We needed a new sleep situation. While I absolutely believe that it is perfectly normal for babies to wake multiple times throughout the night, especially in the first months of life, when this lasts for nearly 13 months, it is exhausting and can lead to Mama-meltdowns. Q-ball “slept through the night” (actually defined as sleeping for 5 consecutive hours) for about 2 blissful weeks when she was four months-old. Since that time, we have experienced nightly wakings ranging from 40 minutes to 3 hours. Most nights she wakes up about every hour or two with an occasional 3 hour stint (which most commonly occurs from 7pm-10pm, so do not believe that Mama actually got three hours of sleep.) She typically nurses back to sleep in our rocking chair, but will increasingly go back to sleep with me rubbing her back while resting in her crib. Most recently, she has enjoyed keeping Mama awake for 2-3 hours straight in the wee hours of the morning with no identifiable cause and waking up every 10-15 minutes for an hour or so. These nights lead to a very cranky family the next day. So, we needed a new sleep situation.
Within our household, we largely abide by two guiding philosophies of raising Q-ball: attachment parenting and Montessorian, adding our own twists here and there. By and large, I believe that these philosophies work hand and hand. But, there are two major issues in which they diverge: sleeping and eating. Here, I will compare their standpoints on sleeping, and how we are attempting to merge the two within our household.
Attachment parenting encourages parents to “Engage in Nighttime Parenting.” While this is often interpreted as bed-sharing, it actually involves the broader definition of co-sleeping (using Dr. James McKenna’s definition of “sleeping within sensory range”.) While I will not go into all of the how-to’s and justifications of co-sleeping and engaging in nighttime parenting, in general, I will say that we choose to follow this practice as we believe it recognizes an infant and young child’s developmentally appropriate capabilities to fall asleep and stay asleep while fostering the mother-baby breastfeeding relationship. Furthermore, this is how we believe we can best provide consistent love and support for our daughter. “Cry-it-out” and other sleep training methods are not options for us with these ideas in mind.
In keeping with the AP philosophy and, more importantly, our own beliefs on parenting, we co-slept with Q-ball until she was 4 months-old. At that time, we moved her to a crib in her room. I have continued to immediately respond to all of her cries or, more likely, calls which I can hear through the walls or on the baby monitor. I half-heartedly attempted the No-Cry Sleep Solution, but, frankly, I don’t have the emotional stamina or patience. We have also tried bed-sharing, but when Q-ball sees Daddy, she thinks playtime, so this method simply did not work for us. So, what else could we try?
Dr. Montessori’s Philosophy
Dr. Montessori’s philosophy encourages parents to provide babies with a floor bed or a futon in lieu of the traditional crib. A floor bed helps foster some of the key principles of Montessori's philosophy: participation in family life and independence. Because the baby is free to move from the bed at will, the floor bed respects the baby's desires and decisions. The bed is typically placed in the child's room- a move away from the AP approach to sleeping. I have been interested in this idea, but when I really dig into many of the examples I find on the various blogs and Montessori websites, it seems the parents employ the CIO method to teach their child to move to their floor bed to go to sleep.
Our New Situation:
In an attempt to merge these two ideas, Daddy packed up Q-ball’s crib and put her crib mattress on the floor. Instant floor bed. Because the mattress is high (about 8 inches) we have placed pillows around the bed until Q-ball learns to control her nightly flips and turns. How's it working? We love it! No injuries, and I believe we are upholding all of our parenting philosophies and values- even more so than we the crib!
We are still engaging in nighttime parenting because I still put Q-ball to sleep every night. Sometimes she nurses to sleep, but occasionally, I place her down on the mattress while she is drowsy and rub her back until she is asleep. I still respond instantly to her calls during the night. Additionally, on nights when she is pulling an all-niter, I have slept on my own floor bed (a sleeping mat for camping) next to her mattress for an hour or two. I then leave the room, and she sleeps much better for the rest of the night. This is an option that was not available with the crib, and it is making life better for everyone (especially Daddy who bore the brunt of the cranky family!)
Q-ball is clearly excited about the independence that the floor bed fosters. She clearly gets excited as she climbs on and off of it during the day. We also bought her a small pillow with which to experiment, and she is clearly tickled about it- although she does not use it during the night. When she wakes for the day or after naps, she occasionally, but not always, climbs off her bed to explore the room. I imagine these occurrences will increase as time goes on and she grows increasingly confident.
Nicholson, B. & Parker, L. (2009). Attached at the heart: Eight proven parenting principles for raising connected and compassionate children. Bloomington, IN: iUniverse.
Olaf, M. (2010). Montessori philosophy and practice: Birth to three: A superior environment. Retrieved from http://www.michaelolaf.net/1JCPE.html.
Do you use a floor bed? How do your honor your parenting philosophies at night?