If you’re anything like I was, you’re probably reading the title and thinking “Montessori bed? Isn’t Montessori a type of school?” Well, yes and no. Montessori describes a philosophy of early childhood education for infants and toddlers. The philosophy focuses on teaching real life skills like clothing oneself and feeding oneself versus make believe play with toys. But the Montessori way isn’t just limited to the classroom, a little while back, a movement began to bring those same ideas into the home. Parents who subscribe to the philosophy may include their child in meal preparation activities or house cleaning tasks, in an effort to help them learn life skills, motor control, cause and effect, etc etc. I’m not trained in the Montessori way so I won’t go into much more detail about all the ways you can apply it at home; I just want to focus on one particular way that I used it.
The Montessori bed.
So if you recall my post about weaning, you’ll remember that one of the ways I usually get Baby to sleep is by laying her down in the crib while she’s still nursing. I’ll wait till she falls asleep enough to break the latch and then I hightail it out of her room. This was fine when she was small and her mattress was at the highest level. As she grew and we lowered the mattress to the middle level it became a bit more challenging, requiring me to almost fall into the crib, while she nursed herself to sleep. But being the tall 99th percentile baby that she is, it wasn’t long before she was getting dangerously close to being able to climb out of the crib, leaving us with two options. Either lower the crib to the lowest and final setting, meaning I would have to literally hang upside down to nurse her back to sleep in the crib (or use a sleep training method to wean her from needing to nurse to sleep) OR I could transition her to a toddler bed. However I was not incredibly excited about spending a large chunk of change for another bed frame so I explored the idea of just taking the front off the crib.
At that point in time, I wasn’t too familiar with the concept of the Montessori bed, but when the husband and I came to this fork in the road, I started researching. My main concern was about the safety aspect. Was it safe to allow my infant the freedom to crawl or fall out of the bed on her own. The accounts I read were all positive, with the most experienced proponents describing the use of a Montessori bed from day one.
So let me back up here and explain what exactly a Montessori bed is. At its simplest, it is a small mattress on the floor. It is low to the ground so that the child doesn’t hurt themselves if they roll out. There are several reasons why a parent would choose to use a Montessori bed but the reason I chose it was out of necessity and curiosity. As mentioned above, the mattress had to be lowered and when that happened I would be essentially unable to nurse Baby with a crib set up. So off came the front of the crib, and down went a whole pile of pillows near the open side, creating my “modified” Montessori bed.
Baby loved it immediately, jumping onto the bed within seconds of the mattress falling into place. She jumped on the mattress, she crawled off, she jumped back on it, and over and over again, laughing maniacally the whole time. A few hours later, it was time for her nap, so I got her to sleep and I put her down in her new bed. However, instead of leaving the room, I sat down in the glider with my phone and just perused Facebook. I wanted to see what she would do when she woke up. Would she spasm and roll-jump out of the bed landing on her neck or would she know how to get down safely, like she does when she’s on the couch? Fortunately for the both of us, she did not break her neck when she woke up.
Now, I could go on and on in narrative form, describing my journey with the Montessori bed, but I realize that that could make this post very lengthy. So I’ll make the long story short by converting to a bulleted list, highlighting some of the more significant aspects.
- I did a modified Montessori bed. As mentioned above, a true Montessori bed is directly on the floor. Since I had just taken the front off the crib, there were still six inches between the mattress bottom and the floor, meaning Baby could potentially get caught underneath. I used the pillows to try to decrease the likelihood of that happening, but it was still a risk. Additionally, since the mattress was not directly on the floor, the drop from the mattress was a lot further than I was comfortable with, which was the other reason for the pillows.
- The Montessori bed changed my life … at least temporarily. The first few days with the bed, Baby slept through the night. It was like night and day when compared with the previous weeks. Unfortunately for us, though, Baby hit another sleep regression shortly thereafter undoing all the progress we had made. Despite the regression, though, we found that Baby no longer woke up screaming in the middle of the night when she’d roll and hit her head on the side of the crib. Instead, her nightly tossing and turning would lead to her rolling out of the bed onto the pillows. But 9 times out of 10, she wouldn’t cry. No, she would wake up, whine a little, crawl back onto the bed and go back to sleep. Or sometimes, she’d just fall asleep on the pillows. Amazing, huh? Mornings were also nicer because Baby wouldn’t cry as soon as she woke up; she’d either play in her bed, pretending it was a trampoline, or she’d climb out and play with some of her toys….quietly.
- Baby LOVED the bed. Instead of being a place of confinement, it was now just another play item in her room. She can freely get in and out of her bed whenever she desires to explore other toys in her room. In fact, she loves the bed so much that every time she enters her room, she runs to her bed throwing herself on the mattress, giggling all the way. We may not be able to get her to fall asleep on her own in the bed, but at least we know that she’s not afraid of the bed itself.
- Know your baby’s abilities. My baby was always a physically strong baby and was able to move away from breathing hazards on her own from an early age. For example, if she rolled into me or my pillow during the night, she would rouse and roll over so that she could breathe. This gave me the confidence in her abilities to not suffocate on the pillows I put down on the floor or to be able to crawl out from under the bed if she accidentally rolled partially under it. (Obviously, if more than a leg was under the bed, the husband and I would go in there and move her.) If your baby isn’t strong enough to push herself up from a soft surface, I would suggest not doing what I did; opting instead for the real Montessori bed.
- Train your baby. Your needs/preferences may be different from mine, but one of my main parenting goals is autonomy for Baby. So when we switched to the new bed, I worked with her frequently to “get down safely” from the bed. I taught her to get on her hands and knees and go backwards slowly off the bed. Then when she’d wake up in the morning or after naps, I would refrain from picking her up off the bed. Instead I’d stand in the doorway and tell her that she had to get off the bed first … and safely … before I would come to her. I also was diligent about opening the door when she knocked on it. It became clear to her that when she wanted Mom upon waking, all she had to do was get out of bed and knock on the door. This helped tremendously when it came to deciphering her cries. If she was truly distressed about being in the crib, she’d crawl out of her bed and run to the door; otherwise she’d just hang out in her bed and I could go about my business, working on my blog for instance.
- Babyproof. Babyproof. Babyproof. I cannot say this one enough. If you give your child the freedom to get in and out of her bed during times when you aren’t watching (i.e. when you are sleeping) it is imperative that you take away every hazard in that room. Cover all sockets. Remove any fragile items from the dresser. Secure furniture or use low furniture that can’t topple when climbed on. And keep the door closed when you’re not there to monitor; that way your child is confined to the room and can’t make her way to other hazards that may be in your home.
Have I piqued your interest in the Montessori bed? Yay! Go over to Google and see how the pro’s do it an if it’s right for your family. It worked for us and highly recommend it.