Montessori Floor Bed Update

Good morning!

I’ve been somewhat scared to write this post as it seems like anytime I start to write something about James’s sleep improving, I jinx it and the improvements immediately disappear.  In an effort to overcome my superstitions though, I wanted to share an update on James’s sleeping situation, his naps, and specifically, the floor bed.

I wrote here about the reasons for using a floor bed and how it was working for us.  In short, it worked GREAT for the first six months or so.  James hated his bassinet, and loved his floor bed.  I liked that he could look around his environment and that we could comfort him easily without taking him out of bed.

Not surprisingly, everything got a little more challenging when he became more mobile, around six months.  Obviously I knew this time would come and he would some day be able to get out of bed.  I did not know how that would impact his sleep, but figured we’d deal with that when the time came.

At first, it was fine.  Bedtime and nap time were a little more challenging, as he’d scoot out of bed a few times (on purpose, very cautiously, he never hurt himself this way).  I would go in and silently put him back in bed without making eye contact to avoid stimulating him / making him think this behaviour would lead to play time with mom.

With some experimenting, I learned that if I went in right when he got out of bed, it quickly became a game for him.  So instead I would wait 4-5 minutes and then go put him back in bed.  This often worked and he’d go to sleep after a few round of this.  Sometimes for naps though, he would get too riled up and excited so I would help him go to sleep.  I would sit next to him silently with a hand on his back, avoiding eye contact or stimulation.  This worked well, but I did feel like it was a step backwards since he had previously been falling asleep on his own.  Still, I hoped that it would improve with time as he adjusted to his new freedom.

I should also mention, I removed all toys from his shelf whenever he went to bed so that there was nothing too enticing in his room.  Still though, he easily amused himself by looking in his mirror or playing with his rug or window shade.  No toys needed!

Separately from this, we had the nap struggles I mentioned many times.  James had always taken a long morning nap and two short afternoon naps.  Suddenly at about six months, almost all of his naps were short (35 minutes).  This had happened a few times in the past for a period of a few days, but this time it went on and on for weeks.  I went a little bit crazy….

I read everything I could find on baby sleep, circadian rhythms, ideal durations between naps, ideal times for naps, etc.  I tried keeping him up longer, keeping him up shorter, putting him on a nap schedule based on the information in Healthy Sleep Habits, Healthy Child.  Nothing worked….

I tracked all of his naps, trying to decode what went right when he occasionally took a longer one.

Possibly the funniest, but worst strategy I tried was what I fondly refer to as “poking the bear”.  I read that sometimes babies just get in the habit of short naps, and if you can interrupt their sleep cycle by gently nudging them a few minutes before they wake up, they will sleep longer.  Yeah, this was a disaster for us.  He just woke up, understandably pissed off, turning a 35 minute nap into a 25 minute nap.  NOT GOOD.

Honestly, I think this was a total missing the forest for the trees situation.  I was so focused on the details of his sleep times and trying to get it exactly right that I failed to take a step back and consider the broader situation.

James had always stirred at 35 minutes – if I watched the monitor, he would turn his head or move his hand, but go right back to sleep.  This was just when his sleep cycle naturally transitioned.  However, once he became mobile, he would pop his little head up and get right out of bed to explore.  He was just too curious, too drawn to roll, and then crawl, around his environment.  Who needs sleep when the big wide world awaits?  Everyone, that’s who.

It felt a bit like giving up, but I decided I needed to try something other than the floor bed for naps.  My friend Laura had told me about the Lotus travel crib and I liked it better than a traditional crib or pack and play for several reasons.  It’s on the floor and James is used to sleeping this way – I didn’t know how he would react to suddenly being up high and wanted to minimize the disruption of the change.

It also unzips in front.  I like that I can unzip it and let him come out on his own when it’s time.

Lastly, I love that it travels!  We have several trips coming up and I love that I’ll be able to bring this with us to help the little guy sleep as well as possible on vacation.  It folds up very small and the case can be worn as a backpack.

I had been thinking of trying this for a few weeks, but I had no idea if it would work and it was a little bit expensive, so I was hesitant.  I got desperate though and decided to try it.

It was like magic!  The very day I started using it, he took his normal two short naps, but then slept for an hour for his third one!  It’s been two weeks since then and there has only been one day that he did not take at least one long nap.  Things have actually been getting gradually better too, with his morning nap lengthening to an hour and twenty minutes many days.  There have been several days where he’s taken two, hour plus naps and not needed the late afternoon cat nap.  It seemed like this would never happen!

I was so stressed about him getting enough sleep, not to mention how unpredictable our days were and how difficult it was to do things with him always on the verge of being over-tired and needing to nap.  This thing has been a life saver!

After a week of excellent (for him) naps, I decided to use the Lotus for night time sleep too.  He was sleeping okay at night, but it was sometimes taking him a really long time to fall asleep at bedtime.  After seeing how well it worked for him during the day, it was an easy decision to move away from the floor bed at night, for now.

This is by no means meant as a knock against the floor bed – I’ve seen it work well for many babies at the school where I taught!  It was just a great reminder for me to remember to observe my own specific, unique baby and do what works for him.

Maria Montessori was a scientist who observed children and tried things based on what she saw.  I don’t believe she would ever say that one thing worked for all children or that a method should be blindly, rigidly applied without considering the individual child.  She wrote of following the child and of giving the child freedom within limits – I think James needs more limits than the floor bed gives him right now, and that’s okay.

The great thing about it is, it’s just a twin mattress, so it’s not like I bought an expensive piece of baby equipment that is going to waste.  We’ll just put it away for now and watch him to see when he’s ready to give it another try.

I definitely don’t regret using the floor bed, but I am SO happy to have moved on to something that’s working for us now!

 

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Baby Led Weaning – High Chair versus Weaning Chair

As I mentioned here, after much discussion and general wishy-washiness, we ended up getting both a high chair and building a “weaning chair” (a weird name for a baby-sized chair).  Now that we’ve been using both for about a month and a half, I wanted to share our experience for anyone else out there feeling indecisive on the matter.

Weaning Chair

My husband built this little chair for James and I love it so much.  He usually eats breakfast and lunch in his little chair.

Some of my favorite things about the chair:

Independence: I love that James will be able to get in and out of his chair by himself when he’s a little older, since he’s not strapped in.  I also love that he’ll be able to help set and wipe the table later since the table is at a height he can reach.

Balance: I’m sure this depends on the specific chair, but ours does not hold him in as tightly as the high chair.  This was a challenge when he first started using it, but in a good way.  James is not too interested in sitting, always wanting to be on the move, so sitting in his chair for meals was one of the only times he really practiced balancing while sitting.  Will sit for food!

Food Waste: The way the chair is built with the tall sides, much of the food James drops winds up on the seat of his chair, rather than the floor, so that I can give it back to him.  This results in much less food waste and a less messy floor.

The things I don’t like as much about the weaning chair:

Harder to Clean: I love that it’s made of wood, but it is a lot harder to get it fully clean than his plastic high chair, especially after something like oatmeal or avocado.  I used a natural beeswax wood polish, but maybe I need to apply another coat?

High Chair

We have also been enjoying our Ikea high chair (only $20!).  We use this mostly for James’s dinners.  The things I like about the high chair:

Family Meals: As I’ve mentioned before, we aren’t really doing family dinners right now since James needs to eat early to protect his early bedtime.  However, my husband often gets home while James is eating dinner and comes and sits with us at the dining table.  I can easily sit on the floor at James’s little table, but it’s too small for two adults and a baby, so the high chair lets us all sit together for a meal.

Easier to Clean: The high chair is very easy to clean. It is a simple one with no fabric and not too many pieces, which makes it easy.  If it’s been a particularly messy meal, it’s easy to carry it to the backyard and hose it off.  I will say the food spreads out further on the floor though since he is dropping it from a greater height.  I also like that I can keep James in there while I clean up to show him more of the process.  He is not stable enough in his little chair for me to leave him there while I clean up after a meal.

All in all, while I definitely don’t think both are necessary, I love having both the weaning chair and high chair for James and think we’ll likely keep using both for years.  As far as I can tell, James doesn’t seem to have a preference – he’ll eat anywhere as long as sweet potatoes are involved 🙂

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What’s on James’s Shelf? Round 2: 7 Months

Good morning!

How is your week going?  I can’t believe it’s already Wednesday.  My father in law just left yesterday, which made it seem like it was still the weekend so this week is flying by.

I’ve always enjoyed choosing what to put on James’s toy shelf in his room (I switch out at least some of it every week or so), but it’s been especially fun now that he rolls over to the shelf and selects his own toys.  Before, I would give him toys from his shelf, but also from the closet, so it didn’t make as much of a difference what I put out.

Now though, I love trying to choose things that I think will catch his eye or challenge him a little bit.  Here’s a look at what’s on his shelf this week.

Brio Motion Wobbler

I just introduced this one to James and he seems to like it.

This toy pops up again when pushed down and also spins like a top, though he hasn’t done this yet.  It’s a fun one for baby to play with when he’s laying on his stomach.  I like that it moves a little bit, but not totally out of his reach.

Sensory Balls

I couldn’t find the exact set we have on Amazon, but I think these are the same brand.  They look very similar anyway.  The set comes with six, but I put one or two out at a time.  James has loved the yellow knobby one for a while.  He likes to hold it and put it in his mouth.  He’s also been really interested in watching balls roll lately.

He’ll lay on his stomach and move them around or we’ll roll them back and forth.  I like this because it challenges him to maneuver in different ways to find the ball and to reach with his hand.  He does get frustrated with this if he’s tired though, as it’s pretty challenging for him since he can’t’ yet crawl.

Manhattan Toy Classic Baby Beads 

This is a wooden clutching toy.  James of course likes to put the balls in his mouth.  The shape also twists and changes, which is fun, and I love the colors.  This toy has a really nice weight to it too.

Sparky Dog Rattle

I don’t know what the brand on this one is, but James’s Grandpa brought it with him when he visited and James loves it.  It is soft and makes a nice, fairly quiet rattling sound.  I pretty much always have some sort of rattle or shaker out on James’s shelf.

James is also fascinated by the boxes I use as trays on his shelf.  I think he enjoys these just as much as the toys.

It’s fun to see his interests in different toys develop as he grows and I always love selecting what to put out for the week – it kind of feels like “shopping” the toy closet to choose.

Does anyone have recommendations for great toys for 7-12 months?

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Montessori Baby – What’s on James’s Shelf?

Good morning!

I wanted to share an update on James’s nursery today.  I set up his toy shelf before he was born, but it was really just for looks in the first few months.  In the last month or so though, James has been much more interested in toys.

He is all about using his hands and bringing things to his mouth these days.  Now that he actually plays with the toys on his shelf, I try to rotate a few of them at the beginning of each week.  Here’s a snapshot of what’s on his shelf now at five and a half months.

As a side note, Montessori has a big emphasis on using natural materials and I hope to collect some small baskets and wooden trays to hold his toys.  In the meantime I’m using these colorful boxes my Mom had from Birchbox.  I got the idea to use these as storage from The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

This basket of books is the newest addition to his shelf and I am absolutely loving it.  There is a closet with built-in shelves right outside James’s room and we keep his books there.  However, I’ve been remembering to read to him a lot more now that there are a few right there on his shelf.  I rotate these each week, except for Goodnight Moon, which is a permanent staple as we read it each night before bed.  This basket is right next to the glider so it is super easy to sit with him there and choose a book to read.

Gund Fuzzy Frog

This has a special place in my heart because I spent way too long browsing stuffed animals and trying to pick the perfect one for him while I was pregnant.  He does not yet show any particular attachment to a stuffed animal, but he does seem to enjoy reaching for them and “wrestling” them.

Crochet Vegetable Rattles

I love these because I think they’re adorable, but I also like that each one offers a different way to grip and a different level of challenge.  For instance, James could grasp the mushroom right away when we gave him these at 3 months old, but the tomato and radish are more difficult.

This Etsy shop has some other really beautiful wooden and crochet toys as well.

Montessori Grasping Toys

These are classic Montessori baby toys, gifted to me by the head of school where I taught.  The one with two discs is great for passing back and forth from hand to hand and James loves to hold the one with wooden beads and work one of the beads into his mouth.

Haba Rainbow Clutching Toy

This seems to be one of James’s favorites.

It is easy to grasp, but also interesting as it bends and has lots of fun colors.  I love Haba toys in general.

Haba Rainbow Ball

Another Haba favorite.  I love this ball because it has lots of interesting textures and colors.  It also rolls away, but not too far, so James can still see it and reach for it.

When James is a little older and can crawl over to the shelf by himself, I will likely have fewer items on each tray (for instance, one or two vegetable rattles instead of all of them).  At this point though, I’m just bringing him the toys, so I can bring him one at a time.

If you have children, do you have any baby toys you recommend?

Are you more of a minimalist or do you like to fill your house with many things you love?

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Thoughts on a Floor Bed

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!

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The Nursery – AKA, My Favorite Room in the House

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When I found out I was pregnant, we were living in a one bedroom apartment and knew we would move before the baby was born.  We decided to buy a house and the process took months.  While the search was sometimes exhausting and frustrating, it did give me plenty of time to research the type of nursery I wanted to have.  Since I couldn’t do any real nesting to speak of, I poured all of that pent up energy into researching Montessori infant rooms.  When we finally moved into our house when I was just over 30 weeks pregnant, setting up the nursery was fairly simple.

Right now, the room has four basic areas: sleeping, playing, diaper changing, and nursing.

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I’ll start with the one that I spent the most time researching: sleeping.  I knew I was interested in a floor bed, especially after seeing them work wonderfully in the infant room at the school where I teach.  I was unsure of the actual logistics of this though, particularly making sure that it was safe.  I researched floor beds and mattresses, but honestly didn’t find a whole lot of specifics, mainly just accounts of how a floor bed worked or didn’t work for different families.  I did read somewhere that Ikea had a thin mattress lower to the ground than most, and that is what we decided to go with.  We wanted a twin mattress that would give him more room to move and that would grow with him.  The Ikea mattress (I believe it was this one: Minnesund) seemed firm and was under 4 inches high, so that when he does eventually roll off, he won’t have too far to fall.  We also placed a rug by the bed to soften the landing.  While a bed frame is totally unnecessary, I fell in love with this one from Etsy.  When we assembled it, there was a small gap between the mattress and the frame, so we decided to wait until he’s a bit older to use the frame for safety reasons.  I’m not too upset about this though since, as it’s a twin sized bed, he will still get plenty of use out of it into the toddler years.  The flag bunting hanging over his mattress came with the bed frame.  One other note, we could not find sheets that fit the low mattress tightly enough for an infant, but used sheet suspenders (I believe these) to pull the sheets nice and tight.  We plan to start him out in a bassinet in our room, but to transition him to the floor bed for naps fairly quickly so he can begin getting used to his space.

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For the “playing area”, we hung an acrylic, shatter-proof mirror on the wall (pictured above with the bed).  We purchased it from Home Depot.  They have all different sizes and it was very easy to hang.  It is very lightweight, so there is no fear of it falling and hitting the baby.  We hung the black and white mobile above the mirror so that he can watch the reflection of the movement for added interest.  We were so fortunate and a wonderful Montessorian here in Austin gave us the beautiful mobile.  My mom is also making a more traditional Munari mobile, which I’m so happy about, as I love the Montessori mobiles, but am decidedly un-crafty myself.   I can’t wait to see him interact with both the mobile and the mirror!  Along the lines of play, we also have a low shelf from Ikea with a few books, toys, and photos on it.  The black and white rattle was part of a lovely giftset of Montessori baby toys I received and the pictures are photos my husband has taken.

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For the changing station, I knew I wanted to have this on the floor for a few reasons.  Since I know it won’t be long before he is mobile and crawling around the room on his own, I wanted to minimize furniture that may not be safe later on.  I also plan to do stand-up diapering as soon as he can stand holding onto something, so did not want to invest in a piece of furniture we would use for such a short time.

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Lastly, nursing: I was not planning to purchase a glider / rocking chair for nursing, but a wonderful family at the school where I teach gifted us this one and I could not be happier about it!  It is the most comfortable chair and I already sit in it all of the time to read.  Once the baby starts to crawl, we will likely need to move it to a different room so that he doesn’t hurt his fingers under the rockers, but for now, it is a great comfortable spot in the room where I’m sure we will spend lots of time over the next few months.

I’m sure this room will go through many iterations as we observe the baby in it and as his needs change.   Right now I just can’t wait until he’s here to test it out!

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