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!