A not quite co-sleeping, non-Montessori floor bed for a toddler

Guest post by Lindel
Mérges alvás - Angry Sleeping

We have never really co-slept with our son. I love the idea and we tried it, but it kind of freaked me out that our two-day-old baby could inch his way over to me in minutes. I quickly learned that the two of us were both better at feeding if I actually got up in the night and sat with him in a chair. That said, we have always cuddled or rocked or fed the small one to sleep. It was something he seemed to really need, we loved doing it, and he has generally been a really good sleeper once we accepted this.

Fast-forward 18 months and he is now very large 15kg (33 lbs!) and full of spirit. Cuddling him is really no longer possible and leaving him to cry was never an option for us. So what to do?

While visiting relatives in another city, with a full house and no spare cribs, my partner Zed ended up co-sleeping with the smaller one on a low futon. This has always been something my Zed wanted to do. I think it was his way of gaining some of the intimacy that I got with breastfeeding. He has also never been particularly comfortable with the idea of a crib, so we have made the decision to move our 18 month-old from his crib to a floor bed.

When researching the pros and cons of this option I could only really find Montessori-inspired stories in which a baby sleeps on a low floor mattress from the beginning. For Montessori parents, floor beds are said to encourage independence in a child. They are able to get in and out of bed as they need and can explore their safe environment on their own terms.

While we are sympathetic to this idea, I couldn’t find any information about families who try this method with an older toddler, or who are not actively raising their children using the Montessori teachings (although, since doing this research, I have adopted a number of Montessori ideas like low shelving with limited toys and books on display), or who have found that it didn’t work for them.

Of course we have fully baby-proofed his room, placed a baby gate at his door, and he’ll continue to sleep in his sleep sacks, but for the moment, placing him on a large floor mattress seems like an option that will work for us. It is not quite co-sleeping, but we can lie with him and physically comfort him while he falls asleep. On the odd occasion he wakes in the night when my sleeping arms just cannot hold him, I will be able to lie with him again until he settles.

We have numerous camping trips and holidays planned in the coming months, and having him used to sleeping on a low surface and possibly with us makes those trips seem much more doable. Another plus is that we can have guests stay over and turn his bed into the spare bed while he sleeps with us. And this may be wishful thinking, but I’m also hoping that in time he may be able to have his naps when he wants, as he often tells us when he wants to go to bed, and now he can climb into bed on his own accord.

I would be lying if I said I didn’t have any concerns about taking this route. I am worried we will rue the day that the small one was given the option to get out of bed on his own. I am worried what our more conservative family members will think. So far, our friends with children have widened their eyes in alarm at the thought of a toddler on the loose. But you know what? This is what works for us right now, so we’re sticking with it.

Comments on A not quite co-sleeping, non-Montessori floor bed for a toddler

  1. We have had a similar sleeping arrangement for our son since he was 16 months old (he’s 22months now) It’s nice because I don’t worry about him falling out of bed. At night I can lay with him while reading a bedtime story. In the morning he tends to get up and play quietly by himself for a few more minutes instead of crying immediately like he did when he was in a crib. This leaves me a couple extra minutes to get up and make him breakfast without him causing trouble.
    That being said he does tend to fall asleep in spots that aren’t his bed, but it doesn’t seem to bother him so I don’t try to let it bother me.

  2. As long as your room is toddler-proofed, I think that sounds like a great idea! My son is 22 months and still sleeps with us and needs us to cuddle him to sleep. But now that we have another on the way, we’re thinking of doing something like this as a way to transition him (as slowly as he likes) to his own bed.

  3. My daughter is 16 months and currently sleeps with us. Since she naps in a twin bed on the floor at the sitters we will be doing that at home as well. We are hopefully going to start the transition this weekend.

  4. I think the floor mattress is a fine idea. We did that with our daughter but not because of ideals. She was too big for her crib but we couldn’t afford a twin bed yet (I think toddler beds are a waste of money for our money strapped family). My daughter really liked it. Our rule though was for her to stay in bed once we put her there (because she would want to get up at night and play). She listened very well and once we had the money for a bed, we just moved the matress up a little higher.

    I wouldn’t worry so much what family thinks. If he likes it, he likes it. And that makes him happy which will make you more comfortable:)

  5. We just recently got rid of our crib for our 1 year old and I’m kind of on the same page as you with not actively being Montessori but kind of falling in line with it anyway. So far it’s been really great, even though we still have some sleep “issues.” Maya loves her bed to play on and knows to crawl up on it at bedtime. She had a blast showing off her bed at her party. The crib made her scream and scream and the floor bed just makes her give much smaller cries to let us know that she wants us. I have the same hopes as you as far as baby-led bed/naptimes. Good luck!

  6. We actually have something extremely similar; Just a slightly (extremely slightly) raised toddler mattress decked out like a regular little bed. We’ve been doing it since our son was a little over 16 months old. He’s nearly 3 now, and loves it. We used to co-sleep, and still do on occasion, but felt he needed his own independence. And yeah, our conservative friends and family were “worried” at first, but like I told them “He isn’t your kid, and he isn’t taking up half of your bed.”

  7. Our 10.5 month old has a similar situation, which was born because the only way he will sleep is through co-sleeping. I wanted him out of the bed, but he hates sleeping without one of there. We take turns sleeping through the night with him. He is a terrible sleeper since the beginning, so it’s great that one of us is always getting a good night’s sleep in the master bedroom.

    In the morning, he just rolls out of bed and plays quietly while we sleep a little longer. It’s very nice!

  8. Our oldest (9 years old now!) slept on a floor mattress from 12 months to almost 4 years. For the first year, he would fall asleep in other places every now and again but he loved it!

    My caveat is that my boy is a very compliant kid. He never tried to climb the gate. He wanted to explore stuff but he respected our restrictions in terms of his sleeping arrangements. (His waking hours were quite a bit different!) I don’t know if it was a result of his sleeping arrangements or who he is but it worked really well for us.

    Also, we don’t follow Montessori stuff. We just wanted to be with him so we read and played and talked and he’s a very bright, very capable, very independent 9 year old now.

    p.s. We only have the two. The youngest is 16 months now and he sleeps in the floor bed as well. He is much more aggressively interested in life outside his bedroom door than his brother was. He still isn’t trying to climb the gate and plays quietly (or happy loud) for a bit after he wakes.

  9. I thought about trying this, but it seems so cold on the floor. Plus I think about all the icky creatures like a mouse or bugs crawling on him in the night. Maybe it’s the same in a higher bed, and it’s all in my mind. I”m pretty sure bugs and mice can get anywhere.

    • Critters tend to follow the food, so I’d make sure that there are no cracker crumbs in the bed. 😉

  10. We have a toddler mattress next to our bed, which is close to the floor. I have to admit however that we haven’t used it much. Our almost 2 year old is still in my bed. We are moving in a few months and I like the idea of keeping to the floor bed. Maybe get her just a regular twin mattress for her new room.

  11. Our son (20 months now) has slept on a mattress on the floor since he was 13 or 14 months old. He never liked his crib and co-sleeping didn’t work for us so it seemed like the best option. It has been great! Its really nice to be able to lie down with him and its great not worrying about him falling out of bed.

  12. the best toddler bed I ever saw was a double mattress with a fitted sheet that had a crib-sized mattress centered on top. The kid could get into and out of his bed on his own, if he rolled off, he rolled onto another mattress and then onto the floor, he could easily make his own bed (just pull the comforter up) and it was a soft, fun, multilevel place to play during the day. I think I babysat for this boy when I was 14, and i’ve been waiting ever since to have a toddler to recreate it for…

    • I love this idea! We have a mattress on the floor because we started out cosleeping, then I moved into my daughter’s room at night to to sleep alone with her (I don’t like sleeping next to more than one human LOL). She hated her crib in the beginning, then napped in there, then not, then she did again. She’s a flickle sleeper 🙂

      We just left the mattress on the floor for her to play on, or for the rare night she wants out of her crib these days. We’ll use it for her “real” bed when when we’re all ready for that transition. I LOVE your idea though, it might might the switch easier whenever it may begin 🙂

  13. I really love this idea! I think once our little miss gets a bit older, we will go this route.

  14. Thanks so much for this article! Our 22 month old is having trouble adjusting to our new home and we’re desperate for ideas, I think I’ll try the mattress on the floor and see what he thinks 🙂

  15. I am pretty actively Montessori, which I guess puts me at odds with the AP leanings of many of the folks here, but we set our son up in a low toddler bed when he turned 2, and it was the perfect arrangement for us. Like Linda’s experience above, he was reasonably compliant, playing on his own and not climbing the furniture. He was thrilled with the freedom of not being stuck in a crib.

    Now that he’s almost 5, he’s responsible enough to read or play or fix himself a snack if it’s before 7am–the hour at which he’s allowed to wake Mom and Dad. His independence serves everyone well.

      • Don’t feel silly! Sorry for using annoying parenting-site code. It stands for attachment parenting, and it’s demystified here. Like all parenting philosophies I’ve encountered (including Montessori), I use some of it and leave the rest.

        • I never realized Montessori and AP didn’t mesh. I guess the basica ideas behind both appealed to me for different reasons that it never occured to me that they might conflict in some areas.

          Like you, we take bits and pieces from whatever works 🙂

  16. I put my first son on a floor mattress when he was 10 months old. I’d never heard of Montessori. I did it because we had just moved and it was easier than putting his crib together. He loved it, so I bought a little kid tent and put his bed in there. I put a baby gate at the door and he was great. He’d play for a bit before fussing for me. Also, he was walking at 10 months, so this helped that too.

  17. We live in a one bedroom with the crib in dining room. My son used to fall asleep in a peapod and then get moved into the crib when we went to bed. He decided he grew out of it. He now falls asleep on his crib mattress on the floor of our bedroom. It works really well. He feels like he has a big boy bed and we don’t worry about him falling. We’ve transitioned away from co-sleeping for a number of reasons, so it’s also better for us than him falling asleep on our bed. Looking forward to getting a room of his own this summer, but I still love the low mattress!!

  18. Our 11 month old now sleeps on a twin mattress on the floor next to our bed. While she naps in a crib, this just made sense for night nursing. Once she turns one we’re hoping to do some serious night weaning and will gradually move the mattress away from our bed and into her room.

  19. Our 11 month old daughter sleeps on a bed on the floor in her room. Initially I ditched the crib in an effort to make her room, which is teensy, more child-friendly. She hated the crib (though doesn’t mind the one at daycare, oddly), and since we got rid of it and set up the bed on the floor, she sleeps very well in there – not all night, but she is easy to settle back to sleep when she wakes up.

    The only complaint I have is that while the principle of “baby can get out of bed and back into bed on their own” is a great principle, when you’re dealing with a sleepy baby who wants her mom, the part about getting back into bed on their own doesn’t really happen.

    At least not in my experience. I’m thrilled to hear that other people are doing this!

  20. Yep, my toddler has been a “bed on the floor sleeper” for about 6 months now. When her crib went kaput (safety issues) we went and bought an Ikea loft bed (it’s like half the height of a bunk bed) and flipped it so the bed part is on the bottom. We opted to NOT put the slats in on top of the bed frame and instead the ikea mattress goes inside the bed frame, creating a natural barrier to rolling out. Yes she has freedom and sometimes gets up to fall asleep in front of her door (??) but for the most part she stays in, and we love being able to lie down with her and read books and cuddle til she falls asleep.

  21. I’ve been thinking of doing this, too, when our 13 month old inevitably begins to climb out of his crib. From the way he’s climbing everything else, I think that will be SOON. More specifically, I’ve been dreaming of having some kind of bunk bed where my older boy is on the top bunk and the bottom bunk is floor level, not raised at all. Then the top bunk would be relatively low, too.

  22. We co-slept with our daughter until she was 20 months old, and then moved the crib mattress onto the floor next to the bed (my husband was building her a toddler bed at that time). She did well on the crib mattress on the floor with just the fitted sheet and a light blanket that she could easily kick off and not get tangled in.

    Then we moved the mattress onto the toddler bed, and she’s done really well with that. She still wakes up occasionally during the night at nearly three years, but we don’t have the wandering out of bed like we did with just the mattress on the floor.

    She seemed to be ready for her own bed. She asks us to stay with her in her bed now, and only wants to play in ours 🙂

  23. Hooray! We recently did this too because we have another baby arriving soon who’ll need the crib and had a spare mattress. Our girl has loved it. She goes down for naps no problem, though bed times are harder. It’d be fine if she’d play quietly in her room instead of banging on her door and crying. But, once she’s asleep, she’s good. She seems to really love her new bed. Good luck!

  24. I’m at home with a 2 week old who loves the moses basket in the day, but only sleeps at night right up next to me. I’m wearing sweaters, leaving my blanket at my knees and removed my pillows – dad is next to me at the wall.
    I’ve been looking for information on getting just a mattress for next to the bed to give baby a little more space for herself but was wondering if a crib would be necessary.
    I couldn’t imagine that it was but it seems all the ‘professionals’ say you need one once they are able to move on their own.
    Ohh thank you for your post, now things make even more sense!!!

    • My son loved to sleep next to us – and it was easier for me, too. I also kept the covers around my waist, and he’s 9 months now and still loving it. He usually goes between my husband and I, and often when I’m nursing him and he’s getting drowsy, he’ll pull away from me and roll over to cuddle his papa’s arm to fall asleep.

      We love it, and it works for us.

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