The Crib That Never Was or Why We Went Hippie: The Floor Bed Approach

April 16, 2012

Once upon a time, a friend of my sister’s graciously gave us a beautiful crib. Word had gotten out that we were poor, knocked up post-college kids living in a shoe box (only slightly inaccurate) and weeks later, a brand new crib arrived.

For the first few months, Waylon slept in his bed like a champ. There were even a few times he slept through the night. I celebrated by doing a very special dance and then phoning all our relatives to say our baby was a miraculous wonderchild.

Rookie mistake.

Soon he was getting up every hour (or even half hour) to eat and scream and slowly I began to lose my mental faculties, promising to sleep train this child as soon as it was doctor recommended.

Then one night, I simply had enough. I was so tired that I knew sitting in the rocker for even one minute would send me into a very dark place. So I kissed Waylon’s sad forehead, placed him back in his crib and walked away. Two hours later, he finally fell asleep from exhaustion. He was three months old. It was not a good night.

The next day I left for a weekend away with the ladies from my in-law’s family. I brought Waylon and we shared a room without a crib. It was during that night I learned to nurse lying down. It was amazing.

From that moment forward, Waylon slept with us. Every night and every nap he was in our bed, made safe by the fact that our bed has always been on the ground, kind of like camping.

Some people praised us for co-sleeping, others warned against it. Mostly we were in survival mode. At one point we tried to sleep train him again when nights got rough, but it was a giant failure. He wasn’t ready and neither were we.

Fast forward to April and here we are with a 9 month old who lives in our bed. He loves it, we tolerate it. We aren’t in a rush to get him out, but we aren’t in a hurry to keep him either.

Last Friday a new king sized bed arrived for us, inspired by our bad backs and full sleeping arrangement. Ironically, the bigger bed has led us to a little trial separation, motivated by the fact that the new bed is up off the floor and too dangerous to nap in.

I thought about the crib. Waylon thought about the crib. We all thought about the crib and decided it just wasn’t for us.

A while ago, my friend Suzie wrote this blog post about Floor Beds. I was skeptical, Austin was intrigued. I liked the idea of it, but was concerned about the logistics.

One year later and it makes perfect sense. After reading a few articles and talking it over, we moved our old queen mattress over to Waylon’s  ghost-town of a room and set up house.

Now Waylon plays in his room, naps in his room, and even spends a few hours in there every night, safely nestled in his own familiar stink and only one wall away from his slightly overprotective parents.

Despite a few raised eyebrows and questions of “what in the world are you going to do when he gets out of bed,” it may be our best parenting decision to date. It gives him some independence, us some space, and the ease of crawling into his bed instead of ours when one of us needs a cuddle.

If you’re rolling your eyes, I understand. It’s totally weird not to stick your kid in a crib until they’re a few years old, but the Montessori Floor Bed approach is not all that crazy if you strip it down to the basics. Really it’s just baby proofing, sticking a mattress on the floor and putting a baby gate on the door. Think of the whole room as a playpen, except there’s room for a bed in one corner and your sanity in the other.

Waylon thanks you, Ms. Montessori, and so do I.


Floor Bed Photo Source

More Information on Montessori Floor Beds

49 thoughts on “The Crib That Never Was or Why We Went Hippie: The Floor Bed Approach

  1. karen

    why do you think marc goes to Montessori for preschool? i love that woman. folks need to relax. there are million ways to raise a child. And for the record, Luc still comes to our bed sometimes in the middle of the night, and Marc comes in around 5 am or so at times. and we have cuddle fests. i highly doubt theyll be doing it when they are 16….

  2. Dara

    I think it’s a wonderful idea and I am glad you were able to find something that worked for you. Traditional Japanese houses aren’t big enough for beds and they sleep on roll up futons; think of it like that :)

  3. Candis Jones

    Great job Kate. I’m sure this will be an inspiration to other Mamas too. We use the crib and it works for us, but every baby and family has different needs and I’m so happy that this is working out so well for you!

  4. Jessica Frost

    I also wanted to ask… are you using cloth diapers now? Have you been using them long? I’m torn when it comes to cloth vs. disposable. What are you thoughts, I’d love to hear!

  5. Meagan@ Green Motherhood

    So glad you found something that works for you! Every baby and family is different. That Montessori stuff is amazing! We can’t do the floor bed as my little lady thinks sleeping is for the birds.
    I’m looking forward to hearing how it works as Waylon grows and y’all adapt.

  6. Erin

    Hats off to Montessori. All kinds of awesome.

    But because my kids sleep like yours, I must know the logistics. How do you get him to sleep? Nurse him into submission? Lay with him? I need specifics.

  7. Christa

    Love this!!!!!!!!!! I occasionally make floor beds with random blankets when I’m home alone and have to let the dog in, but they never look as luxurious as Waylon’s! I may incorporate this when Norah has her own room….pinning now.

  8. Amy

    Haha, I LOVE this! My parents had 7 children.. Never used a crib :) They thought we were weird for getting one. Our son slept in our bed till 11 months. Now he sleeps in his crib at night, but NEVER has napped there. I think this idea is genius! Get sleep whatever way you can! Don’t worry about “training” him or anything, seriously, it will all work out :) He’s still just a baby and who knows, your next one might be completely different. Enjoy the clingy-ness :)

  9. April

    My girl is almost eight months old and she hasn’t slept a single minute in here crib. Not at night and not for nap time either. For the first three months of her life, we didn’t see the point in setting it up since we would be moving and we had a hammock for her to sleep in (ha!). She’s been in our bed since I discovered nursing lying down as well (lifesaver!), and I’m in no hurry to get her out. I feel slightly guilty because there’s an empty crib in an unused room, and while the crib was a hand-me-down, the mattress was purchased new for us. I have no intention of moving her to the crib, and I’ve actually considered doing the floor bed as well. I love the idea because I can nurse my girl to sleep in her bed and then have some me and daddy time in our bed (for at least part of the night). Your experience encourages me and reassures me that this is the right route for us as well.

    1. Kate {motleymama} Post author

      April, I’m so glad you discovered nursing lying down as well! It made life so much better. Yes, plenty of co-sleepers transition their kids by putting a mattress by their bed (we did this) and then eventually in another room. It’s genius!

  10. Megan

    This sounds like a great transition! He’s comfortable with it, you’re comfortable with it. Everyone wins! I’m going to suggest it to a friend who’s been sleeping with her baby- for when they’re ready to transition as well. Good idea Kate!

  11. Hannah

    I am so happy you found something that works for you (and ends up giving you a little space in your own bed too) and that you are just going for it! Maybe it will inspire someone else who is having trouble figuring out what to do. I think more mothers should be more honest (that is why I love how you write) because we all have good and bad days and it helps so much to know we are not alone! The crib has worked well for us but that is this baby… who knows about the next one… :)

  12. Erin

    I’ve never heard of this idea before but it seems to be so smart! He’s not going to fall far if he does ever fall out of bed and it’s so much easier for you to console him! Not to mention much less costly!

  13. Zoe

    Hopefully this floor bed thing works for you!

    all this talk about nursing laying down brings me to a question. I nursed laying down with the first two. This third one though? Milk flows out his nose as he’s sucking. Doesn’t bother him one bit but it bothers me. Why does this happen and how is he not inhaling it?!

  14. Jess @ Dude and Three

    My (delayed) 2 year old sleeps on a floor bed. She hated the crib, and at 18 months still wasn’t sleeping or napping, so when my mom was getting a new bed, we took her old double.

    It’s been amazing. For the last six months? Liv has slept like a rockstar. And if she’s sick, and I need to be near her? I can just lay down with her. It’s the best thing ever.

  15. Heatherina

    I am crazy in love with this idea!! One of the things I don’t like about a crib is you can’t snuggle. This is genius! And when number two comes along they can cuddle together!

  16. Jenn

    I was very recently introduced to the concept of the floor bed… maybe less than a month ago. And now, here I read your post. Putting it in the forefront of my mind again.
    My youngest child has some special needs in the way of an orthopedic impairment… and I really think that a floor bed may be the way to go with her! Of course, with her, it may end up being the opposite, and she’ll need a higher bed. But my approach to beds has definitely opened up!
    Thanks for sharing!

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  18. Ford

    Awesome for you that you discovered something that works for you and your 9 month baby! You mentioned child proofing…is your bookshelf tethered to the wall? Our nanny’s sister climbed up on hers when she was leas than one and the bookshelf came tumbling down on her…

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  21. April

    Thank you for this wonderful post. My daughter is 6 months old and we’ve tried to have her sleep in the crib. Similar to your experience, she woke up constantly and it was so difficult to put her to bed – until I learned how to breast feed lying down. Now I want to transition her into her own bed and am thinking of putting a mattress on the floor too. Your story has encouraged me to go to it. Thanks!

  22. Laura

    Kate! So happy to have found your blog and am so eager to read more of it!

    May I ask you a question? Our daughter is about to turn one and has co-slept with me since birth. The last couple months, we’ve been trying to transition her to a queen mattress on the floor in her own room, with me sleeping in a little nest on the floor next to the mattress (more comfortable than it sounds, honestly! her dad, alas, snores and keeps us both up, so he sleeps on his own).

    For the last month, as her mobility has increased, she has slept less soundly and has started rolling/crawling ALL over the bed in the middle of the night, eventually migrating over to me and doing all she can to nestle up with me.

    I am really not getting enough rest and for everyone’s sake, we need to fix that. We’d like to do sleep training, but even when romping around on her mattress during play, she often risks whacking her head on the wall or falling directly backward off the edge of the mattress onto the floor (yes, there are rugs, but it is still a six-inch drop — I worry less about head bonks and more about her falling at an angle that would injure her neck). There’s also a heater along the baseboard… we never use it and I don’t think she could hurt herself on it – on the other hand she is a new walker, very physical and excited about exploring things and she often finds ways to endanger herself that I don’t anticipate!

    In a crib, she could stand at the rails and eventually fall asleep pretty much where she is. But if she’s not contained in a crib, won’t she just crawl all over the bed/room when we are trying to encourage her to lie down and sleep? Will she just wail at the door/gate and eventually fall asleep on the floor?

    This is my worry. On the other hand, we really don’t want to buy another piece of furniture (esp one we don’t expect to use for long), I’m too short to lay her down in a crib (i could put her on her feet, but not on her back) and also I keep hearing about babies about her age crawling out of cribs.

    I am desperate for sleep and have no idea what is the best thing to do. Finding people with personal experience with floor beds AND sleep training is difficult! I’d love to hear your thoughts if you are willing to share them.

    Thanks again so much for your work here!


  23. kat

    hi kate. we have done the same thing with charlie who is now 17 months. he slept in our bed until he was 14 months and then we got a double mattress on the floor for his room. i nursed him to sleep every night until about four months ago when i needed to cut down so we could have better luck trying to get pregnant again! actually i still was trying to feed him to sleep but seems as though there wasn’t enough milk to conk him out, so we were doing a bit of nursing in bed and then saying ‘milk is all done’ and cuddling and rocking to sleep. i had been feeding him both before and after ‘going to bed’ – i.e., after the bath while reading a story, and then again after we lay down with the lights off. when it was time to stop feeding in bed altogether, one night while we were reading the story and nursing, and he did his thing where he got bored of nursing and started running around, i just told him ‘charlie this is the end of milk, after this milk is all gone, no more milk in bed, after we go upstairs no more milk’, etc. he looked at me seriously and i repeated this a couple of times and tried to get his attention. i think he sort of got it. when we went upstairs and lay down he cried for a few short minutes but we just did the normal rocking and cuddling that we would have done after stopping nursing a few minutes later anyway, and he was fine. it probably only took two nights for him not to expect milk in bed anymore. but we are still very attached to the cuddling and snuggling routine, so i can’t leave the room (or his side) until he’s fast asleep! baby steps…!

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  25. Veronica

    I love it! I’m totally with you! My reasons are different but I’m totally against buying things for a particular use like a crib that is going to be used for such a short period of time. Thanks for posting this! Now I know I’m not totally crazy hahahaha… Awesome! Good for you!


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