“Actually we’re not going to use a crib. We’re just going to use the mattress on the floor.”
Oh the looks I received. Oh the comments. Probably the most common was that Andrea wasn’t going to sleep once she started crawling. Or that she was going to fall off. Like many parts of our Montessori training, I had no idea what reality would look like with my daughter but thought I’d give it a try.
For the first few months I had a cestina loaned to me by Montessori Mom Yvonne who had made it for her daughters. I also had a Moses basket that I used with a topponcino. While Andrea slept peacefully during the day in her Moses basket, night time was a completely different story. She slept in our arms while we slept in the nursing chair. She never did sleep in the cestina but greatly enjoyed playing in it and just observing her world during the day.
One night my body had enough of sleeping on the chair so I set up a fold-out mattress beside Andrea’s crib-sized mattress. It was firm and happened to be exactly the same height. Andrea then either slept on me or beside me, laying on her side. Mostly cuddled in the crook of my arm. It was a slow transition from beside me, to on her own bed. Her startle reflex was still quite strong and she woke up if she was on her back but kept sleeping if she was sleeping on her side and “startled” into me.
Around 3.5 Months we made a few changes as she was crying for 2-3 hours every night before falling asleep. It was exhausting for both of us. We introduced the soother, started a solid half-hour bedtime routine, made a firm bedtime, and introduced probiotics. I think everything helped her but I believe the most dramatic change was introducing her to probiotics. Within 3 nights of introducing them, it was like I had a different baby. She didn’t cry every single time she fell asleep for naps and she didn’t cry for hours at bedtime. She either didn’t cry at all or the crying was very minimal. During the day for naps she mostly slept in a baby carrier (ring sling, Moby wrap, or Beco carrier).
Up until this time I had been sleeping with her all night long. Around 4 months she started falling asleep peacefully and I changed to just laying with her until she fell asleep. As she was already in her own bed, I didn’t have to do the “put the baby down” dance. Eventually I just took away the mattress that I slept on. I would lay on the floor until she fell asleep. For a long time she struggled with “the 45 minute intruder” so my husband or I would go lay with her until she fell asleep again. During the night she would wake once or twice for a feed and then go back to sleep. If she was crying in the middle of the night (not for hunger) we would lay on the floor next to her until she fell asleep again.
Within a month she learned to “slither” off her bed in the morning and was able to roll to get to her toys. She never rolled off her bed either at night time or during daytime naps. Around 6 months she started army crawling. Mornings would start with her army crawling off her bed to her toy shelf and she would begin playing her maraca and opening the drawer. She would do so after naps too.
What about daytime naps with the crawler? Did she actually sleep?? She would army crawl around her room and fall asleep on the floor when she got tired. Sometimes she would use the firm nursing pillow as a pillow. Often I would check the video monitor and when she fell asleep I would transfer her to her bed as I found she took longer naps on her bed and I also thought it would help her learn that her bed was for sleeping, not the random spot on the floor. It took a couple of months but she eventually started crawling back onto her bed for naps. There was a transition of sometimes using the bed as her pillow while sleeping on the floor. At evening bedtime she would always stay on her bed.
Soon after she began crawling on all fours (8.5 months) she stopped crawling around her room. She preferred to sit on her bed after her nap or in the morning. She would play with her blanket, her soother, or her one book beside her bed. She would do so happily for at least half an hour (I usually went to get her by then). It has only been quite recently, around when she turned 12 months and has begun the process of dropping her second nap, that she has started crawling around her room again. Instead of sleeping she happily plays in her room. She has started to play with her toys when she wakes up in the mornings again too.
Sleep hasn’t been an easy part of my motherhood journey. Those first few months were very difficult. I feel the floor bed really helped to make a gentle transition for Andrea sleeping with me to sleeping independently. Since she was a month old, she has slept on her own bed at night, so strongly associates sleep with her bed. Throughout her first year it hasn’t always been independently. We have snuggled her all night long, as she fell asleep, and in the middle of the night when she needed. We have also given her some time to cry a little as she learned to settle herself to sleep. She is now able to independently fall asleep for naps and at bedtime. Very occasionally she still wants some snuggles in the middle of the night, but for the majority of the time she sleeps independently throughout the night. After a year of using the floor bed it seems so normal to me that I do a second glance when I see a crib. I have to remind myself that yes, some babies still sleep in cribs. If you haven’t checked it out already, Aid to Life has a great explanation, photos, and video of the floor bed.