Our Montessori Floor Bed Experience

I get e-mails and questions about Fern’s sleep set-up quite often, so I thought I’d finally share a full post about our Montessori floor bed experience…the what, the why, the when and the how.

A floor bed is exactly what it sounds like…a bed on the floor. It sounds super weird to a lot of people in our culture, but it’s totally normal in other parts of the world. The idea of the floor bed is based on Montessori principles of allowing children to explore and learn through their environment. As such, Fern’s room has always been set up in a way that was geared toward her and in a way that was totally safe for her stage of development.

We started Fern out in her floor bed between two and three months of age. Before that we were bed sharing and as much as I loved the idea, I was getting zero sleep and just couldn’t deal. I had so many aches and pains from sleeping in weird positions and Fern just wanted to nurse non-stop since she could smell my milk. It just didn’t work for us.

At this stage she obviously wasn’t mobile and was still being swaddled at night, so honestly this wasn’t much different than her being in a crib since she wasn’t exactly going to be getting up and exploring on her own yet. Our set-up was a crib mattress which we put in a corner of the room to prevent rolling and on the open side of the bed we cut a pool noodle to the length of the mattress and stuck it under the crib sheet to create a barrier.

Fern took to the floor bed immediately. This is her when we first started her in it at 2-3 months.

Our Montessori Floor Bed Experience // The Little Things We Do

As she got bigger and started scooting out of her bed, she would wake up in the mornings and play with her toys. It was nice for both of us, because she got to learn and explore on her own, creating a bit of independence and I got a happy girl who didn’t wake me with screaming every morning. Many mornings she would play happily for up to a half hour on her own.

Our Montessori Floor Bed Experience // The Little Things We Do

Sometimes she would wake up and play for a bit and then fall asleep again for another hour or two (usually on the floor) – actually this is what happened most often. I loved this. She would wake up non-stop to nurse all night long, so the mornings felt like a bit of a reprieve for me and it was wonderful. I will admit – floor beds are the easier when babies aren’t yet mobile, or have limited mobility, for obvious reasons.

Our Montessori Floor Bed Experience // The Little Things We Do

I will say that setting up a room for a floor bed does require a little extra effort. The amount of things you can keep in a Montessori style room is limited, because you want to create an environment that is calm and promotes sleep, but also one that provides encouragement for exploration in a way that isn’t too overstimulating. The only toys we keep in Fern’s room, even now that she is older, are soft toys/dolls, books and a select few manipulatives. I want her to have things to do in her room, but not too many things, because I want her to actually sleep, and so far it’s worked well. All of her other toys are in baskets for her to play with during the day throughout the rest of our house or stored away to rotate out as needed.

Things worked really well with the floor bed for awhile, but here are a few challenges that we had…

1. Nap time.

This girl wasn’t a good napper until she was about a year old. Naps never really happened on the floor bed. We’ve tried them, but they just never really took. Fern refused to nap unless I laid with her for the first 9 months of her life and then she finally decided to get on board with the Pack ‘n Play and she’s been napping in it ever since. Recently I’ve tried to get her to nap in the floor bed, but it was a fail. She’s just not tired enough in the afternoon to lay there and sleep. She will nap like a champ in the Pack ‘n Play, because she doesn’t have any other options, but in the floor bed she could stay awake all day. I’m pretty sure she’s going to be one of those kids who drops naps early anyway, because already she will go a day or two without naps despite my best efforts. I know she needs them still, but she’s stubborn and will fight them to the bitter end. I know using the Pack ‘n Play isn’t very Montessori of us, but I don’t care. It works for us and that’s what parenting is all about – finding out what works for your family and your child and doing that.

Our other challenge with the floor bed was…

2. Becoming mobile

When Fern started crawling in full-force around 10 months of age, she decided she hated the floor bed. Like…hated it with the fiery passion of a thousand suns. Every night when I would lay her down for bed she would scream and cry and crawl over to the door and bang on it until I came back to rock her. She would do this over and over. I was never into letting her cry it out. Tried it for a bit and it just wasn’t my thing, but at this stage since she was a little older, I would let her cry for a few minutes and if she did stop, it meant that she fell asleep while banging on the door and would fall asleep laying right in front of the door. Not very safe in case I needed to get in quickly which totally stressed me out.

After a few weeks of this, I realized this just wasn’t working for the here and now. I felt like I was pushing the floor bed so hard because I really wanted it to work, but the fact was, it wasn’t working for my child, and eventually I got rid of my pride and listened to her and what she was telling me she needed. We moved her Pack ‘n Play into her room and she started sleeping like a champ again. Like…12 hour stretches…insane.

I was resigned to having her sleep in her play yard until she went to college, because honestly I was just so happy to finally be getting sleep and I didn’t care how I got it. My husband kept nudging me to try the floor bed again now that she was walking so proficiently, but I resisted. I just didn’t feel like dealing with it. Then I went away for a weekend work trip when Fern was 15 months old and Craig reintroduced the bed again and she was totally ready. She didn’t miss a beat and it was like she had never stopped sleeping on a floor bed.

The only thing was…she didn’t really like the actual mattress. Every night after I tucked her into her bed, she would get up and go sleep in her teepee. I think she really liked the fact that it gave her a bit of a boundary which helped her to feel safe, but also gave her the freedom to get up and explore. After about a week of this, we ditched the mattress and just started putting her to sleep in her teepee. I layered a bunch of quilts as a mattress and filled it with cozy pillows. She loved it! Sometimes when I was rocking her to sleep, she would look up at me and say “Teepee Mama.” to let me know that she was done being rocked and ready to go sleep in the teepee. It was really sweet.

Our Montessori Floor Bed Experience // The Little Things We Do

Fern enjoyed her teepee from 15 months until just a few weeks ago. At 22 months of age she was getting a bit long for her little teepee and we felt like the quilts probably weren’t super comfortable for her to sleep on. We decided to upgrade to a big girl bed. We decided on a full so she could grow into it and I’m so glad we did. It gives her plenty of room to move around while she sleeps without me worrying about her falling off and I like that I can lay down next to her when I’m singing to her at bed time.

Our Montessori Floor Bed Experience // The Little Things We Do

I was a little worried about how the transition would go, because I knew how much she loved the teepee, but it was totally fine. She loves her new bed and I love that we have our not-quite-two-year-old in a kid’s bed and we avoided all the challenges that can come with a transition to a kid’s bed. I watched friends have to go through that and it’s definitely something I’m glad I was able to avoid.

Our Montessori Floor Bed Experience // The Little Things We Do

Here are a few final questions that I get asked often and would like to address:

1. How do you get her to stay in her bed?

The short answer is, I don’t. That’s the point of a floor bed. Your child is free to get up and explore their environment. Some nights when I lay Fern down to sleep, she is ready to sleep. Other nights she is not and will get up and collect all the dolls in her room to play with or lay in bed singing songs for an hour or more. I give her the freedom to trust that she will sleep when she is tired. This might not work for all kids, but it works for us and for the most part she stays in bed and goes right to sleep.

2. If I tried this my kid would just keep opening the door and coming out of their room. How do you get her to stay in her room?

I think because we started so early, Fern just knows that her room is a place for rest. She doesn’t come out in the night. Actually, she did come out of her room the other day for the first time right after I laid her down. She came out twice, but I think it was because my parents were over and she knew they were still here. I walked her back to her room and told her it was time for rest and I needed her to stay in her room until morning and she did. She hasn’t done it since.

3. Would you do it again?

I would absolutely use a floor bed again and fully intend to with our next child. I think the key is knowing your child and listening to their needs and cues. A floor bed might not work for every kid and it’s important to hold onto the idea lightly. As you can see we have modified our approach quite a bit to work with Fern and her needs at certain stages of development. Remember that it’s OK to try it and abandon it for awhile if it isn’t working and then maybe come back to it again. Do what works for you and your child.

Any other questions I’m leaving out? Hopefully this is helpful for those of you considering a floor bed!

Love and sleep,

Lauren

Comments

  1. OMG, this is so interesting! I’ve never heard of this, not being close to being a mom myself yet, but it sounds great for all the reasons you described. I imagine kids have issues with every bed situation sometimes, and sounds like you dealt with it well. She sounds like a great kid! :)

  2. We started a floor bed at about 16 months with Pearl for naps and then transitioned to bedtime. I didn’t have any great reasons for doing it though except that we had an extra mattress and didn’t want to spend money on a bed, ha! It will be interesting at naptime once she realizes she is actually tall enough now to open the door.

    • Kira – Fern just learned how to open doors a few weeks ago and it’s definitely made for earlier wakeups, which is kind of a pain, but not the end of the world. She came out of her room a couple of times, but quickly realized it wasn’t going to fly. It’s been totally fine though. I may get safety knobs for the inside of the door if she seems like she might try and wander in the night though.

  3. it was great to read this. I was about to email you to ask you about the floor bed bc i wanted to try it with my next baby (due in a few months). i guess the transition from crib to bed was horrible for us and we ended up stressing too much about it. in the end, our son sleeps on a floor bed at the moment. i don’t think we’ll get him a frame as we also consider the bedroom as a place for rest, not play. :) thanks for this post!

  4. This is so awesome…I’m hoping to transition her from a crib to a floor bed?! I wonder how that will go! lol Quick question…what did you do about plugs? do you have anything plugged in?

    • We don’t keep anything plugged in except for her sound machine and that plug-in is behind her dresser where she can’t reach it. We don’t have a baby monitor anymore (ours broke when she was about a year), so just the sound machine plug. All the other plugs have outlet covers. Hope the transition goes well for you. Honestly, there were hard days, but don’t give up. It gets better and if it doesn’t try again later. No shame :).

  5. Thanks for the post! I read your original post about Fern’s floor bed (on Babble maybe?) and it inspired me to try my little in one. She loves it, I love it and my hubby and I are ready to sell the crib and just use floor beds for any future children.

    • Yay! I’m so glad my post inspired you Jill! I really can’t say enough good things about the floor bed and I’m glad you had such a great experience too.

  6. My 2yr old is a great overnight sleeper and an awful napper. Usually we just cuddle on the couch and he falls asleep. Maybe we need a teepee?! Kidding aside, thanks for sharing how this works for your family!

  7. I do a floor bed with my almost-2 year old as well. We took the door off of her bed room when we were setting it up and replaced it with a baby safety gate that opens out. There are so many ways to make the space work for you and the no door thing made me more comfortable and made it so we had no need for a baby monitor or anything like that which would need to be plugged in & need a table. We started right away with a regular twin size mattress. Memory foam kind to avoid bouncing. We also have a tent in the room that Leona ends up in some nights! When I started this I had no idea that it had a name or a philosophy behind it. We were just doing what makes sense for our space and worked for us. We love it & so does Leona!

  8. Switching subjects :) where did you find the white nesting dolls in the second pic?

  9. Thanks for this! I’m in third trimester with my first and getting organised, thinking to plan for a floor bed after having a co-sleeping crib for the first months. Your detailed report is most welcome! The question that lead me here was about how early to transition to the floor from the crib. Interesting about naps, where is your pack n play set up?

    • @Jessie – I think I mention it in the post, but we switched from bed sharing to the floor bed around two months. I truly do believe that the earlier you do it, the better. That said, some mamas may want to co-sleep or bed share for longer than that, which I think is great, but it just didn’t work for us. As for the pack ‘n play it was set up in the corner of the room when we used it to minimize the amount of space it took up. We ditched it completely for naps a couple of months before she turned two and it’s been fine. She doesn’t nap every day, but I don’t think it has to do with the bed…it’s just her personality. She does have quiet rest time in there though and it’s been great.

      • Thanks Lauren! Yep, 2-3 months was the data I was after :) You mean the pack n play was in your (parental) room? Our rooms have really different light/noise so I’m trying to figure out the best way to establish day/night sleeping places. Anyhow, thanks again!

        • @Jessie – The pack ‘n play was always in our daughter’s room. I just pushed it off to a corner until nap time. Once she was out of our room, we never brought her back in. For a short stint she napped on our bed and I would lay with her, but it just didn’t work out well.

  10. Soo cool!

  11. I love this so much! I am trying for a baby, and I plan on doing exactly what you’re doing, so I was just looking at some simple things to add to the room. One question for you: Where did you get the tee-pee? I think that might prove to be an awesome addition if needed.

  12. Thanks for your post. I was hoping for some advice…My 7 month old has been in a floor bed for a few weeks now and it had been great up till two days ago when he started to crawl to the door, pull himself up, bang on the door and cry for me to return! It is so painful to hear and watch on the monitor. I go in to comfort him (after about 10-20 min) and have been caving in by nursing him to sleep instead of just letting him cry because the banging and standing at the door (and then sometimes falling over) feels so intense. He is also teething rigth now and probably needs his momma a bit more so than usual. I am not sure what to do and am considering going back to the pack and play like you did. I just wonder if it’s a phase and I should stick it out or if I should try other tactics before switching back to his pack and play so quickly. Any advice would be super helpful!! Thank you!

    • @Liz – I would just suggest waiting it out for a bit, but if it’s not working, don’t be afraid to take a break and reintroduce the floor bed later. Sounds really similar to what happened for us. He could be going through a developmental change…maybe teething or a growth spurt, so try to be aware of these things. Above all, just remember that you are the mama and you know your child better than anyone. Good luck!

  13. Did you nurse her to sleep while she was on the floor bed? Or nurse her in the rocking chair and then lay her down? I’m considering doing a floor bed for my 8 month old. I know she will wake up if I lay her down after nursing.

    • @Morgan – Usually I just nursed her to sleep in the rocking chair and laid her down. Sometimes I laid down and nursed her, but I felt like that was more disruptive though because of the noise it made when I’d get up.

  14. Hi Lauren, I have a six months old baby boy. He used to sleep on the crib until a week ago when I introduced to him the floor bed. So far, he sleeps like the way he does on the crib although still gets up every three hours (which I was hoping it will change when using floor bed). I also noticed that he always falls from his bed (that disturbs his sleep) although I put folded duvet beside the bed so when he falls it won’t hurt him. I wonder if the crib bed is too small since he rolls over now and started to be a “pro” crawler. What do you think is the right size for floor bed? Thank you!

    • @Cathy – We used a crib mattress until the time our daughter was 10 months old at which point we took a break and used a pack ‘n play for a bit, because it wasn’t working well. Reintroduced around 15 months and she slept in a teepee on a pile of quilts until she was about two and we transitioned her to a full-size mattress. I think a bigger mattress would definitely be a better option. More room to roll and if you plan on having a bigger bed eventually, you might as well just switch to the bigger mattress now.

  15. josie richard says:

    Do you allow her to play in her room during the day as well? Our daughters room is kind of half a play room half a bed room, so I wonder if that would breed bad sleeping habits. Any thoughts?

    • @josie – She does play in her room now that she’s older, but I don’t keep many toys in there and not during rest times. She mainly has stuffed animals/dolls and books in there. The rest of her toys are stored throughout the house to encourage her to play elsewhere. It hasn’t been a problem. I will say that until the time she turned two, I kept a very minimal amount of items in there. Only recently have I added to it.

  16. Hey! I was just wondering where you bought the gorgeous teepee?

  17. This is awesome! ^.^ Honestly, I think it’s so wonderful that you let her be on her own–that’s how my parents raised me, and as a teen, they still are as hands-off as possible. I know my boundaries, and I’m usually safer than my peers because I don’t have any pressure to be independent or break free of my parents–I already am. I think it’s awesome when parents let their kids learn and grow up this way. :3 Also, super cute room! I just put my own bed on the floor and will be taking some inspiration. ;)

Trackbacks

  1. […] been doing some thinking, commonly known as over thinking, about it from the Montessori Bed (Our Montessori Bed Experience is an awesome introduction to what it’s all about) to admiring big boy beds (I did look in […]

  2. […] set S up with a Montessori style floor bed (here’s the story of one mom’s experience) and she’s seems to really like it. She’s thrilled to flop down upon it. She loves […]

  3. […] Look at your sleeping arrangements. Maybe you’ve been bedsharing from birth but it’s not working anymore. An older baby could sleep next to daddy instead of mama, or be transitioned to another sleeping surface. Maybe the opposite is true: You’ve been trying the crib thing and it’s just not working. You can bring your baby into your bed anytime, even if you haven’t done it before. (But follow safe bedsharing practices, please!) Some babies like sleeping apart from parents, and after three months of age, that’s a possibility to try. I’m also a fan of lying down to nurse a baby and slipping away after she falls asleep. If you’re concerned about rolling, how about trying a Montessori bed? […]

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