I Love a Mattress on the Floor

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.

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About mooreamalatt

Find my whole bio here: http://www.savvyparentingsupport.com/#!about/cktc
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19 Responses to I Love a Mattress on the Floor

  1. Anna says:

    Indeed! We need more information like this out there!

    I put up a collection of floor beds on my website. I’d love to see yours up there!

  2. Tiffany says:

    We are considering this option for our recent crawler. In doing research, I cannot find any info about whether we need some special kind of mattress, or if any will do! Do you have any suggestions?! Thanks!

    • Helena Sherman says:

      Any kind of mattress will do. We had two mattresses together, from wall to wall. It was awesome. Everybody had room to sleep like a baby. Cat included.
      I put some padding around my baby’s mattress because he is a helicopter and rolls and rolls and rolls, and sometimes hit the wall, although never hard. Then we added a toy box in the corner in the other side of the room, so when he woke up, he just went straight to the toys, and played with them, giving us those “extra” twenty minutes.

    • mooreamalatt says:

      My understanding is that a firmer mattress is better for children, but I confess to having only two very cushy mattresses at our house! What you see there is a Viscoform which I truly love- midway between a temporpedic and a regular mattress.

  3. Gail says:

    I used mattresses on the floor with my kids. All of the people that I have talked to from organizations that promote cribs use because co-sleeping is dangerous believe that a mattress on the floor is unsafe and seem to think I am crazy. It is common for organizations to give families pack n’ play type equipment for use as the only bed. This includes health organizations, CPS, church organizations, & anti-abortion organizations that offer help to pregnant and new mothers. I called and emailed the companies that make this type of equipment designed for care during the day as the only place for a child to sleep. The companies say that children should not sleep in the pack n’ play. The organizations that give them away keep giving them away. They know that they are telling parents to use them in unsafe ways and don’t care.

    • mooreamalatt says:

      Gail! I have heard of this! It is ridiculous. Even hospitals are giving out pack and plays to families who don’t have cribs to prevent co-sleeping deaths and then if you were to ask the same people if it is safe to sleep in a pack and play, they say It is not safe! It goes to show that we don’t truly know what is safe and there are variables in all circumstances when it comes to safety. The pack and play companies still profit from having their items bought and given away by social services, just as the so much of the anti-cosleeping campaign is funded by the crib manufacturers. More info on that in my article here: https://mamalady.wordpress.com/2011/11/17/black-and-white-race-and-the-co-sleeping-wars/

  4. I really like the matress idea, thanks alot.

    Going to helkp me gte my little ones to sleep I hope.

  5. I love this article! I’m on my second floor-mattress-baby. I never even knew it was a “thing” people did (Montessori style, etc) I just did it because it was what made the most sense to me as cribs always felt like dangerous little open towering cages. I felt sheepish about it whenever anyone would see my setup, like you said, it felt like I was doing something that appeared “uncivilized”. But it makes so much more sense!

  6. Rachel Lorch says:

    Thanks so much! I have a 19 month old in a crib and I’m considering switching to her sleeping on a mattress on the floor. The catch is, we also have a 6 week old who we want to transition into sharing a room with her. Do you have any experience/suggestions about when/how to do that? The 6 week old currently sleeps in a small crib next to our bed.

    • mooreamalatt says:

      Hi Rachel! I think it definitely would depend on the sleeping habits of your six-week-old, if you are breastfeeding, how much the baby wakes etc. I personally would not leave a 19-month-old alone in a room with an infant unless I was sure the tot wouldn’t climb into the crib and I was sure my crib was extremely safe (so many been recalled and I would NOT use your small one.) But you can look up all of the wonderful benefits of siblings sharing a room. Your baby benefits quite a bit by room-sharing with you and I personally would stick with that until 5 months when the risk of SIDS pretty much goes away. I wouldn’t have a tot and an infant sleep alone on a mattress (or two on the floor) until my infant was mobile (8 or 9 mo). If you would like to discuss coaching options with me to come up with a plan in more details feel free to email me moorea malatt hicks @ gmail . com (minus the spaces 😉 Thank you so much for your comment!

  7. Pingback: Progressive Parenting Secret #1: Extreme Modeling | MamaLady

  8. josie says:

    i love our mattress(es) on the floor too! we have one regular full size mattress, and then an old futon mattress right next to it to give a little protection from falls (hardwood floors) and for my husband to migrate too in the middle of the night when he can’t handle feet in his face! you are definitely closer to “the dirt,” which is probably a good thing in our case since it forces me to sweep the floors more often.

  9. Marisa says:

    Thank you so much for this article. I thought I was crazy for trying to find something that might work for me and my son. He refuses to nap any where but in my arms and I can’t go past 5 minutes of him crying. He’s obviously not going to calm down once he’s that upset. I work from home and he’s 8 months now and it’s much harder to work with him in my arms at this age. I can’t wait to start doing this!!

  10. feeda says:

    hi..i am a mom of 17mths old quads and 2 of them r showing signs of climbing over the playpen. yes , their beds hv been playpen pack n play each of them has one with a good baby mattress in it. but i know i can contain them as time goes on. i m still thinking of ways to hv them transfered onto mattresses on the floor but still contained within a fencing area. its totally a different experience when u have more 4 bbies at once n all growing up at the same time. you always have to do some troubleshooting here n there as they grow up and progress. its all trial n error everyday. wish me luck ppl!

  11. A futon is even better than a mattress because it can be organised rolled up for a very small child (after parent bed stage) and gradually unrolled as the child needs more of it. And it is easy to get out without falling anywhere. I think my second was on his futon until he was about 6, then it was used all over the place.

    Cots were invented for draughty houses. Most people in the UK don’t have those any more.

  12. Pingback: How To Prepare Your Floors For Your Toddler

  13. Odhora k. says:

    A mattress and a futon have a lot of different.Mattress is always good for a baby.I disagree with Juliet.but it’s true that it seems to be hard to selecting a best baby mattress.

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