365 days of the Montessori Floor Bed: is it still working?

Posted on Jan 20, 2009 by 24 Comments

Almost a year into the floor bed and things are still going strong. I wrote previously on the Montessori floor bed and a little of why we chose to go that route instead of with a crib (see post). Well, the decision was made and we have never looked back.

At first, I was nervous that the floor bed would give our daughter too much freedom in her room. The purpose of the bed is to instill the ability to make decisions and allow the baby to experience independence, albeit independence with limits. Yes, we baby proofed the whole room, but still, it’s a bit nerve racking to think of the baby deciding to get out of bed on her own to explore her room…and we don’t even have a video monitor!

I decided to put some board books and toys on the bottom shelf of the bookshelf in the room, that way, if Sophie wanted to play with something she would have a selection of things that were virtually indestructible. Recently I’ve added a few wooden puzzles within her reach and her favorite stuffed animals. Also, at night, I move the pillows (purely decorational) along with her blanket to the top of the changing table so she can’t get in to trouble with those.

This is how her typical morning goes: she wakes up, starts singing and babbling. She stirs, probably rolling around for a bit until she decides to crawl over to her bookshelf. Sophie is walking now, but she prefers to sleep with her sleep sack on and it’s difficult for her to walk in it – she has figured out that crawling still works fine. So, she’ll crawl over to her bookshelf and throw just about everything on the floor, sifting through each book, puzzle or animal deciding what to play with. I know this because I hear her on the monitor doing this. Then, she plays…and talks to herself. She’s been able to go for almost a whole hour at a stretch while my husband and I slowly wake up and roust ourselves. Now, I’m not sure how babies react to the morning in cribs since I have no experience with one, but our mornings are really good this way. She wakes up on her own time and is learning to amuse herself – no Mommy or Daddy to make her decisions for her. I think that is a valuable lesson, one that may just serve her well throughout her life.

I’d be lying if I said she never cries in the morning, but those seem to be getting fewer and farther between. It’s as if she knows that we’re here for her even if she doesn’t see us.

I should mention that naps are a different story. Sometimes it is the exact same routine as the morning. But, there have been plenty of days where she just won’t go to sleep or stay asleep. She refuses! And, those days she gets herself out of bed and throws a fit by the door. I know this because 1) I can hear her voice get louder and louder as she tries to look under the crack in the door to the hallway and 2) I’ve hit her with the door as I’ve entered the room. (FYI, I open the door very, very slowly now). But, I figure any kid refuses sleep some days and in a crib she’d throw the same tantrum, she just would have less mobility. Good, and bad.

Sophie has now taken to marching herself over to her bookshelf and playing during naps. Ultimately I’m OK with that as she is making her own decisions (within limits) and we stick to her schedule regardless if she gets a nap…if she’s extra sleepy when bed time comes around, then maybe she’ll eventually learn that nap time combats that. One can hope.

Overall, the floor bed is indeed teaching our daughter the lessons we wanted to teach her. Consequences stem from her own actions – not from some arbitrary “rule.”

And lastly, an added benefit I hadn’t realized: the bed is great for us as well. When she’s sick my husband and I have alternately curled up beside our daughter and rubbed her back during the night, comforted her in the wee hours of the morning while laying down, and lounged in her room while we play together. We are on the floor, yes, but not stooping over a bed rail, feeling our backs get increasingly sore. My knees talk to me more now but honestly I’d rather have that then back trouble!

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  • Carmen

    Hi there! We are having a similar experience with our little one waking and enjoying her freedom – AND the nap challenges…if you are worried about the blankets you could sleep her in a sleepsack – we use the ones from Halo with feet holes (i think they are called early walker, but you can check on the website halosleep.com) they are great because even if it is really freezing i know she is warm enough and i don’t have to worry about her getting tangled in a loose blanket – which i think is SO dangerous! Check out the sleepsacks from Halo – we love them and do night and nap with them.

  • ktpix

    Thanks for the recommendation – very cool idea. We currently use the Halo sleep sacks, but they don’t have feet holes. Love that idea!

  • http://lokilinoblog.wordpress.com lokilino

    Hello ktpix,
    thank you for your report. We also use the floor bed as shown in the Montessori philosophy. It also works fine and we are convinced, this is a very good method for children to sleep. However, our daughter is now 15 months and bringing her to sleep in the night is becoming more and more difficult, since she is jumping on the bed…Are you next to her when she falls asleep in the night? Or do you let her fall asleep alone in her room?

    We are looking forward to your answer!

    Thank you very much,
    best wishes,

  • ktpix

    Hi Ninette,

    Yes, the jumping on the bed game, we know it well too. Luckily so far our daughter only does it during the day and sometimes for naps. We’ve worked pretty hard to establish a night time routine so she seems to link bedtime with actually closing her eyes.

    We went through sleep training with her a number of months ago (maybe when she was 8 months old, I forget exactly). Back then she would take a while to go to sleep and wake in the night a few times a night. We read Dr. Ferber’s sleep solutions book which worked great. He’s not the cry it out monster I had feared and his methods trained our little one to go to sleep quite well within 2 days. Basically, we established a set routine of changing her, reading her a story (or 2) and then holding her for a few minutes until she relaxes. Then we put her down in her bed (still awake) and leave the room. She has a night light in the room, so she definitely sees us leave. We do hear her talking to herself most nights, but she doesn’t get out of bed…at least not yet. And, I should mention she’s 14 1/2 months old, so roughly the same age. From what we’ve read, setting a routine and allowing our daughter to actually fall asleep on her own gives her the opportunity to establish what Dr. Ferber calls a sleep transition object that isn’t us. We give her a little lamb and she hugs that lovey each night. It’s still there with her when she wakes up in the middle of the night so she doesn’t need to call out to us to put her back to sleep again – the lamb fills that need for her.

    We’ve noticed that with each new developmental milestone, our daughter’s sleep pattern is disrupted. When she was learning to crawl, she’d wake herself up on the crawling position. Then, we’d have to turn her back over and she’d fall right back to sleep again. When she started walking, she would wake up, sit up, fuss for a few seconds, and fall back over – usually into a different position. By that time she had learned to search for her lamb and her pacifier (yes, we use a pacifier which, I know, can be controversial), and once she found those, she’d fall right back asleep.

    Now, I don’t know if our method is the trick, it just seems to work.

    I hope this helps some! Thanks for reading this and asking. Kate

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  • Louise M.

    I love your blog! I’m just beginning trying to conceive and reading a lot about various parenting topics. I really love the idea of co-sleeping and also the Montessori floor bed to give your child, first, the feeling of closeness, and later, the feeling of empowerment.

    I love the pics of your daughter! That’s such a cute little crocheted dress in the pic above.

    I had one question. When you used the co-sleeper, what did you do when you put the baby to bed before you yourself were going to bed? And also for mid-day naps? I was just wondering if it was weird to leave them in the little bed-sidecar while no one’s in the bed, and if that made them unhappy. Thanks!

  • sonam dechen

    More ideas for 0-3, and the European Floor Bed can be found here: http://www.michaelolaf.com/JCcontents.html

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  • Emily

    We are planning to use a floor bed, but we are having trouble figuring out what mattress to buy. Ideally, I’d like something without chemical flame retardants. We have been looking at futon mattresses since they tend to be firm (I think?), and this one in particular:


    Do you think this would be suitable? If not, do you have other suggestions?


  • admin

    I like the way you’re thinking: keeping chemicals out of your baby’s environment. For the most useful mattress, I’d go with the 6″, though I’m not sure it will really matter in the long run. What I’ve noticed with our futon is that the edges get smushed and become flattened. It doesn’t matter to our little one though, as she delights in rolling off of it when she plays in there. And, (you may not like this) she sometimes sleeps on the floor with the edge of the mattress as her pillow. This, I must admit, used to concern me, but now I go with it. She still gets a good night sleep and I figure I can’t control when and how she sleeps, only what time we put her down in her room to sleep. The other stuff she’s going to have to learn on her own…Part of sleep training. Hope this helps!

  • http://sunriserants.com Ali

    @Emily – Check out the Ikea florvag – While 6 inches is good, 4 inches might be a little more manageable for the little one to get in and out of at first.

  • Ali

    @Ktpix – Thanks for the reference to Dr. Ferber and the sleep training in the montessori bed. Love the help! Thanks for your blog!

  • marla

    i am starting the transition from bassinet to floor bed for my 7 month old son. do you have any advice for a smooth transition? I like to put him down after i nurse him and rock him a bit to get him calm so he can put himself to sleep. However, all he wants to do is crawl off the mattress and boogie. Do you think i am jumping the gun with the floor bed at 7 months? LOve your blog – i am a montessori teacher and new parent so i love the idea of “cherry picking” what works best :)

  • Kate

    Let’s see – advice for a smooth transition? Yes, ear plugs! No, no, no, just kidding. I remember that at 7 months, the world is pretty interesting (well now, it’s pretty interesting all through life, isn’t it?) and boogie-ing is way more fun than sleeping. My best advice is to be consistent and have patience. Truly. I know that may not be what you’re looking for. My experience was this: I’d get Sophie all ready for sleep and as soon as I put her down she’d want to crawl. In fact, she’d be rocking on all fours, crawling in her sleep. I’d go in there, put her back down, rub her belly or back (whichever was up) and then leave again. Finally, after umpteen times trying to get her to sleep lying down, I just gave up and allowed (funny use of that word) her to crawl. She eventually tired and fell asleep. Not necessarily on the bed, but it didn’t bother her so I tried to not let it bother me.

    I will say that each time I went in there to soothe her, I put her back on the bed so she would learn that bed is where sleep “should” happen. It took a while for the message to get through, but it did get through.

    Best of luck and remember, your son is asserting the independence that you are fostering, so keep him safe, reassure him if he gets scared and go with him.

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  • Andrea

    I am considering doing the floor bed for my second child. I found a naturally made 6″ high mattress. I am going to go with twin or full size so that I can lay with the baby and it can be used later on. My only concern is mold/mildew growing at the bottom of the mattress if placed directly on the floor. I have contacted many mattress manufacturers and they have advised against placing their mattresses directly on the floor. I am thinking of building a 1.5″/2.0″ low profile bed frame/foundation to allow for some air flow. From your experience, do you think 7.5″/8.0″ (mattress+bed frame) is too high for an infant?

  • Kate

    @Andrea You bring up a very, very good point. First off, mold is a serious issue and I hate to admit that I actually cultivated some of my own, come to find out. I think the extra frame difference is minimal, and you should do it. I mean, the baby is already going to have to get used to 6″ so what’s another 2? Just watch out for how hard edged the frame is, considering how often your baby’s noggin will bump against the side of it. Thanks again for bringing it up. And do tell me how it turns out.

  • http://louiseallana.com Louise Allana

    “as she tries to look under the crack in the door to the hallway”

    So cute. Yes, our baby does the same thing. I first caught him doing it when he wanted company at night, so I pretended to be asleep in the middle of the floor, and he crawled to the door and did some minor gymnastics to try and see under the door. Gorgeous.

    As for naptimes and babies that want to play, I put him in his room when I think he is tired (or should be tired), and shut the door. He plays quietly and then in ten or fifteen minutes is usually asleep. Now that he has hit ten months he usually puts himself on his bed to sleep too. Occasionally he cries and there is difficulty, but that is rare these days.

    I wrote up a big post all about it and keep on adding updates here: http://louiseallana.com/tag/roos-room/

  • http://louiseallana.com Louise Allana

    Re the mould issue, it depends a bit on your climate, but I live in Melbourne, Australia (temperate climate) and I regularly prop the mattress up against the wall, allowing it to air on both sides. Every time I change the sheets and also at other times (since the sheets don’t need changing a lot). In a humid climate this might not be enough and I might find I needed to either have a base or air it every day. It’s definitely a worry. If your child is getting chest infections etc its definitely the first thing I would look at as a friend of mine discovered that mould (not in the bed but in the gutters) was the cause of her families continual illness.

  • Amy

    Help, help, help! I have been doing the floor bed for a while now (I have a 9 month old), but I am having a lot of trouble with naps. Any suggestions? Should you follow a nap routine and just leave him in his room for a nap time, even if he isn’t sleeping? I don’t mind that he doesn’t take naps (we’re running on one very short morning nap, as I type, and it’s almost 5pm), but I’m worried he’s not getting the rest he needs. I would appreciate any help.

  • Kate

    OOHH. Naps can be a problem, huh? What I did, and I don’t know if this is bad or good, but I put her to sleep as best I could, got her good and ready to sleep by telling her a story, firmly telling her it was bedtime, rubbing her feet a bit and singing her a lullaby. Some days, though, she just didn’t nap and I had to be OK with it. Let’s face it, you can’t force a kid to nap even if they sleep in a crib, so I figured she was keeping herself happy in her room, what harm was there. That said, this was the exception because she’s now almost 4 and has just given up her nap. Like a month s ago, just! I’d bet your little guy is getting enough sleep if he sleeps through the night. Sleep begets sleep, so you could try to put him down earlier at night and see if that gets you anywhere. Or, schedule morning activities to keep him up till mid day and see if that gets him good and tired. Hope this helps. Lemme know!

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