Should I use a floor bed for my infant?
August 12, 2012 10:06 PM   Subscribe

My 4.5 month old is getting too big for his cradle and the time has come for us to decide: crib or floor bed? Does anyone have any experience with having a baby sleep on a "Montessori bed" or mattress on the floor rather than in a crib? Do you have any advice to offer?

Jerram is 4.5 months old and until now he has been sleeping swaddled in a cradle in our room for the first part of the night, and then in bed with us from 5am or so onward. It's time to get him out of the swaddle though, and with arms and legs splayed he is just too big for the cradle. We do not want him in bed with us full-time, but we're happy with the morning sleep-in/cuddles.

We've been doing some research and really like the idea of a Montessori bed. Basically, instead of putting him in a crib, we would get a twin mattress, put it on the floor in our room, and baby-proof our whole bedroom. That way when he's a bit older and more mobile, he can explore and play on his own, put himself to bed when he wants to, etc. I like the idea that he doesn't have to scream to get into or out of bed, and that he can choose toys and entertain himself when he wakes (eventually). I also like that I wouldn't have to shell out for a crib. A twin bed mattress would be big enough that I could cuddle down with him and read him books, nurse him, etc and we wouldn't have the dreaded "baby wakes up on transfer" problem.

Possible downsides I see are: if he doesn't want to go to bed, there will be nothing keeping him there; if my babyproofing is incomplete he could get hurt; I have to live in a nursery until he gets his own room at a year or more; if we get desperate and want to try cry-it-out in a few months that's probably off the table.

Are there more downsides that I'm not seeing? Have you done this and had a good or bad experience? Any advice?
posted by arcticwoman to Society & Culture (36 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I look at that arrangement, and some frantic voice inside my head starts screeching "bedbugs! bedbugs! bedbugs! be eh eh ed bu uh uh uh ugs..."
Bed frames keeping beds off the floor is a feature, not a bug. On the floor are vermin and dust, and delicate lungs, eustachian tubes, and sinuses need a little distance from these. Especially when young person is prone and breathing deeply.
posted by pickypicky at 10:34 PM on August 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

I always wanted to do a floor bed for my son but we didn't get it together until he was almost two, so I don't have any helpful advice for your situation. That said, this blog frequently talks about their experience with a montessori-style floor bed, and there might be a lot of info/ideas/experience for you there.
posted by logic vs love at 10:34 PM on August 12, 2012

You sound wiser than me!

When our child transitioned, he resisted the crib (and now that it is converted into a toddler bed, this too) in favor of sleeping with us. This started out of the 5am cuddle time you reference, FWIW.

But my son is, uh, kinda opinionated and determined. I imagine an infant/toddler with a different temperament might accept what is presented!

Our biggest problem is that my husband is incredibly non-alert when sleepy. We were too scared to set our son up on the floor for this reason. Plus, the boy protested vociferously when placed anywhere other than our bed at a certain point in his recent young life.


If you can engineer supreme safety into your plan, I see nothing but WIN. Had we started at 4.5 months instead of 8 months (that's when he outgrew our Arm's Reach Co-Sleeper) I would currently only be sharing my bed with my husband. And the occasional kitty.

Either way, we are happy!

In truth, I can't tell you I don't love sleeping with our son between my husband and I. It's really really sweet. I'll cherish this time forever:))
posted by jbenben at 10:37 PM on August 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

pickypicky brings up a great point - we have cats and live in SoCal, so lots of spiders and probably other bugs (although only spiders in our bedroom, thank god.)

You would have to vacuum everyday.
posted by jbenben at 10:39 PM on August 12, 2012

My son really took to his crib, happily slept in it, and, believe it or not, never once climbed out. I just wanted to post that because I feel like that side of the story sometimes doesn't get mentioned.

We started with a bedside cosleeper, transitioned to the crib, and then didn't move him into a bed till he was much older than most of his buddies, just because he was so comfy in it. Just FYI.
posted by BlahLaLa at 10:44 PM on August 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Somewhere between 6 and 9 months babies start to move under their own power. While the concept of having no crib sounds very appealing now, take a look around the baby's room and see where you might find your infant hanging out on their own, and what dangers your baby might encounter on the way. Are you baby gating them in for saftey? Do they have access to chemicals or stairs, or untethered furniture? Also, Babies roll in their dreams earlier than they do intentionally. Can your baby roll off the mattress? Also, did the doctor tell you at the one week followup, 'wow, your baby is really pretty twitchy.' ? If you've got a very active, alert, and advanced child - you may find it very difficult to keep them in place. I've got two - one is in a crib, and the other has been in a toddler bed for almost two years. My older one can open doors baby gates, climb stairs, and use the potty, which means he can navigate the whole house whenever he wants, including occasionally climbing into our bed. Were our younger one sleeping on the floor, I think I would be very nervous about the stairs, and that we can no longer use a toilet lock because our older child actually needs it.

Babies cry. When your baby finds you not in their room and they need you, the baby will cry - regardless of whether they are in a crib or not. Crying is okay.
posted by Nanukthedog at 10:51 PM on August 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

We do this, except that we're on the mattress too. Our son is 8 months old, crawling and cruising, and we're considering getting a separate little mattress and doing exactly what you describe - what's stopping us is space in the room and the fact that he's pretty mobile in his sleep and might roll all over the room - not dangerous, but maybe making the mattress pointless. If your kid was rolling but not crawling I can see him ending up on the floor by accident a lot and the shock might make him cry.

We keep our room very childproofed and clean, and we often snooze while dude crawls off the mattress and pulls toys and books out of a big open box we keep on the floor. You do have to be super vigilant - one dropped coin could choke your baby without you ever waking up, but that goes for all his play environments really.

I would personally rather cosleep so we can nurse easily and he starts out between us and can't roll off in his sleep, but if you're set on not having him in your bed, I say give it a try.
posted by crabintheocean at 11:36 PM on August 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also, while yes, you have to be clean, I have no idea how you could get bed bugs from this, or how a crib would protect your kid from bed bugs if they were in the house! If you have bed bugs you need a solution to that, not just to keep your kid off the floor at night!
posted by crabintheocean at 11:39 PM on August 12, 2012 [18 favorites]

Why not put the mattress in your room and have the baby sleep on the floor there to start with? You probably want your bedroom as well as the kid's room to be baby proofed anyway. We are veering back and forth between co-sleeping our almost-7 month old to putting her on the floor in the moses basket (very small crib essentially). It was on a crib frame that raised it to the height of our bed, but she can and does climb in and out of it, so we've put it on the floor for safety. You don't have to stick to only one way every night.

I know people who have just given up their bedframe and sleep on a mattress with the baby's mattress at the foot or side, and that works for them.

BTW, we switched to the sleep gro-bag things once she was too big to swaddle, and they are great. We don't use them every night, but when she's fussing, being zipped into the bag settles her like swaddling used to. I don't like having blankets in her crib, and she sleeps with the blankets away from her in our bed because I've seen her sleeping roll over and under a pile of blankets.
posted by viggorlijah at 12:02 AM on August 13, 2012

We had a custom futon made, almost the full width of our bedroom.

My partner and I, and our two youngest babies sleep on the futon with enough room for everyone to have their own blanket.
The littlest has a 'nest' that he sleeps in, a kind of dish shaped pillow that's stuffed with something that feels like pine needles or tea tree.

a bit like the snuggle-bed here, but this isn't the one we have.

Our two and a half year old sleeps next to me, with her own pillow and blanket, the futon is so big everyone has space.

My partner and I are super light sleepers, so we do wake up a lot to resettle them during the night, but it does mean we can do it without having to stand up, which is luxurious.

The only drawback is that 5am isn't come to the big bed for snuggles time, the big bed has no novelty value, 5am is get up an make porridge time, - my days start very early now.


We on the other side of the world,
closer to the antarctic than the arctic.

I have never heard of anyone around here having bed bugs, or a serious problem with floor vermin, so being off the floor wasn't a requirement for us.
posted by compound eye at 12:04 AM on August 13, 2012 [4 favorites]

Mine all were in cots until they got too enormous, and then into beds (altho my youngest, nearly 3, is about to go into a junior bed, the others went into normal single beds), and none of them had any problems. The little one climbs out sometimes, but not until morning (after a few harrowing mid-night wake ups, thanks god that didn't continue). I like the idea of the floor bed very much, I think there are a lot of advantages in terms of mobility and freedom, but maybe too much freedom for me, especially with very little ones. Do they roll out by accident? I don't know. I know I would have been most worried about cold - it's chilly down there at floor level!
posted by thylacinthine at 12:09 AM on August 13, 2012

Uh being on or off the floor has NOTHING to do with bedbugs and/or vermin. That shit cray, as Kanye would say.
posted by incessant at 12:10 AM on August 13, 2012 [8 favorites]

We got a crib from ikea for around $100 it converts from a crib to toddler bed. One of the nice things about it is that it provides a nice place to quick secure set them down if you need to run to the bathroom or whatever.
posted by HMSSM at 12:44 AM on August 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

At about seven months, we put our son's crib mattress on the floor in his very baby-proofed room, and put a twin mattress down next to it. Now he starts the night off alone, but when he wakes either I or his dad will go in and spend the rest of the night with him. We like this arrangement a lot, because it leaves our bedroom free for adult reading/snuggles at our bedtime. Downsides: bed does get dirty faster. Kid is not confined to bed, which could be a problem if we were working on getting him to go to sleep on his own. But the setup works wonderfully when we nurse him down!
posted by wyzewoman at 3:42 AM on August 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

My niece just turned 1 - she's been sleeping on the floor since she was about 6 months. She's a light sleeper and moved a lot while sleeping, so a hand or foot hitting the bars of the crib would wake her up and keep her up.

Her parents keep it simple - blankets on the floor, and a few pillows surrounding it. She loves it, and sleeps very well. She could crawl the entire time she's been sleeping on the floor, and has been walking for a few months - but knows that the floor setup is her bed, and rarely leaves "the circle" even when she's upset.

If you do have your son sleep on the floor, you have to be careful about baby-proofing the room and making sure all doors are closed, so they don't get in/out into something dangerous. But otherwise, it should be fine - I don't understand why bugs on the floor are more of a concern than bugs on a bed - they can crawl on bed frames and walls very easily.
posted by raztaj at 4:09 AM on August 13, 2012

Baby C moved from an Amby hammock to a very low toddler bed when she was nine months old - we never used a crib. We kept it next to our bed for six months before moving her into her own room. She loved it, took to it right away, never had any trouble falling asleep or rolling out of bed. Around 2-2.5 years she did start getting out of bed 157 times per night to be with us, but that was a developmental thing, and she would have been getting too big for a crib at that point anyway.
posted by Flannery Culp at 4:24 AM on August 13, 2012

I put a very thick king-size mattress pad on the floor, thick enough to be a good sleeping surface for me but thin enough to not be a a fall for my then-baby.

Not using a crib was, for me, a fantastic choice.

I am not a fantastic housekeeper. I am typing this sitting on the floor. I admit to being totally confused by the comments about bugs and cleanliness...

Thorough babyproofing is not all that difficult. Your kid will go to bed and stay there because you'll make with the milk/cuddles/stories until sleep arrives. I would not shut the door, though -- it's...not polite, and "accidents" are a huge cause of infant and toddler death, and when you read the stories and the hows they are almost always, if not actually always, because no parent was in earshot. Your being in earshot = babyproofing, kwim? Set up a baby monitor if you'll be spending part of your evenings in a room far from the bedroom. Even with first-rate babyproofing there is just no substitute for supervision. Lots of kids die unattended in cribs, which is really unfortunate; it is my view that doing it this way -- unrestrained kid, parent paying attention -- is much safer.

I co-slept/sleep so can't address every Q but wyzewoman's set-up sounds great.
posted by kmennie at 5:01 AM on August 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Keep in mind that cribs are a very western notion. As the only child of Korean immigrants I spend my entire child/babyhood sleeping on the floor as did probably a majority of my peers. I didn't even have a mattress, but basically slept on a very thick duvet. I didn't get a "real" bed until I was almost 3. I'll admit I was kinda clingy as a child but I think that's just me and not a result of sleeping on the floor. Whatever you decide, don't worry about bedbugs and spiders, that seems like a ridiculous worry.
posted by like_neon at 5:14 AM on August 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

If we had known about this we absolutely would have done it with our kiddo. She hated the crib, and basically didn't sleep through the night until we put her in her toddler bed at age 2. We swore that if we had another child (we didn't) we would be much more aggressive about moving them to a bed, and this sounds like the perfect way to do it.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:28 AM on August 13, 2012

Our daughter absolutely loved her crib. She never once climbed out, but often climbed IN. I figure it was sort of like crate training a dog -it's where she felt safe and comfy.

When we tried to transition her to a toddler bed, though, she would have none of it. She never asked to back in her crib, but she refused the bed in favor of the floor.

With our next kid, we're totally considering going right to the floor/crib mattress on the floor.
posted by dpx.mfx at 5:50 AM on August 13, 2012

Disclaimer: I do not have kids.

For a while in high school I babysat for a kid who had a floor bed. It was AWESOME. He just had a mattress on the floor in his room. When it was bedtime, we read a story or two and then I left him alone in his room (door shut with a kid-proof knob) with a nightlight on. I'd hear him playing over the baby monitor, and periodically go up to check on him. And then eventually he'd crawl into bed and put himself to sleep. And in the mornings he did the same thing...woke himself up and played independently until his parents got up.

And I can't say that the bed can take the credit for this, but he was by far and away one of the brightest kids I ever sat for.
posted by phunniemee at 5:54 AM on August 13, 2012

At 5 months, I'd rather have a baby in a crib than crawling around on his own. Baby-proofing includes string and cord, and there are probably things you leave plugged in, like a lamp, baby monitor, etc. Babies can get themselves wedged in to places, and can't maneuver out of things. You could later transition from crib to crib mattress on the floor, but I'd wait until 18 months or older.

I'm not usually paranoid about safety, and my son was a free-ranger before I heard that term, but this falls into the category of easily avoidable risk.
posted by theora55 at 6:24 AM on August 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

Mostly the crib functioned as a place to put the baby while moving things around, or a spot for an occasional nap. Otherwise we were very co sleepy until the walking phase, then did the mattress on the floor and eventually a bed. Both kids did the small baby sleeper thing until they were of situp age/stage.
posted by tilde at 6:52 AM on August 13, 2012

I can only speak for what my mum did when I was a baby. I'm not sure exactly how old I was at the time, but I'm told I took to climbing right over the top of the crib - that's the tall sides, by the way, not the long/low sides. I never fell, but I would apparently teeter on the top until my mum came in and nearly had a heart attack.

After this happened a few times, the full-size guest bed was moved into my room. At first there were those little guard rails that you slip under the mattress to keep the kid from falling out of bed, but I kept kicking them off so they were removed permanently. As soon as there was no challenge in escaping from the bed-cage, I stopped trying to leave entirely.

I'm not sure exactly when I was moved into the separate bedroom though. I think my mum made the switch (mostly for my dad's sanity; if ever there was an insomniac baby I was it) around the five-month mark, with very little fuss from me by all accounts.

Babies past a certain age develop an "oh, there's no floor here; I'd better stop crawling this way" instinct, which seems like it would make putting them in a regular bed pretty safe. Making the bed pretty much level with the floor might be both worrisome (as there's no telling where the baby might be at any point in the night - what if you have to get up to go to the bathroom in the night and don't see that he's crawled directly into your shuffling, half-asleep path?) and potentially unsanitary depending on the kind of bugs, drafts, etc you have in your house. I don't know about bed bugs, but in my house at least I could never have a bed where there was easy access to the mattress - we've got too many ants and spiders wandering around for me to sleep easy then.
posted by Urban Winter at 8:00 AM on August 13, 2012

Our kiddo sleeps on a floor bed, when he sleeps by himself. He has done since he was...six months old, maybe? He's about eighteen months old. The only issue we have is that, if he stubbornly and angrily doesn't want to be in bed, he'll stand at the bedroom gate and wail.

We have a space heater that we use to warm up the room in the winter -- and then remove from the room when we leave. Same with fans in the summer. (Our bedroom is in the attic; it's hotter and colder than the rest of the house, depending.) We also dress him warmly in the winter.

The convenience of being able to lie down with him and snuggle/nurse beats the confining factors of the crib. Plus, our kid hates being confined, and thrives on any evidence that we trust him and respect his autonomy (you know, within the range of reasonable expectations for his age). I don't know; it's been a good idea for us.
posted by linettasky at 8:26 AM on August 13, 2012

Your son has been sleeping swaddled in a cradle. Going from that to a mattress is a very big change, and he may want something den-like he can snuggle into. I can't tell you how many times I peeked in on either of our sons curled up in a corner of their crib, jammed up against the sides and leaving the open space in the middle empty.

Also there is a point developmentally where the "crawling into bed at 5am for snuggles" morphs into "rocket child launches self onto big bed and bounces around mercilessly." Just so you know.
posted by ambrosia at 9:34 AM on August 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

I am open to all kinds of sleeping arrangements ... and I think you should try a crib. If your kid takes to it (and some do! Not mine, but I've heard that kids do) it will hugely simplify your life.

Your kid will go to bed and stay there because you'll make with the milk/cuddles/stories until sleep arrives. I would not shut the door, though -- it's...not polite, and "accidents" are a huge cause of infant and toddler death, and when you read the stories and the hows they are almost always, if not actually always, because no parent was in earshot. Your being in earshot = babyproofing, kwim? Set up a baby monitor if you'll be spending part of your evenings in a room far from the bedroom.

kmennie, I love 95 percent of your answers and I am cheering you on so often, but I think this is terribly dangerous advice. Some kids wander. Lots of serious trouble can happen silently. This is really a ymmv situation, and 4.5 months is tiny. At that age, it's hard to predict whether you have a bold explorer or a placid "potted plant" child. (The latter is easier for this sort of setup.)

Especially since you are reluctant cosleepers, I would try a crib. As mentioned upthread, it's also a useful place to stash the baby while you use the bathroom/wash hands/etc. I am thinking currently of doing a Montessori-style setup for my 9.5-month-old, so I'm not a crib-only extremist, but I do think you should give a crib a shot.
posted by purpleclover at 9:43 AM on August 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

We did that with one of our kids. He slept in our bed when he was teeny, then got moved to his nest on the floor of our room when he started taking up too much room in our bed. He slept in his nest until he was two or three and we got him his own normal bed, which he happily moved to. At various points of his young childhood he wanted to be back with us, so we would move his mattress back to our floor until he was ready to go back to his own room.

There were no downsides, as far as I remember. He was a terrible sleeper, but being in a bed with a frame vs being in his bed on our floor wouldn't've helped in this particular case.

(We didn't do this with our second kid, as she's a very different person with different needs.)
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:02 AM on August 13, 2012

We've always used a playpen in our bedroom when we transition from a bassinet. I like a playpen bed over a crib because it's small and portable (and yes, it's cheap); it doesn't overtake the room, it makes them feel secure to have a small place to sleep, it's easy when we have to vacation because they're used to sleeping in it already.

Our babies slept in the playpen for most naps and part of the night (we co-slept otherwise). It is hard to get high-quality sleep (and enough of it!) when you have a baby, but even more so when you can't get deep sleep because your body is always vigilant about the baby's welfare. Keeping the baby secure is important. Co-sleeping when they were tiny always worked very well for us but even so, I could never get totally deep asleep since I was always half-waking to check on them (then again, I did sleep better than I would have had they been in a different room entirely, and I could always nurse a fussy baby...) Anyway, I like knowing they're safe (yes, by being confined).

My experience has been pretty much that co-sleeping is lovely when they're tiny and it's exhausting when they're older and more mobile. They're restless and have no conception of respecting your space. After a certain age (8 to 10 months old) all of mine slept worse when they co-slept; they were as distracted by our presence (and the temptation of nighttime nursing) as we were by theirs. YMMV. I feel they need, and I need, for them to have a spot that is their spot, and that they know sleeping happens there, and that they safely stay in that spot.
posted by flex at 10:15 AM on August 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

I don't think your baby would stay on its own little mattress if it's next to yours once he starts crawling/walking. Why should he? It's nicer in bed with mom :-)
Our 1 year old sleeps in bed with us (mattress on the floor so she naps there alone as well). She has a little crib mattress in her nursery that we only use as a play mattress at the moment. I think maybe she'll use it for naps at some point later on.
I would recommend the following in descending order -
- cosleeping with adult mattress on floor, since baby can nap there as well and you don't have the transfer problem when nursing to sleep. Also, you don't have to get up at night.
- do try a 'cage' type crib in a separate nursery - some babies are OK with it and then it really is a excellent setup (my kid would not accept that - she only falls asleep when nursed or carried and wakes up on transfer. But babies are different!)
- try a mattress in the nursery. Be prepared for baby falling asleep on the rug/floor instead. My babe would crawl to the door and scream till I come and get her...

We don't do CIO in my family so I can't help you there. I don't see how putting babe alone in crib to CIO, or leaving her alone in the bedroom to CIO would make much of a difference (except for babyproofing concerns).
posted by The Toad at 10:56 AM on August 13, 2012

pickypicky, bedbugs are not "bugs that happen to be in or on a bed" but rather a specific type of bug (which happens to be very hard to get rid of.)

Having slept on a mattress on the floor for extended periods of time, I can confirm that it's harder to keep clean, though.
posted by needs more cowbell at 11:16 AM on August 13, 2012

My kid would basically throw herself off the mattress onto the floor. I hear loud bangs throughout the night as she flings herself against the bars and her head ends up squeezed against the headboard. Something to consider.

That said, CIO is said to work for toddlers who can climb out, just as well. It will just require you to sit in the doorway and return the kid to bed endlessly for several nights.
posted by Omnomnom at 1:38 PM on August 13, 2012

For quite a while when he wakes up he's going to really need something (attention, diaper, food). A lot of the crying is "I need a grownup", not "I am upset that I am in a crib". That kind of crying will be the same whether they're in a bed or in a crib. Our baby entertains himself in in his crib sometimes in the mornings. But he's not going to independently change his own diaper, you know?

Cribs are super-convenient, super-safe, and lots of kids do just fine in them. They are safe places to put the child and they contain messes that are made when you're not around to see them. I won't go into details, but the first time you have a catastrophic diaper fail that doesn't bother baby AT ALL, you will be thrilled if it's contained to the crib and not on a bunch of stuffed animals, and books, and...

I'd also be unhappy with my baby rolling off a mattress, even a mattress on the floor. Or crawling off of it face-first. Ouch.

I think there's a lot of benefit to independence and child-proofed spaces, but not to the point where I'd avoid a crib.

I'd also say that if you don't want to get rid of the swaddle, you don't need to. If it's time it's time, but some babies and children find the pressure soothing long past babyhood. We have an 11-month-old swaddle addict.
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:58 PM on August 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

We don't do CIO in my family so I can't help you there. I don't see how putting babe alone in crib to CIO, or leaving her alone in the bedroom to CIO would make much of a difference (except for babyproofing concerns).

This is not just for CIO, but any time you're trying to teach a baby or toddler how to sleep, it's easier if there are sleep associations that remain consistent and signal that it's time to sleep. Being in a crib (vs having free run of an entire room) is a useful sleep association for many babies.
posted by the young rope-rider at 2:00 PM on August 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

"bedbugs are not "bugs that happen to be in or on a bed" but rather a specific type of bug (which happens to be very hard to get rid of.)"
Yeah, I'm well aware of this, having a sister who had a two year spell of getting rid of them. Mattresses on floors provide a lot more space for them to hide and infest, as opposed to raised bed platforms. Mattresses on floors also provide surfaces on which mold can accumulate. And dust.
So unless you roll the mattress up every day to clean it underneath and dry it in the sun, as you would a traditional futon, you are at risk of putting your kid in an unsanitary condition.
This idea strikes me as one of those things that people do them and ask, "Why didn't people do this before?" And then a roach crawls into their kid's ear.
posted by pickypicky at 5:51 PM on August 13, 2012

We had a custom futon made, almost the full width of our bedroom. That has been a very good move, but in retrospect, I'd have made it wider.
posted by compound eye at 8:29 PM on November 14, 2012

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