Monday, April 23, 2012

The Floor Bed: Merging AP and Montessorian Principles

The Situation:
       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
       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.

Sources:
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?
Montessori Monday

22 comments:

  1. We've done a floorbed with our son since 9 or ten months in several different arrangements, all while continuing night-time parenting. At our old house we had a floorbed for him in the master bedroom and he would nap there ad start the night there, then come into the "Big Bed" when he woke to nurse and spend the rest of the night there.
    At 22mo we moved and because of the configuration of the house, we have a sleeping loft in our attic master bedroom with the "Big Bed" on the floor with a floorbed for our son next to it. We also have a single roll-up futon mattress for naps in the playroom/our sons room.

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  2. I'm sorry to hear you have the same struggles I do, but I'm also always happy to hear I'm not the only one! So many times I've gotten the weirdest looks from parents because my child "can't sleep through the night." So, all support is appreciated!

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  3. Thanks for your comments! And for introducing me to your blog- I always love finding new reading material!

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  4. Montessori Meet MotJuly 4, 2012 at 9:12 AM

    Love this Post! Yes we do use a floor bed, it is great! our son is 10 months old and he falls asleep almost instantly as compared to his former "jail" crib. :) Check out our blog: www.montessorimeetmot.blogspot.com! Great post really enjoyed it thanks!

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  5. Could have written your post word for word! At 14 months we were at our wits end with waking 6 times a night to nurse back to sleep (DD was in our room in a crib, and also often in our bed). Co-sleeping had stopped working and we were all exhausted. I actually found the Montessori floor bed facilitated a more gentle approach to night time. We have a king single for her, so we can easily lie down with her which is great. Previously she would fall asleep in our arms then scream when we put her in the crib...she flat out refused to go to sleep in the crib. Now we lie with her and she goes off to sleep on the mattress which has really helped her sleeping. And she loves not feeling trapped. The whole thing to me is very responsive parenting, so right in line with AP principles.

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  6. Thanks so much for sharing your experiences with the floor bed. So many parents wonder about using a floor bed, and it's very helpful to read about other parents' experiences. We used a combination of co-sleeping and floor bed, which worked well for us when our kids were little. Thanks for linking up with Montessori Monday. I featured your post at the Living Montessori Now Facebook page and added your link to my posts at http://livingmontessorinow.com/2011/03/15/how-to-prepare-a-montessori-baby-room-at-home/ and http://livingmontessorinow.com/2011/08/30/how-to-prepare-a-montessori-toddler-environment-at-home/.

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  7. My twins are still using floorbeds, and they are nearly 4! Saved my sanity and super safe!

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  8. I think sleep certainly has been the toughest and touchyest issue of my parenting ride. I've written so many posts in my head, and then things totally change for the better or I completely lose it!
    While we don't bed share, I'd certainly feel a touch of sadness if Q-ball went without me for the night!

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  9. Had to laugh at the previous comments. I swear, every time I write about sleep, everything that once worked goes down the drain! I've been writing a post in my head for awhile, but am too nervous to actually put it out there yet ;)

    Anyway, as you know we're big on both AP and Montessori as well, so I really enjoyed your perspective on this. For me, the goal of the floor bed is independence, and I think that goal is accomplished equally as well in a shared bedroom with the parents as in a separate room for the child.

    But then we haven't really used the floor bed much at all, either in our room or in Annabelle's. The important thing to me is that it's there, and it's hers, and she can sleep on it if she would like. She has never seemed terribly excited about it, so for now she remains in our bed. I wouldn't try to label the way we do things in this regard as Montessori, but I don't feel like I'm forsaking my Montessori sensibilities either, as I am doing my best to follow Annabelle's lead and give her increasingly more space and independence as she grows. If she decides ones night that she'd rather sleep on her bed, I'm all for it! Well, I'll probably feel a touch of sadness, to be honest, but I'll honor her wishes.

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  10. Thanks! Ironically, last night was pretty rough. I kept thinking, "did she know I just wrote about how well things were going??"

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  11. When we changed B's crib into a bed at around the same age (I think) she slept so much better and more importantly went to bed easier. She loves going to bed now. I Think it is the knowledge she can get out any time she wants. I'm not saying she sleeps great all the time now, but who does?! Hope it continues to go well for you all.

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  12. Great to find your post. We just transitioned my 18 mo old to floor bed. She slept in our bed until 9 mo then transitioned to the crib. CIO method worked like text book 3 nights she fell asleep immediately and continues to sleep through the night aside from a random diaper change. We have been blessed. This is our first week on floor bed and she absolutey loves it. She runs across the room and plows into her bed. Spins circles in middle of the room with her arms wide. You can just imagine her mind saying I am free I am free! We love Montessori. She started 2 months ago and her readiness for life and learning increases daily. Thanks for your post.

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  13. I actually always wondered how this method worked with multiples. I'm glad to hear its also a success with more than one! And, I'm glad to hear its a longish-term solution. At this age things change so fast!

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  14. Floor beds are very safe for young kids, they wake up several times during night time which can lead to fall incidents, to prevent that you can use mattresses on the floor, no need for bed frames.

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  15. Hello! Have you ever tried to use some particular tricks to promote this site on a regular basis? Waiting forward to hear from you.

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  16. I read your post and thought I had written it word for word. Early on in our LO life we decided to engage in the AP philosophy, as it came natural for me, and it has been the best thing ever. I am not a big fan, to say the least, of the CIO method!! However, around the 4 month mark we were experiencing a range from sleeping 7 hours to up every 15 minutes and everything in between. About that time we started to implement the co-sleeping method and loved it as first because I was close to the LO and could nurse on demand. However, as time went on so did the lack of sleep. I was hyper sensitive of rolling over on LO or him falling off the bed. I attempted the CIO method out of desperation of a good nights sleep ( something more than 1 consecutive hour of sleep ). After trying it several times over the last 3 months, with a lot of tears and prayers, we decided that never again will we EVER try the CIO method. Frankly it's savage! So! My husband packed up the crib, we moved all large furniture out, redesigned the closet, and turned his nursery into a large crib! After having second thoughts the night of the transition, my fears have been put to rest. We are day 3 of the transition and EVERYONE in the house is resting better and I have a happy baby back :) Last night LO slept in his floor bed all night from 9-7, with the occasional need to nurse and some brief stirring. He slept all night in HIS bed. He is taking ownership of his new bed and new space. It is CLEAR we made the right decision and we plan to continue the journey into the Montessori way of life. Thank you for the post and words of encouragement!

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  17. I'm so glad that things are working out for you! Of course, there are still hard nights, but I found that just being able to sit or lay on the floor next to Q-ball was forever better than bending over a crib! And, I love that your child has taken ownership of the floor bed. This is another aspect of it that I like and that my husband really liked. Thanks for sharing your story!

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  18. Hello! I'm a Montessori teacher and AP parent. We have a floor bed and we cosleep. No CIO here! Montessori herself never talked about CIO but a pleasant sleep association (being happy to go to bed because he can explore freely his room, he has a routine so he knows it's time to bed...). The purpose of the floor bed is to allow your child to decide when it's time to bed and when he has sleep enough. Also bear in mind that she studied the babies and young infants when she lived in India within traditional indian families. It needs to be double checked but I doubt that every single child in an Indian family had his own room therefore slept alone without help.
    Happy to have discover your blog!

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  19. Glad you found me! Thanks for your insight- I really hadn't thought about this from the fact that Dr. Montessori had worked with Indian children. I really love your perspective because I have been a bit let down when I read that it sounds like some floor bed integration involves lots of tears and stressful children- doesn't seem to be in line with Montessori in my opinion!

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  20. forget to give you my blog address
    www.montessori-family.blogspot.co.uk

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  21. I love this and am linking to your post for my new Montessori Baby Room post :) Thanks for the beautiful thoughts -- we are doing the same with a floor bed and nursing to sleep :)

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  22. Thanks for stopping by and for including me on your post. I'm excited to have found your blog- you have some wonderful ideas!

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