Sleep is such an important part of your child’s life - and yours as a parent! When it comes to sleep, there are so many options available that it can be overwhelming. Would a crib or a bassinet be better? Is co sleeping a good option for you and your family? When is it best to transition your child to a new bed? While a floor bed doesn’t provide a solution to every sleep problem, it can help simplify some of the questions and challenges inherent with helping your little one(s) sleep well.
The thought of using a floor bed instead of a crib can be a big paradigm shift, so we want to address some common concerns and questions about how and when to use a floor bed with your child. We understand that this change can be a daunting one, so we hope the insights and considerations that others have shared about their families can help make for a smoother transition for you and your little one.
Some of the Benefits of using a Floor Bed
A floor bed is a way to honor your child's autonomy and natural curiosity. Because the bed is low to the ground, it offers your child mobility and freedom. They can play with toys, read a book, and even have some autonomy with their sleep.
“...the child should be given a low couch resting practically upon the floor, where he can lie down and get up as he wishes." - Maria Montessori
Our founders had this to share with their experience using a floor bed:
“We used a crib for our first two babies. Now that we have a floor bed for our third, I almost forgot how things used to go. I would have to try to quickly transition my baby from my arms into the crib, which rarely worked. The “free fall” feel that inevitably happened as I tried to lower them to the crib would startle and wake them. I would have to bend over the crib sides and try to comfort them as best I could without actually being able to hold them. My back would start to ache, but our baby still needed some sort of touch for reassurance. Sometimes I would pick them up and we’d start the whole process of “rocking to sleep and trying to quickly get them into the crib before waking” all over again. Other times I would try to ignore my aching back and just endure for a few more minutes so that my baby would settle down and fall asleep. Using a floor bed makes such an amazing difference for our family! I can snuggle with my baby, then gently transition out of the bed. If she starts to stir, I can easily move closer to her and help her settle in before I go out of the room. My husband also loves that he can lay right in bed with our baby and that he doesn’t fall asleep sitting in a chair. And our baby loves the independence! It’s pretty incredible to watch her “ask” to be put to bed when she’s done playing at bedtime (she will crawl onto her bed and try to lay down or grab her blanket to let us know she’s ready). I also feel like it provides a much more natural transition to helping babies sleep more independently.”
Change often requires a Transition Period
As humans, we seem wired for consistency. Maybe you have a favorite park you like to go to, a specific spot where you like to sit when flying on an airplane or seeing a movie, or a favorite dish you order at a restaurant. Even though these seem like small things, it can be distressing when something is different from how it usually is or doesn’t go as we expected. We have routine and rhythms, and when we adults find those disrupted, we often need a little time and space to adjust. This is even more true for kids. So, if your little one’s sleep arrangements are changing, there may be an initial transition period. The routine is being disrupted and your little one is responding to that. These challenges don’t mean that the change is bad or that you made a poor decision, sometimes (most times!) things just have a transitional period while your child adjusts to their new environment.
As a child gets bigger, they may outgrow the need to be close to the floor. One thing you can do with our floor bed is avoid unnecessary change by raising the floor bed as it can be flipped to grow with your growing child. When to flip the bed varies from child to child, though we recommend waiting until they can safely (not head first!) get on and off the floor bed independently.
Common Challenges and Insights from Others’ Experiences
We asked for feedback from those who have a floor bed about what their experience has been. We appreciate so many who were able to provide their insights by sharing their experiences! Some common themes that emerged include helping the child stay in bed, what age worked best for transitioning, and some of the unforeseen benefits of using a floor bed.
Some common suggestions of what to do before transitioning included letting your child pick their sleeping accessories, sticking with a routine, prepping their room with books, and just preparing yourself mentally for the transition phase. For a younger child who might be co sleeping or sleeping in a parent’s room still, it can be helpful to transition in phases; focus first on helping your child use the floor bed for naps and once that is going well, start using it for nighttime sleep. If your child is old enough, you can also talk with them about it. We even had one person who pretended the bed was talking and told their child how excited it was to have him sleep in it!
Many parents mentioned their little ones getting out of bed and playing or trying to leave the room. @heathergrif028 said that her 7 month old would crawl off her bed during bedtime. They offered verbal direction and put her back in her bed. She said it took about a month for her daughter to adjust to staying in the floor bed. She said “it wasn't a sudden thing, though she slowly got out of bed less and less. It still very occasionally happens, but isn't often.”
Some families noted that their little one initially would get out of bed and sleep on the floor instead at first. @growingupwithgrant said that it took 2 months for their son to sleep in his floor bed, and during that time he slept on the floor often. She said, “We just let him sleep on the floor if that's what he wanted! We transitioned to a floor bed when we moved into a new apartment, so I think he was just nervous about all of the changes. One day, my husband fell asleep on our son's bed while watching him and from that point on, Grant has slept in his floor bed!”
@mrsbrightsideandsirmaxwell shared their experience with their 21-month-old daughter. They made the transition about a week prior to us asking them about it. They have found that this change brought on a new family experience of tucking their daughter in at night. “We can now cuddle in bed together. She still needs us there when she is falling asleep at least for her nap but at night it’s just cuddling for a bit and then we leave the room. She did fall out once and we now keep her favorite teddy bear on that side to keep her from rolling out as a barrier. Works great! She also has better naps in the floor bed than in the crib. We actually started the cuddling for her to feel safe in the new room and new bed. A lot of “new” at the same time. And we all love it and actually “argue” who gets to put her down for the night because we both love it. The first night we did wait in bed with her until she was asleep. The last 3 nights we left when she was sleepy, said good night again, and announced that we were leaving before we left the room. Worked really well without any tears and she sleeps through the night. Our plan is to gradually shorten the time of us in the room but for now, we all seem to enjoy it.”
@outsidethetoybox said that one part of switching to a floor bed was that their nap routine changed and that their daughter “used to get out of bed and wait at the door when she woke up, but now she just stays in bed until we come get her. We switched to a floor bed around 14 or 15 months and she is 21 months now.” Regarding naps we had @beckyrodioduncan sharing the joy of a floor bed with naps being that “there's nothing sweeter than that post nap smile when they climb out of bed on their own and come to you.”
We want to mention that regulations require us to recommend waiting until 15 months to start using a floor bed.
Many Montessori families choose to transition their child to the floor bed prior to that by ensuring the child's bedroom is a safe place for an infant to be unsupervised. Ultimately, we know that parents know their child's environment, capabilities, and development better than anyone and we trust parents to do what is best for their children.
The overall feedback from our customers seems to point to a smoother transition when they switch early on. Some customers mentioned that their child was so ready for the change, they aren’t sure what took them so long to do it! Other parents waited until their child was older (around 2 years or more), but felt that the transition was perhaps more difficult because their child was accustomed to the routine of using a crib.
A Sleep Expert’s Input
As a pediatric sleep consultant and occupational therapist, Jessie Sweeney, OTR/L and owner of Supporting Littles, shares her insight. When asked about sleep and independence, she said that “every child and parent is unique and, therefore, there is never a one-size fits all method or answer. The concept that all babies should sleep in a crib is a socially constructed idea in westernized society.”
She continued by stating that the floor bed “provides a gradual and gentle transition to a baby who is bed-sharing or co-sleeping, more SLEEP for parents if parents are currently dealing with frequent crib transfers, allows parents to continue nursing to sleep if they want to, and is low to the ground allowing the baby to feel some autonomy by being able to get in and out of bed independently and eliminating a dangerous fall risk.”
Lastly, when discussing the transition from another bed or bassinet to a floor bed, Sweeney shared the importance of conscious preparation of the space and that “anything inappropriate for the crib is going to be inappropriate for the bedroom.” Some examples given of things to consider were to “check if window coverings are out of reach, outlets are covered, furniture is bolted to the wall ... that there is nothing the baby can climb on, and that there are no "cracks" between the bed and wall.” (One of our floor bed options is designed specifically with a higher side to address this concern, whereas our floor bed with the two low side options are for when the head of the bed is against a wall but the child can get into or out of the bed from either side).
If you are interested in more information on safe sleep and ideas of how to support 0-3 year olds, you can check Jessie Sweeney’s website www.supportinglittles.com.
We hope that this has offered some helpful insights. If you have additional questions or want to share your experience using a floor bed, we would love to hear about it! Feel free to comment below, send us a dm on Instagram at @sprout_kids, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.