I was 8 months pregnant with Lelan when I came across an interesting article about Montessori floor beds. Even though I was familiar with some of the Montessori principles, I had never considered a floor bed for my baby. I remember wondering if my partner would go for the idea but not much more else. Besides, my mother in law had already bought us a beautiful crib and it had taken center stage in our nursery.
So much of our parenting decisions have been influenced by our son. We wanted to nurture his unique nature from the moment he was born. A week long stint in the NICU must have toughened him up because he seemed so much more mature than any baby I’d ever known. He only cried when he needed to be fed or changed. He was content just being in the room with us, looking up at his Munari mobile and cooing quietly. He was sleeping 5 hours a night from the day we brought him home. At 5 weeks old we transitioned him to his crib from a bassinet in our room. He slept soundly through the night even though I was a wreck checking the monitor every 20 mins. At 7 weeks, he broke out of his swaddle and started sleeping without one. He was both alert and relaxed at the same time, which was quite fascinating to witness. He never liked being held, though he tolerated it most of the time. And as the weeks and months went by, we watched in awe as he became more and more independent and confident in his own skin.
When he was six months old, I mentioned the idea of putting a bed on the floor in the nursery to my partner. I’ll never forget the look of bewilderment on his face. I’ve never heard of anything like this, he said to me earnestly. Why can’t he sleep in the crib like other babies? It seemed like a fair question but I had no right answers, just a mother’s intuition. So I started compiling a list of reasons why this option made sense for our son…
- He is an independent child and the crib limits his independence.
- He could climb out of the crib and hurt himself as he was already trying to do.
- He kept getting his arms and legs caught up between the crib bars and waking himself up at night.
- He was also falling asleep standing on those nights when he couldn’t settle himself on his own.
But, all of my reasons were met with resistance and even my sister, who is usually on board with such ideas, thought I was rushing the transition. So, once again the idea was put on the back burner.
I guess this is a good place to stop and discuss our parenting philosophies. While I don’t profess to follow any one school of parenting, there are a couple of universal values that have resonated with me from early on. The main covenant in our household is RESPECT. Without respect you cannot have love. From the moment Lelan was born, he was an actual participant in any decision we made as a family. His needs, feelings and emotions were carefully weighed against whatever agenda we had in mind. By giving him the respect that he rightfully deserves, we are enjoying watching him develop into a peaceful, alert, engaged and self-confident child. Coincidentally, this is also the basis of RIE (Resource for Infant Educators) parenting.
According to Janet Lansbury, a proponent of RIE theory, in her essay What your baby can’t tell you, “One of the most profound lessons I’ve learned since becoming a mom– reinforced by observing hundreds of other parents and babies interact- is that there is a self-fulfilling prophecy to the way we view our babies. If we believe them to be helpless, needy (albeit lovely) creatures, their behavior will confirm those beliefs. Alternatively, if we see our infants as capable, intelligent, responsive people ready to participate in life, initiate activity, receive and return our efforts to communicate with them, then we find that they are all of those things.”
A second concept we strive for in our day-to-day is freedom and/or autonomy. Each of us have our own path to forge in life in which we must feel empowered to create our own destiny. This is true especially for babies. They need to feel free to explore their inner urgings within the limits of consistency and order. This is the basic tenet of the Montessori movement. One of my favorite quotes from Maria Montessori is “Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed.” I remember the first time Lelan ate from a mesh feeder. I simply clipped it to his bib and watched him feed himself. He was barely 6 months old! It was eye opening to say the least. We have never forced him to do anything, not even eating. Thankfully, he’s an excellent eater! We’ve taken his lead on most of the issues that concern him and by allowing him to choose his own activities we’ve seen a dramatic improvement in his concentration over the things that truly interests him.
When Lelan was around 9 months, I broached the subject of the floor bed again with my partner. To my surprise he seemed genuinely interested in the idea. We both agreed that the room and its contents had to be safe for our little guy. That meant the room had to be completely child proofed. Our house is an old Cape so we decided that the bed should be placed in the dormer nook. It offered the best protection on all three sides, naturally. But the space itself was slightly irregular, so we had to order a custom 8 inch firm mattress from an online store. Oh, it’s so comfortable! We also ordered custom fitted sheets from an Etsy vendor due to the odd size. The only issue left to address was the proximity to the window… So, we came up with a simple idea to cover the entire wall with a blanket to camouflage the window. Then we placed a teepee behind and over the bed, wedging the legs deeply on either side of mattress. Light still floods through the window, but it’s filtered and soft. We added a few throw pillows and plush toys around the teepee to make it more cozy. Overall, the bed turned out more fun than we had ever imagined. Ta-da!
Next, it was time to child proof the room from Lelan’s point of view. We secured all the drawers, cabinets and closet doors with locks and bolted the furniture to the wall. All the cords were neatly organized and the rusty baseboard covers were replaced. When we brought Lelan into his room, he was so excited about his big boy bed. He immediately crawled over and started playing in it. That afternoon, we tried letting him sleep in his bed. At first he didn’t understand that the bed was meant for sleeping. He was obsessed with the teepee, using sides to pull himself up. He thought the whole setup was another play area, which caused us a moment of doubt. But, we couldn’t give up just yet. We kept letting him fall asleep in the crib before moving him back to the bed. This went on for a few days because we didn’t want to rush him in any way. Soon our smart boy caught on to the idea and one day, he just crawled over to the bed around nap time and proceeded to fall asleep without any prompting. A few days later we decided to try letting him sleep through the night. That night, Lelan went to sleep in his big boy bed without a fuss. I, on the other hand, was a wreck again imagining him getting out of bed and somehow getting hurt, but he was just fine and has continued to sleep in his bed ever since!
In the end, my intuition turned out to be right! Lelan has the perfect temperment for sleeping on a floor bed. And, I’m glad I waited until my partner was on board with the idea. Lelan has complete control over whether he wants to sleep or not. And, it’s great to see him learning to self regulate… Don’t get me wrong, he does have his off days where he doesn’t want to sleep at all, but there’s usually an underlying cause, like teething, overstimulation or other illness which brings it on. On those days, we just let him play in his room on his own until he’s ready for bed. It’s really cute to watch him in the monitor playing with his toys on his bed. When he’s ready, he usually calls for us to come rock him and is out within minutes.
Are you considering a floor bed for your child? What are some of your concerns? Feel free to share… and thank you for reading!