When I think about a Montessori inspired nursery the first thing that comes to mind is a low bed or a floor bed. It is a bed that is low enough for the infant to independently crawl in and out of. It gives your baby clear vision of the room and her surrounding and encourages her to move freely.
Where we live, New Zealand, there is no Montessori shop like Michael Olaf , so we couldn’t just buy a Montessori low bed. Instead, we decided to just put a mattress directly on the floor. We first went for a cot mattress. Baby S slept in her Moses basket for the first 2 months of her life for both day time nap and night time sleep. when she turned two months I decided to move her to her floor mattress but I found that it was not working very well for us. I had to get up many times during the night to nurse her so I decided to bring her to my own bed and my husband slept on the floor right next to our bed. He wanted to stay close to us and was just happy to sleep on the floor. In the mean time, I did some more research and looked at many different Montessori websites and blogs for ideas. We finally decided to invest in a single size mattress (double American). The reason is first it was big enough for me to lay down next to Baby S and nurse her at night, second she had more room to move freely on her mattress.
When my daughter turned three months old we put her in her floor bed (below picture) for both day time nap and night time sleep. She is now 18 weeks old and our floor bed is working perfectly for our family. We are very happy with our decision. During those few weeks that Baby S slept in my bed, I realised how comfortable and easy night time feeding became. We all slept alot better and were alot happier. When we moved S to her floor bed, we were still able to snuggle alot in her bed and yet have our own bed back. I sometimes take a short nap with my girl in her bed in the afternoon and I wouldnt trade those moments with anything, just so precious.
You can see in both settings, there is a mirror alongside the bed. It allows the baby to look at her body movement which encourages her to move her body even more. It aids baby’s visual and physical development.
Why we chose a floor bed over a traditional cot (crib)?
Montessori believed children are born with specific characteristics which she called them “human tendencies”. Such tendencies assist them to discover the environment they live in. If these tendencies do not operate properly children can not develop to their fullest potentials. Montessori identified exploration as one of the human’s natural tendencies. A low bed provides the opportunity for the child to explore freely to gain knowledge of their surrounding environment in more depth which leads to learning about themselves in relationship with their environment, therefore, by self-exploration they progress in the path towards self-construction. Infants explore their environment through their senses as well as movement. A low bed allows the child freedom of movement which they benefit from in developing their independence, concentration, movement, self-esteem, and self-construction. These all leads to a happy, well-adjusted child in the future.
Imagine, your crawler wakes up in the morning, having the ability to crawl off her bed on her own, moves to the nearby shelf (child-size) and select an activity to do in her own pace, fully engaged without being interrupted. Instead of waking up to the sound of a crying-child asking you to rescue them from their crib, you wake up to the sound of your baby babbling, playing with her toys.
A very young infant is still developing their vision. A low bed with no side bars provides clear vision of the room, giving her accurate feedback about the environment.
Many parents are concerned about their baby rolling off the bed. I have done extensive research before I decided to go with a floor bed. Like a baby lizard that learns when to stop at the end of a branch and never fall off the tree, a young infant when placed on a floor bed from early days soon learns the edges of her mattress and wont fall off the bed when she starts rolling. If you are still concerned, you can simply go for a lower mattress (3″ futon mattress) or simply put a folded blanket next to the bed. Since your baby is not confined in a crib and can freely move about in her room, you have to make sure the room is 100% child proof, no heater in the middle of the room, all the wall sockets are covered, no small items on the floor or in reach. Some parents put a gate at the entrance of baby’s room so if they wake up before their parents in the morning, they stay in their room where it is very safe. I will probably wont do that as I wake up to the tiniest sound she makes and we also have a video monitor in her room which I highly recommend as I can watch her to see what she is doing. If I find her engaged I wont disturb her.
What I wish I had done differently?
A natural organic futon mattress instead of a spring mattress would have been much nicer. It is a lot thinner and is foldable and breathable.
The other thing is where I have the mirror. I wish I had more room to have a separate activity area. In that case, I would have placed the mirror in the activity area and the bed would have been only used for sleeping.