Updated: Jul 6, 2022
Why did we switch our baby to a floor bed? This is a conversation that gets brought up a lot, so I'm going to share my answer with you. My disclaimer is that this is what works for our family right now. If a crib is working for you, let that crib work for you! We resonate with a lot of aspects of Montessori and decided to incorporate them into our home. One of the principals we've focused on is freedom of movement in a prepared, safe environment. My daughter is 11 months old and we are transitioning our home to be more inclusive for her. In our kitchen we have a low, open shelf. She has access to bins containing bowls and plates, cups, and a few different types of snacks. In the playroom/living room she has access to some toys that I rotate every few days to keep them exciting. The next room I am focusing on is her bedroom.
Before having a baby, I assumed we'd use the mini-crib until she was 2ish but didn't put much thought into it. The week we brought our daughter home, I remember both my husband and I commenting, jokingly on how the crib reminded us of a cage but didn't discuss it further. At 7 months old, it was time to lower her crib mattress. I set the mattress on the ground to change the setting of the crib, and it was a moment of clarity; why not just leave the mattress on the ground.... so we tried it out. The crib stayed upstairs for a while, easy to put back in her room in case it didn't go well. But it did go well. Really well. It didn't take too long before we ditched the crib and crib mattress all together and brought up a double mattress we had sitting in our storage room.
The biggest concern with the transition was making sure she couldn't accidentally roll off, so I put a pool noodle under the fitted sheet, around the edge of the bed. As she got more mobile I upgraded the pool noodle to pillows. To calm my nerves for the first few nights we had some blankets on the floor around her bed, just in case. Now that she is a competent crawler/climber, its just a mattress on the floor! Our plan is to buy/build a bedframe this spring, but for now it's just the mattress.
People often ask "can't she just get off her bed?" or scoff "well my kid would just crawl off". Yes, and in a way, that's the point of the floor bed. We have set her room up to be safe for her to explore. Her dresser and bookshelf are secured to the wall and she has access to a few cardboard books, stuffed animals and calm toys to play with before or after sleeping. Most of the time, she will crawl back up onto her bed when she's ready to sleep, but for the sake of total transparency; sometimes she naps on her floor. It's not ideal, but it's only happened a handful of times. If it's during nap time I let her sleep where ever she is, and the one time it happened at bedtime I transfered her back to her bed.
I think that most kids test their freedom when transitioning from a crib to a bed they can get out of; whether they transition at 7 months, 18 months or 36 months it's probably going to take time for them to understand our expectations. We went into this decision knowing it might take an extra dose of patience, but decided it was still worth the a try, for us. Eventually her crawling out of bed to play started to impact her naps; early on my husband and I got on the same page about how much playing we were comfortable with before sleeping, so our expectations of her were consistent. We also made a plan for how to put her back to bed. At the beginning of naptime or bedtime we do a bedtime routine (diaper change, sleep sac, book, bed). But if we need to go in her room and put her back in her bed we try not to engage with her besides picking her up, setting her back on her bed with her stuffy and walking out.
Tips for how to keep little ones in a floor bed:
1. Follow the recommended wake windows. An under or over tired baby is going to have a harder time falling asleep anywhere.
2. Establish a bedtime routine that you can stick to. I have seen a lot of bedtime routines that look awesome, but take way more energy than I have left to give at that time of day. Keep it simple, keep it consistent!
3. Prepare the environment. If you load their room with lots of distractions and loud toys; expect them to get distracted with loud toys. We have a few cardboard books, stuffed animals, and a couple of soft toys.
4. A good baby monitor. When I was pregnant I bought a really cheap camera that we upgraded as soon as we made the switch to a floor bed. We picked a Cubo Ai Baby Monitor and I love it. It's so handy that it tracks her sleep and we have it set to notify us when she cries or leaves the "designated sleep space".