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When it comes to baby gear, I am a bit of a connoisseur and I've pretty much tested it all. My babies have tried every bottle, binky and bouncer under the sun, but the one baby registry topping item that they we've never owned often catches people by surprise: a crib. The reason? My babies don't sleep in cribs.
At this point, if you're like most people you may be feeling more than a bit confused, because if our babies don't sleep in cribs (the most obvious place for a baby) then where do they sleep? This answer is also a bit surprising, because they sleep on the floor ... sort of. Allow me to explain.
Before I became a mom, I worked full-time as a preschool teacher at a school that pulled a lot from Montessori principles. Throughout my time there I researched Montessori principles extensively and learned a great many things that I hoped to one day incorporate into my own parenting approach—one of those things being the idea of a Montessori floor bed.
Instead of putting babies in cribs, Montessori suggests allowing them to sleep on a floor bed (a crib mattress—or any mattress really—on the floor) so that once they are mobile they can get up and explore their environment freely. I knew that this approach would definitely require a lot of extra babyproofing and consideration when it came to nursery setup, but overall the idea sounded great to me!
Aside from the fact that I appreciate the Montessori approach to early childhood learning in general, there were other more functional considerations that came into play as well when deciding to go this route for our children's sleeping arrangements. The practice of using a floor bed with our kids has been really fantastic for our family and has been one that a few of our friends have even come to adopt as there are quite a few practical benefits.
1. It's a money saver.
We didn't have to spend a ton of money on a crib that would only be used for a relatively short period of time. We started out with a crib mattress because someone handed one down to us, but if we were going to buy a mattress we would've just started with a twin size that our little ones could grow into which would make even more financial sense.
2. It creates a nursery that is actually baby-friendly.
I love the idea of a beautiful nursery as much as the next person, but the reality is that most nurseries are designed with only the parents and aesthetics in mind. This is completely fine if that's what you want, but I am of the thought that a nursery is a space for a child, so it should probably be an interesting and inspiring place for them to be. When we decided to go the floor bed approach, it shaped the other decisions we made for the space as well and we tried our hardest to set everything up with our little ones in mind. We hung art work at their level and set up low shelves with baskets of toys that could be easily accessed and explored independently. We kept everything simple and completely safe for our children to get up and explore as they wanted.
The fact that kids can wake up and explore on their own instead of feeling the need to yell or cry from their crib for an adult immediately upon waking can be a big bonus for parents when it comes to sleep.
3. It can help parents get extra sleep.
The fact that kids can wake up and explore on their own instead of feeling the need to yell or cry from their crib for an adult immediately upon waking can be a big bonus for parents when it comes to sleep. Our daughter would often wake up and crawl around exploring books and toys in her room for a bit every morning for up to an hour and oftentimes she would even fall back asleep for round two!
4. More snuggles!
Bedtime routines and middle of the night nursing sessions are a breeze with the floor bed. Instead of having to pick my kids up out of the crib, I was able to simply go lay down next to them on the mattress to snuggle and/or nurse them back to sleep. So convenient and we really enjoyed the bonding experience it provided.
If I were to be completely honest, this was one of the biggest motivators for us when it came to choosing a floor bed for our kids. When I was pregnant for the first time, I remember hanging out at a friend's house and watching them struggle through the bedtime routine. Their two-year-old had just transitioned to a big-kid bed and it definitely hadn't been a seamless process. He got out of bed no less than 15 times while we were there and they vented about how much work it had been. That alone was enough to persuade me to give the floor bed a try. I figured if it didn't work, we would be no worse off and could always buy a crib later.
I will say that with both of our kids there were stages when they struggled with the floor bed (i.e., when they were first learning to crawl) and we had to use the play yard for bed time or naps for a period of time, but we were able to reintroduce the floor bed when they were ready and it worked out great and basically eliminated a long, drawn-out transition.