I really don’t like cribs, especially for mobile babies and tots. In 17 years of working with children in cribs, this is what I have seen:
1) 3 broken arms. Two broken legs. From jumping or falling out. On carpet.
2) Adorable 14month twins who both learned how to open the supposed baby-proof mesh zippered “crib-tent “from the inside.
3) Head-banging. Months of bruises from two separate children who were scared and being made to cry it out and choosing to express the internal pain physically by causing a 2 inch diameter bruise on the forehead. Bless my sweet now-teenage Goddaughter’s head. She’s dating now and her forehead looks just beautiful but it wasn’t pretty when she was little ;(
4) Continual crib-recalls from manufacturers admitting that children are mamed and killed when the structure malfunctions, is put together improperly or is used improperly.
5)… and lets not even get into the chemicals used, the chewing on and ingesting polyurethane, paint…
A “Montessori Style” mattress on the bed works great to transition your child out of the family bed. Or if you want to sleep with your wiggly child and it is a safe option for your family (meaning you don’t use drugs or excessive alcohol in the home, you are breastfeeding and you don’t have a sleep disorder, or your child s over 9mo)- A mattress on the floor may work for you! That is where my daughter and I went after the family bed, as a way to transition her gently to sleeping on her own.
Sometimes the “family bed” isn’t safe. Anything up above the floor is going to require a lot of effort if you are teaching your child how to fall asleep without falling asleep on the breast- like so many of my sleep-coaching parent clients are doing (and this is the reason for this article). That kind of sleep learning involves the child learning how to “work himself down” which might mean some fussing, some thrashing and some getting up and down. Each child eventually will have to learn the best way to help themselves fall asleep. For us it went from thrashing and whining to singing and then to just cuddling a special pillow.
You can still make the room safe and you can still close the door (with both you and your child in the room) as I do not recommend closing any child in a room alone.
Benefits of the Mattress on the Floor for a crawler/walker:
1) Safety for toddlers, especially climbers (and yes, the room and if they can open the door, your home must be childproofed).
2) You can cuddle your child to sleep offering comfort while also modeling what it looks like to be tired and close your eyes on the mattress. You can get extra rest and save your back from leaning over a crib. If your sleep-learning process involves not falling asleep on breast or bottle, learning how to sleep on the mattress of one’s own volition, and without Cry It Out in a crib.
3) If you can show your child how to sleep on a mattress of his or her own volition between 9mo and 18mo, you will have a child who is more secure in sleep and more capable of staying in bed and not getting out as they grow older (as opposed to the 3-year-old’s transition from crib to bed which often leads to going back up into the parent bed in the middle of the night.) Letting a child learn that it is casual to get into and fall asleep on a bed (“you can get up if you want to, but I am going to lay here and sleep and it isn’t fun to play in the dark”) without being forced is a great thing.
4) Get the eyesore crib out early and your double or queen floor of your child’s room doubles as your guest room while your child gets a fun night in the parents bed.
But what if you have a heating vent on the wall or floor etc. and you cannot have the mattress flush against the wall to keep your child on the bed? We had that problem and I contemplated a toddler bedrail but I simply used a pillow or two (round neck pillow is easiest) positioned under the sheet as a border. It was much cheaper and has proven to be very effective while still letting her climb on an off.
I still think many people cannot fathom a mattress on the floor because it is “uncivilized”, like something used in a tribal hut, too close to the “dirt”. And definitely people like the idea of being able to contain their children. And certainly people want to keep their children safe. I just don’t think that cribs are always the safest option. In fact, I think that once a child becomes a climber, they are extremely unsafe. Would you ever put your toddler in another apparatus that high up without being strapped in and then leave the room? Food for thought.