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Transitioning to a Floor Bed - Montessori

Otto crawling out of bed at HWM #2

"Maria Montessori taught us that the child's cry means "Help me to do it myself!" and a low bed can help him do important things by himself very soon. Such a simple means to such important ends. 

Once again we have to recognize our profound lack of comprehension for the capacities of the infant. From this stems our lack of faith in them, which impedes their development. We justify our erroneous behavior as being necessary to care for and protect them." - Silvana Quattrocchi Montanaro M.D in Understanding the Human Being. The Importance of the First Three Years of Life. 

I love the freedom of movement that the floor bed provides. Each of my three children have transitioned to a floor bed in different ways. Otto (pictured above) was in a low bed frame but now he's crawling and climbing in unexpected ways, we've put him on a mattress direct on the floor. 

For a child that is crawling and climbing a floor bed feels like the safest option. I want to encourage this movement, I don't want to rein him in. If you are thinking about using a floor bed here are some of my thoughts, remember the room has to be completely child proof and safe:

  • Be careful about using sleeping sacks and a floor bed, the sleeping sacks will restrict movement.
  • Consider using a baby monitor to check on the infant. 
  • Consider using a baby gate on stairs or at the infant's bedroom door to ensure their safety. 
  • We only have child-sized furniture in the infant's room, if you have larger pieces consider securing them to the wall or removing them completely.
  • Carefully consider all of the materials in the infant's room. Now that Otto is crawling I have removed some items from his room including all accessible plants. 
  • In the UK it's not recommended to cover electrical outlets however this varies in other countries. In Australia, I would have covered the outlets. 
  • We currently cosleep at night but Otto uses his floor bed for day-time naps. If you are starting out using a floor bed (from a crib or cosleeping) I recommend to start with day-time naps, you can then check on the child and see how they move and keep an eye on them if they wake, to see what they get up to! 
  • We've used both single and crib sized mattresses. I don't have a preference. My children generally don't move around a lot in their sleep. The crib size bed/mattress fits the nook in Otto's room and it is working fine. Otis and Caspar used standard single bed mattresses. 
  • Otto is my first tummy sleeper, he will often roll onto his tummy to sleep. I am constantly putting him on his back but it's important for this reason to ensure you use a firm mattress, be aware that futons are not always suitable. 
  • Sometimes it's best to put the floor bed in the corner of the room. This is what has worked for us, as the child can and will only move out one way, however, I know some families that prefer the mattress in the middle of the room, so if the child rolls out it's onto the floor not against a wall. 
  • Children will learn where the edge of the bed is and become spatially aware. With Otis (who used a single mattress) I showed and guided him how to get off the mattress - backwards and feet first.
  • There is no pressure to use a floor bed. Sleeping arrangements are so personal, don't feel any pressure from Montessori families or others as to where your child sleeps.
  • If you don't use a floor bed from the start with an infant, it may be a really good idea to consider using a floor bed with a toddler. It is easier in some ways to start providing this freedom when they are young but as mentioned above ensure the room is completely safe. 
  • Use pillows and blankets with caution. Pillows generally aren't needed until the child is around two years of age. Otto is currently using a small knitted baby blanket, it's breathable and won't overheat.
  • Consider using transition items. Unlike my other children, Otto has a lovey (soft rabbit) but he has an extra need to bite and chew things, and two favourite blankets. I am sure these have assisted the transition to the floor bed.
  • The intent of the floor bed is to allow freedom of movement and for greater autonomy, however when Otto wakes he will often talk to himself and play with his toy rabbit, but then he will come looking for me. So he isn't at the stage where he will play with his toys or occupy himself in his room. He is currently seven months so I know, it's likely that this will change. 

I hope that this has given you some ideas, some things to think about and some insight into how we use and transition to a floor bed.

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