how safe are floor beds for babies

How Safe Are Floor Beds For Babies?

Montessori floor beds are not for all families, and it's possible to raise your children in the Montessori style while using a different kind of sleeping arrangement. But for some families, the floor bed is the ideal choice.

The Montessori method is based largely on the concepts of independence, choice, and freedom of movement. Using a floor bed mattress has many benefits. First of all, it allows a pre-crawling infant to observe his environment visually. At this young age, babies take in their world through what they can see, and crib slats can block a lot of that out.

Older babies may wake up after napping and begin to scoot or crawl throughout the nursery to occupy themselves and satisfy their curiosity. They might even do this in the middle of the night, especially when first learning to walk.

Montessori thought supports this kind of freedom because the baby can choose to explore what captures his interests, whether working on learning to crawl or beginning to sort and stack a set of blocks.

There is no right or wrong answer, but rather each family must decide if a Montessori style floor mattress is a good fit. Many parents like to start with the traditional bassinet or crib and move a baby to their bed when they are older.

A three-month-old might do best in a bedside bassinet, while a nine-month-old may sleep better in their room on a floor mattress. Some parents find that a floor bed helps their little ones sleep, while others find the opposite true.

Baby Nursery FAQs

If your child is under two years old, your floor bed should be a firm crib mattress per AAP recommendations. A regular twin or full-size mattress is too soft and can cause suffocation risks. The floor bed should be just a flat fitted sheet and away from the walls so your baby can't become trapped.

There is no specific age for transitioning your child to a floor bed, but most Montessorians recommend doing so between 5 and 10 months of age when they have started to sit up and move around on their own.

For babies under the age of 1, Montessori beds are a no go since they fall outside of the safe sleep practices outlined by the American Academy of Pediatrics and are aimed at reducing the risk of SIDS.

A three-month-old might do best in a bedside bassinet, while a nine-month-old may sleep better in their room on a floor mattress. Some parents find that a floor bed helps their little ones sleep, while others find the opposite true.

Most mattress types are built to sit on a slatted platform or box spring, not the ground. Mattress companies warn against sleeping on the floor as the ground is home to dust, bugs, and mould, all of which void warranties.

The Appropriate Age for a Floor Bed

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Most children transition out of a crib around the age of 2 or 3 once they're able to put their leg at the top of the crib rail. It's around this time that Dr Casares says it's safe to consider a floor bed.

Moving your child to a floor bed will help them avoid injuries from crib falls while assuring the child will be less likely to sustain any injuries from the floor bed itself, such as from rolling, she explains.

That said, all children are different, notes Dr Casares. "A floor bed could also work as a transition to an elevated bed for an older toddler who is ready for the next step in sleeping arrangements but hasn't indicated a strong desire to leave the crib," she explains.

The Best Practices for Floor Bed Safety

Dr Casares warns that floor beds can be dangerous if a child's room is not properly safety-proofed and if the bed is not set up correctly. She recommends the following smart safety moves.

  • Place the mattress away from walls or furniture, ideally in the centre of the room, so that if your child rolls while sleeping, they don't become trapped against a wall.
  • Secure the furniture to the walls, cover electrical outlets, and remove small choking hazards.
  • Remove any choking or other potentially dangerous toys from the room.
  • Consider safety outside the child's bedroom, including installing safety gates if there are stairs.

You can also help prevent your child from rolling out by practising sleeping on the floor bed during the day for naps when orienting to their new environment might be easier, explains Casares. 

"Likewise, using positive reinforcement and praise can help toddlers to stay in bed for incrementally longer periods without calling out for a parent," she notes.

Benefits of a Floor Bed

According to Uzodike, there are many benefits to setting up a floor bed for your child:

They support a child's gross motor skills and body awareness.

"From birth, the baby makes small movements and can turn almost 360 degrees," she explains. 

"If you observe, you might notice that when they encounter the edge of the bed, they move back and don't drop off. 

This sense of their body within space is enhanced by using a floor bed."

She adds that floor beds also allow the child to enjoy an unobstructed view of their space.

It helps them develop their sleep independence.

Whitney Casares, M.D., MPH, FAAP, author of The Working Mom Blueprint: Winning at Parenting Without Losing Yourself, explains, "Proponents of floor beds note that they provide children more access to books and quiet toys as they prepare to sleep and when they first rise in the morning or from naps, giving them more independence."

They can boost your child's confidence and sense of self.

Uzodike attributes this to their ability to decide when they are done sleeping. "They also have a positive association with sleep because their bed is not something they are stuck in and can't get out of," she notes. "It is a place they go to rest and can get up when they are done resting."

It creates space for bonding.

"Another advantage is that depending on the size of the bed, the adult can sit or lie in bed with the baby if they need it," says Uzodike. "Perhaps to read to them or breastfeed them or even just to comfort them without having to lift them out of bed or change location, which can interfere further with sleep."

They're easy to put together and affordable.

You can make a floor bed as simple or elaborate as you like.

Crib vs. Floor Bed: Which is Best?

Cribs and floor beds offer unique benefits for parents and their children. Cribs provide the feeling of security that many parents want for their kids, while floor beds offer a sense of independence that children enjoy. But between cribs and floor beds, which is better for kids? 

Whether your child should sleep in a crib or a floor bed is a personal choice based on what you believe is best. A crib is ideal if you're concerned about safety and containment. If you are more interested in your child's freedom to explore, then consider a floor bed.

For a soon-to-be or new parent who wants to do the right thing for the baby, this might be a hot topic in the nursery. Read on for information that will help you to make the best baby bed decision for your family without anyone losing sleep over it.

Pros and Cons of Using a Crib

Wanting to create a secure and cozy spot for babies is just a natural thing to do. Babies are so vulnerable to intentional and unintentional harm that parents innately want to do what they can to protect their offspring.

Since ancient times, parents have used baskets, boxes, and other containers to give their babies a safe place to sleep and play—places where they can't get out and where they're sheltered from things getting in. A crib is designed to do just that.

The Benefits of a Using a Crib

Most of us in Western cultures slept in cribs as children and have used them for our children. Putting a baby or toddler in a crib for the first couple of years is the most widely used sleeping arrangement, both now and in the past. A lot of people aren't even aware that there are other options.  

Keeping a child safe from the newborn stage onward is a parent's main concern. A crib offers several benefits for the baby and his parents and is an excellent choice to address that concern.   

A Crib is a Safe Place for Baby to Sleep

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies be placed on a firm sleeping surface, specifically a crib, bassinet, or portable crib that meets the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC). 

Early cribs did provide a warm place for a baby to sleep. However, until the 1970s, crib design left a lot to be desired. The sides weren't tall enough. The slats were too far apart. The mattress was too soft; the list goes on. That's when experts decided that too many babies had died because of unsafe crib design and use. 

Cribs are designed with four high sides that prevent a baby from falling out while asleep. Since 1974, modern cribs have been required to meet strict safety standards targeted to reduce injuries and deaths from falls, strangulations, and suffocation. 

Current specifications that all new cribs must follow include:

  • There must be a maximum distance of 2 ⅜ inches between the crib slats to prevent a baby from getting his head stuck. Slats must be made of sturdy material.
  • The crib mattress must follow a standardized size and be firmly supported to fit properly within the crib frame without wiggling or shifting. This prevents a child from getting caught between the mattress and frame.
  • The height from the top of the rail to the mattress support on the lowest level should be 26 inches so that children cannot fall out.
  • There is to be no hardware on the inside of the crib. 
  • Drop latches must be sturdy.
  • Crib frame surfaces should be smooth and splinterless.
  • Each crib must contain detailed assembly instructions and appropriate warning labels.
  • As of 2010, cribs with drop-down sides can no longer be made or sold. 

The general rule of thumb is never to use a crib that's over ten years old unless you can modify it to fit current safety standards. If there's an heirloom or antique crib that family tradition expects you to use, you should take every precaution to ensure it is updated to meet these standards. Older cribs have wider gaps between the slats, and the mattress may not fit snugly nor leave enough height from the top rail.

A Crib Keeps a Baby in Place

Because of the rails on all sides, a baby, especially those younger than 18 months to 2 years, cannot get out of a crib and wander around the room or house. Once you put them in the crib for nap or bedtime, they're "stuck" until someone comes to get them.

For parents, this kind of containment offers peace of mind. It's comforting to know that your little one can't get into any dangerous situations like playing with electrical outlets or pulling a shelf or dresser over on top of them.

Without a crib, your child could be up exploring who knows where at 3 a.m. while you are sleeping away unaware. 

Cribs also provide a containment area if you need to do something nearby without any "assistance" from your crawler or toddler. Some kids that age hate the vacuum cleaner, for example, and may feel safer in their crib. Plus, they won't get in your way or pull out toys while you're trying to clear the floor.

Some Cribs Convert to Bigger Beds

Back in the day, once a child outgrew their crib, the crib went to the attic or basement for storage. Not so anymore. Many cribs now are designed to convert to a toddler bed, a daybed, or a twin or full-size bed when the time comes.

Using a convertible crib allows parents to save money. There's no need to buy additional furniture when the baby outgrows the crib. And it already matches the rest of the nursery furniture, so you won't have to change your colour scheme or theme to accommodate new furniture.

Babies Learn to Sleep Independently

A crib gives your baby a place to call his own. Rather than falling asleep in a parent's bed, which is called co-sleeping or bed-sharing and is highly discouraged for safety reasons, your baby has his own space. 

Getting into a bedtime or naptime routine that ends with a tired (but not yet asleep) child is the best way for that little one to learn to fall asleep independently. The familiarity of the crib combined with a consistent routine and no escape route means your baby or toddler may embrace the zzz's with less fuss.

Cribs Heights are Adjustable

Modern cribs are designed so that the mattress height is adjustable depending on the age and mobility of the baby. Newborns can be situated higher in the crib, so it's easier to pick them up and take care of them. 

As a baby becomes more mobile, the crib mattress can be lowered to a couple of different positions to keep him from falling or climbing out. Whatever the mattress position, it may be easier for an adult to do what needs to be done for the baby in the crib rather than stooping to floor level.

The Downsides of Using a Crib

There's not much downside to using a crib as your baby's sleeping arrangement. That's why cribs have been around for hundreds of years in some form or fashion. The one major downside can also be seen as a benefit.

A Crib Keeps a Baby in Place

While we've established that, overall, this is a good thing for a baby, there can be times when it's less than convenient for you as a parent.

For younger babies not yet crawling, it's not an issue, but for those who can crawl and pull themselves up, being in a crib can frustrate them. As soon as they wake up, they may cry and fuss to get attention with the ultimate goal of being picked up.

If you're following the recommendation to not put any stuffed animals, books, or toys in the crib with them, they have nothing to do or play with when they awake. Babies crawling or standing are at an age where they like to stay busy, exploring the world around them.

A sterile, toy-less crib doesn't offer a child much to explore and interact with, leading to a desire to get out of the crib and head to where their stuff is. 

Cuddling is Not as Easy

When a baby needs soothing at night, there's not much way around it: mom or dad has to go into the nursery and do what they can to comfort their fussy one. Sometimes it's a quick pat or lullaby, and all is well. 

For extended soothing times, tired parents may choose to sit by the crib and stick a hand through the slats to console the baby. If that's only for a few minutes and the baby settles back down, no problem. However, when a baby continues to need comforting, and someone needs to stay for a while, it can be awkward and tiring to sit or lie down by the crib on the floor for the rest of the night. 

Pros and Cons of Floor Beds

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While not that common in the West, some cultures have traditionally used floor beds for everyone, including babies, and they were doing it well before modern times and modern parenting ideas. Whatever their reasons, these cultures have found floor beds to be the best solution to nighttime sleep for babies.

The rise of floor beds in Western Europe and the U.S. spring from the Montessori school of thought started in the early 20th century by Maria Montessori, an Italian doctor. This philosophy emphasizes that a child learns best through hands-on exploration, movement, and personal choice. 

Extending that idea to the home brought about small beds for children that are low to the floor and without rails. This free environment allows a young child to explore his surroundings when he wakes up instead of being confined to a crib until an adult arrives.

A floor bed is a broad term for sleeping spots that are not elevated off the ground like a crib is. 

They can include:

  • For children under the age of two, a crib-size mattress sitting directly on the floor
  • A box frame 5" – 6" high that will fit a crib-size mattress
  • For children older than two, a twin-size mattress sitting directly on the floor
  • A with low sides

The Benefits of Using a Floor Bed

Depending on your viewpoint and child-rearing philosophy, there are several upsides to choosing a floor bed for your child's sleeping arrangement. 

You might be the only parent on the block to give your baby that much freedom, and it will probably generate a lot of neighbourly discussions. But if it suits your family, there's no need to justify your choice. 

Babies Can Explore Their Environment

A floor bed gives crawling babies, toddlers, and even older children the opportunity to move freely about the nursery or bedroom to experience, touch, feel, and read whatever they choose. Even newborns will wiggle and squirm and turn their heads to see what's around them.

Floor Beds Encourage Independent Sleep

The goal is for your baby to self-soothe and put himself back to sleep if he wakes up during a nap or at night. With the freedom to move around and get to books or toys if he's not yet sleepy, a baby will learn more about when he's ready to lay down and how much sleep he needs. 

In the morning or after a nap, a baby can entertain himself without having to call for mom or dad to get him up. He can wander the room looking at toys or books and may even decide he's still sleepy. A floor bed allows him to crawl back in bed and sleep more if he chooses.

Conclusion

At the end of the day (or at naptime), a child is going to sleep on whatever bed arrangement he's given. Both cribs and floor beds provide comfortable, cozy spots for your little one to sleep. It's really up to you as a parent to understand what your child needs to get his best sleep.

There are pros and cons to both, but the choice comes down to what's important to you and your child. For parental peace of mind, the crib is the way to go. For encouraging your child's independence and exploration, a floor bed can't be beaten.

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