effective, there were so many considerations.

Sara E. Cotner said...

Anna! Thanks for chiming in with a link to your site. I meant to mention it, but I forgot. I think it's a great resource for people who are exploring the floor bed as an option.

@ Jenny: Yes, Hoss thinks it's his domain. Once, Henry was fussing at his door and Hoss pushed it open to let Henry out. When I scooped up Henry and brought him back into his room, I realized Hoss had taken over his bed. It was hilarious.

Hi, Kelsey! I'm sorry I never responded to your request in the Montessori in the Home forum. I don't really know how to help! I definitely think you should contact some local Montessorians through schools. They might have an easy solution!

Hi, Elizabeth! If you google "Feeding the Soil Montessori Nursery Tour" I think it will take you straight to the post I wrote about how we crafted Henry's first multi-functional room. Wishing you the best!

Kelsey said...

Thanks Kylie and Sara! I think it will be fine..and I've recently seen some beds with a frame that sits on the ground, that might be a good option. I'll definitely share my experience when it happens!

Justine said...

I love the idea of a floor bed. I know my family will think it's nuts, but I'll be linking back to your blog and other Montessori sources. Thanks!

Sara E. Cotner said...

Hi, Justine! I'll try to remember to write a post all about how to talk to your family about using a floor bed. I know it can seem so crazy to people!

Maureen said...

We use a floor bed and it's worked out great so far. We got a twin sized natural latex mattress from PlushBeds for a pull-out sofa. I have an organic canvas waterproof mattress pad that fits well on it. I use organic sheets and use mitten clips on the underside to make them fit tightly. Lily (9.5 mos) has slept very well in her floor bed since we first introduced her to it at 5 months old. What I love best about it is the ability to lay down and nurse her before bed and, before she was sleeping through the night, back to sleep.

Now in the morning she wakes up on her own and plays with her toys or books rather than crying for us as she does when she wakes from a nap if we put her in her pack-and-play.

The only setback we've had is some condensation on the underside of the mattress from having it directly on a hardwood floor with no insulation. We solved that problem by putting down a remnant of moisture barrier carpet pad underneath the mattress.

no one said...

Does anyone have any advice for a sleep approach for a begining mobile child? My daughter is 7 months and has been on her floor bed since she was 3 months. It has worked wonderfully. However, she is starting to get mobile. I believe that sleep is very important to her development and she has never been a great sleeper. How do I teach her how to nap and sleep at night? I believe in her freedom to entertain herself, within certain limits. Any advice?

Anonymous said...

Hi! I'm a 0-3 trained montessori teacher and pregnant with my first child. i am wondering about the floor bed frame from michael olaf. it is crib-sized. how long can i use a crib-sized floor bed before transitioning to a twin floor bed?

thanks!

Sara E. Cotner said...

Hi! Henry is almost 17 months old, and I'm thinking about switching him to a twin soon. Keep in mind he's on the bigger side for kids.

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