Saturday, 21 January 2012

Going Crib-free

Last night did not go well.  Something is clearly up with my daughter, poor thing.  I would guess another tooth, although that's always the easy excuse.

Since this blog was not intended to be a whine-fest, I won't relate the events of last night (nor the consequently bleary today).  It did, however, remind me that my daughter sleeps on a standard crib mattress on the floor, which is not what people usually expect.  So I thought I'd talk about how that's worked out for us.

The mattress on the floor is actually a Montessori practice.  The idea is that your child is encouraged to explore their child-safe, floor-accessible nursery at will.  I'd read about this concept before having my son, and thought it sounded nice enough but decided against it.  Firstly because I didn't know anybody else who had done it, and I wanted to stick with practices where I had readily available fonts of advice.  Secondly because it just seemed weird having your child sleep on the floor and having to explain that to people.

I'm not a big fan of nursery furniture to start with: it's expensive, of limited use and I don't appreciate the pictures of perfectly coordinated nurseries that Toys R Us sends us.  The crib (and mattress) was the only item I bought new for my son's nursery, and that was because I was too wary of SIDS to risk a second-hand one. 

Unfortunately, we bought a dropside crib.  By the time I was pregnant again, dropside cribs had been banned as dangerous and were on no account to be used, even with a kit to fix the dropside.  I did not appreciate the irony.

So more or less in a fit of pique, I declared to my husband that we were done with cribs, and the new baby could sleep on the floor.  At least that couldn't be recalled!

To be fair, we didn't do that from the start.  Both my son and my daughter spent their first six months sleeping in an Arm's Reach co-sleeper.  I'm too light a sleeper (my daughter takes after me) to co-sleep fully, but my afore-mentioned SIDS paranoia welcomed the opportunity to co-sleep without bed-sharing.

But at six months old, my daughter was graduated to her mattress.  Because she was six months, I wasn't hugely panicked about safety issues (I'd also become somewhat jaded after letting my son sleep for a year in a deathtrap).  I knew she could raise and turn her own head in her sleep, and I also knew that she was heavy enough that if she slid between her mattress and (e.g.) the wall, her own weight would push the mattress away, so she wouldn't smother.

To be absolutely certain, I kept the mattress towards the middle of the room for the first few months.  Otherwise, I used all the standard precautions... no blankets or pillows, and the room was babyproofed.

She wasn't mobile at this point, but she could roll.  The first few weeks of the experiment had me going in multiple times a night to put her back on her bed.  This was the only time I considered giving up and using the pack and play or something.  But gradually she learned to stay on the bed or at least not to wake up fully when she rolled onto the carpet.

Once she did get mobile, her bed became her focal point whenever we were in her room.  She would crawl onto it, and occasionally lie down and suck her thumb for a few minutes before heading elsewhere.  It took longer for her to crawl off it when I put her down for naps, although these days, even when groggy, she's able to lurch off the mattress and haul herself to the door (sleepsack and all) once she's woken up (whereupon she starts banging on it to be let out).

Somewhat to my surprise, it's very rare for her to crawl off the mattress when I put her down to sleep.  She'll usually give at least a short wail of protest, but she'll almost always roll onto her side and suck her thumb in an attempt to get to sleep.  It's only recently that she's started crawling straight off the mattress to argue the point, and even then, that only happens when she's really opposed to her nap.  Most of the time, she'll still try for sleep first.

I expect that this will become more frequent as she gets older, but it's a case of crossing that bridge when we get to it.

All that is straightforward enough... but what I've really liked about the floor mattress, is how accessible it is for me.  When she has difficulty sleeping, our usual tactic is to lie down on the floor next to her, head on the mattress.  She gets the physical contact she craves, and we are fairly comfortable (compare with dangling your arm over the edge of a crib for twenty minutes).  Extricating myself once she seems deeply asleep enough is a tedious process, but having her hand pat my face as she settles is lovely (although can also get old if she still doesn't go to sleep).

It's also good not having to worry about when to do the transfer from the crib, something that I fretted over with my son (and something that ended up not being a big deal at all).  These days, her mattress rests against the twin bed that we keep in there; there's a stepstool against the foot of the bed for when she's able to climb up.  My guess is that at some point she'll want to sleep in the big bed, just like her brother, at which point, the set-up will remain the same but the mattress will become a crashpad for when she falls out of bed.

But mostly it's been such a simple exercise that I forget that there's a different way of doing things.  Cribs have their uses, but I'm glad I didn't fork out the cash for another one.  Floor-sleeping has worked out just fine for us this time around.

No comments:

Post a Comment