I have pretty much zero talent with design. I am simply not a visual person. However, I very much believe in the impact of a well-designed environment, on adults and children alike. I certainly saw this when teaching in a Montessori classroom, where simple tweaks in the organization and flow of the room could alter behaviors and classroom dynamics. Thus, I was excited to design the little buddy’s room when I was pregnant. I read many blog posts and articles about Montessori baby rooms, and couldn’t wait to put it into practice. One thing I was the most excited, curious, and anxious about was the floor bed (a simple bed or mattress on the floor, rather than a crib). I loved this idea, but wasn’t sure how well it would work in real life.
While I planned to use a floor bed, I had read that new babies liked to be in more confined spaces. I also wanted to keep James close for the first few months, so we chose a lovely bassinet, gifted to us by my parents. We set up James’s floor bed in his room, and put the bassinet in our room by our bed. I chose one of the larger bassinets, with hopes that he could stay in there longer, until he was ready for his floor bed.
Things did not go as planned (shocking, I know). When we brought James home from the hospital, he slept terribly the first few nights. I put him in the bassinet awake; I put him in asleep; every time resulted in crying within a few minutes. I thought he just had his days and nights reversed, as happens with many newborns. One night, when he started crying, I took him into his room, figuring that at least this way, my husband and I could take turns sleeping. There was no reason we should both be up all night. This was what led me to first put him in his floor bed as a newborn.
It was an instant change! He still of course woke often to eat, but he slept for hours at a time, for the first time since we’d brought him home. No more constant wake-ups and tears! I couldn’t believe it. I’m still not sure what he so strongly preferred about his floor bed versus his bassinet, but he certainly made his opinion clear. Perhaps the mattress was more comfortable, perhaps he liked being closer to the ground, perhaps he could see me better and felt safer. I have no idea. I feel so lucky though that we had that option available, or who knows how long it would have taken him to accept sleeping in the bassinet.
Another benefit has been the ease of comforting him when he has trouble to fall asleep. It is so easy to lie next to him and put a hand on his belly (or back, now that he rolls over), without having to pick him up. I think this has helped him learn to fall asleep independently (though this is still a work in progress). I imagine this would be far more difficult in a bassinet or crib. Also, since he has been sleeping in his own room from the start, we won’t have to deal with the struggle of transitioning him out of our room when he is older and more aware. As he goes to bed around seven o’clock, we don’t go to bed with him, so he is already used to going to bed in there on his own.
The only downside has been that, due to the SIDS prevention recommendations of sleeping in the same room as the baby for the first six months, either my husband or I sleep next to him on the floor on a camping mattress. This is obviously not ideal, but it’s only for a few more weeks. We considered moving his mattress into our room, but didn’t want to create a future challenge of transitioning him to his own room later.
So far, our experience with the floor bed has been overwhelmingly positive. I’m curious to see if this remains true as he gets older. James is fighting every day to become more mobile. His crawling attempts right now look more like swimming, with only his belly on the floor, limbs flailing, but I know it won’t be long until he’s moving about freely. I very much hope that he adjusts well once he’s mobile and that the floor bed continues to work so well for our family. We shall see!