Wednesday, 5 March 2014

When Montessori floor beds don't work

I have always liked the idea of floor beds for babies and toddlers. I like the idea that, when tired, they drop off on their bed independently. I like that they can get up and explore as soon as they wake up without being trapped behind bars.
 
However, I also believe that babies have strong emotional needs. I believe that a baby needs as much love and reassurance that their parents can give from the moment they are born.
 
Some babies are emotionally more fragile than others. Finn was one of them. He had a stressful birth, which may have been a factor. His first night was spent in a hospital cot where, paralysed by a strong epidural, I could not reach him when he cried for me.

Back home, he wanted to breasfeed all the time and could not sleep away from me. So naturally, the floor bed, introduced at 6 months for daytime naps, didn't work for us. I could put him down there, but he would wake up screaming for me, terrified to be alone. At 2 years old, he still wakes up hysterical when he can't see me in the family bed.
 
Finn playing on his floor bed at 8 months
Montessori floor beds are a fantastic idea and work well for many babies. However, sometimes, they just don't work, because every child is different and has different needs.
 
Even though we did not end up using a floor bed, I still feel like I am being faithful to Montessori in this respect, as I have "followed the child".

Does your child have a floor bed? Is it working well for them? I would love to read your floor bed stories!

14 comments:

  1. I sent the link to this post to my sister in law. She is not practicing Montessori, but has been experiencing very similar situation with hysterical crying. However, the very strange thing for me was that her little girl was perfectly fine spending a couple of nights with grandmother.

    Love your blog, Nina

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    1. Hi Nina, thanks for your comment. How old is her daughter? Did she also have a traumatic birth? I couldn't imagine leaving Finn to sleep with someone else for even a night as I'm sure he would be very distraught :( It's a good thing if your niece is able to adapt.

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  2. Elsa, thank you for sharing your floor bed - or lack of(!) - story. I think it is completely natural for babies and young children to want to be close to their parents (especially mama) while they sleep. Elise and I slept together a lot when she was a baby, and we still do now that she's a toddler. Our floor bed situation is not exactly Montessori, but it works well for us. :) Elise's room is in the upstairs of our house, so she can't just go into her room when she's tired - I have to watch for signs and take her there when she seems ready. She naps by herself on her floor bed - when she wakes up, she is able to play or use the potty, which is great. At night, she sleeps by herself for the first half, and then cries out for me and I sleep with her on the floor bed until the morning. It's a nice balance for us right now because I still get some sleep in my own bed with my husband, and I also get to sleep with Elise - which I also love to do!

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    1. Hi Anne, thanks for your comment. How amazing that Elise is able to play by herself (or use the potty!!) when she wakes up. If she is in her room when she's tired, does she lie on her bed and fall asleep? Do you have to stay with her? Finn is breastfed to sleep but I am keen to change that and I'm not sure how. It's great that you get to sleep both with your husband and daughter :)

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    2. Yes, it's nice to sleep with them both, but exhausting sometimes, too! I also breastfeed Elise to sleep still - the floor bed has actually worked out really well for doing this! Sometimes she falls asleep without nursing, but she's never alone - my husband or I always lay with her. My good friend is night weening her almost 2 year old son right now, and she just signs and says "all done" when he asks for milk. She offers him a glass of water that she keeps near his bed instead. So far, it's working out well for them - this may be the route Elise and I try soon. Let me know if you find out any good info, too, please!

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    3. Well... I read everywhere not to do it cold turkey, but I have tried weaning him gradually before and I always gave in "just this once", and the whole thing never lasted more than a couple of days before I abandoned. I think I will only be able to do it cold turkey, and even though I know he would sleep better without breasfeeding, I am not so sure that he is ready to give up the emotional support it gives him. I know that explaining it to him will help. Do you think Elise is ready to stop? What about you?

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    4. No, I don't really think she's ready either. I'm ok with that, though - we're not really in a hurry. In the big scheme of things, this is such a short moment in time, and I love the closeness it gives us. I agree with you that explaining it seems like it will help when it's time.

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  3. I love reading about how others have the beds set up in their families --- I think behind closed doors it's not as simple as it often appears for the rest of the world.

    Here's our set up:

    Jasper (18 mos) goes to bed at night in his own floor bed in his own room and when we bring him into our bed. He also often naps in his own floor bed.

    In the past few months we have night weaned using the Dr. Jay Gordon method, and that helped to extend sleep hours but didn't have him instantly sleeping through the night (although he has two or three time since night weaning in January). He nurses at bedtime, and then his dad lies down with him to go to sleep without nursing.

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    1. Hi Meghan! First of all, I love your little one's name! I had considered it for Finn. Thank you for sharing Jasper's sleep set up. I am curious as to where he nurses to go to sleep. In his bed or somewhere different? I like the idea that his dad lies down with him to fall asleep without nursing. That's something we might try.

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    2. Hey Elsa,

      Glad you like his name - I have met a few others for whom it was a second-choice, so it must have been in the zeitgeist. And of course we're meeting more Jaspers than ever before!

      Prepare yourself for a lot of detail in my response to your question! I find that it's all about the details when dealing with a toddler (especially one who's entered the sensitive period for order).

      This is our usual bed time routine. It doesn't happen every night, but we try to be fairly consistent when we can be (i.e. when the family including both parents is home for the evening). Bath time, at which time I prepare his room -- pajamas & diaper out, lights off (including out in the hallway) except for one lamp, then out of the bath, getting dressed in pajamas & diaper in his bedroom, CD of bedtime music is turned on, then on to the floor bed to read a few books and nurse. I might read to him before or while nursing, or my husband might come in and read aloud while we nurse. It's definitely awake nursing, not nursing to sleep, if you know what I mean. Then my husband comes in, and I'll say something like "All done nursing and now daddy's going to lie down with you," and I get up and leave, turning off the lamp as I go.

      From there, my husband lies with him, kind of spooning. They sometimes talk quietly for a few minutes (I use the word "talk" loosely in Jasper's case), and then Jasper will go to sleep. It can take anywhere from 15-30 minutes at this point (which in my experience was about how long it might take to nurse him to sleep as well). At the beginning, it sometimes too a bit longer (not much) and there was more often some crying involved. These days, no tears and he doesn't mind finishing nursing.

      Let me know if you have any more questions.... we're figuring it all out as we go along too, and talking about it helps.

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    3. Hi Meghan, thank you so much for your detailed reply! It's really helpful. I love to know how others manage bedtime. I really like your approach and I think that's the kind of thing that would work well for us all. We'll have to try as soon as we're back from holidays! Thanks again for sharing.

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  4. As you know, I'm still waiting for my baby to come in July/August so it will take a little while more before we really have to try the floor bed. But I wanted to ask what your sleeping set-up was like when Finn first came home and how did you attempt to transition him to the floor bed?

    P.S. Thanks to you and Anne and Deb, and so many others, I have so many guides! Thank you! :)

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    1. Hi Mars! We had planned for Finn to sleep in a co-sleeping crib (attached to our bed) from birth. He did that but not in the first few weeks when he could only sleep when in physical contact with me. He slept in his crib from about 2 to 5 months but woke up several times a night for physical contact. When he outgrew the crib, we bought a toddler bed that we placed against our bed. We moved house when he was 6 months and started to put him down on the floor bed there for naps. The routine was the same as on his toddler bed, I would rock or breastfeed him to sleep. He did not make any use of the freedom of movement as he needed me to fall asleep and me again to get him up. Basically, he was extremely needy of me in his first year. He only started sleeping well at 10 months when I "gave in" and slept with him all night, every night. I still sleep with him to this day and only now do I notice him becoming increasingly able to fall asleep and get up by himself. I don't really have any advice to give as I'm not sure whether what I did had an influence on his behaviour or not. Every child is different and the only "advice" I feel able to give is to follow your child and be prepared to be very flexible! The only regret I have concerning his sleep is perhaps to not have slept with him from birth as it would have saved us from many sleepless nights!

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    2. Thank you for your reply, Elsa! I'm frankly quite anxious as I still do not have an idea how the whole sleeping scenario would be like for my baby and me. I'll start reading up to see options, but yes, ultimately, just as we do daily, we observe and follow the child. I'm just a little bit characteristically overwhelmed these days--feeling the need to prepare for natural birthing, for the house, for the baby. So many things I'm excited about! :)

      Thanks again!

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