I have three close friends who have completed the Assistants to Infancy training course (to work with children from birth through age 3). When they found out I was pregnant, all three told me to make a topponcino. What is a topponcino? It’s a thin pillow that’s a little longer than the body of a newborn, and about twice as wide. They explained that it was used to provide the newborn with a sense of security when being passed from one person to another or when being placed onto his bed after breastfeeding.

Being the crunchy momma that I am, I argued that the topponcino would interfere with the child feeling the mother’s arms around him, which somehow sounds like it should be a comforting thing, right? Upon hearing my argument, all three friends wisely said: “Well, you don’t HAVE to use it if you don’t want to.”

I went ahead and made it anyways, just because I’m a Montessori nerd (and it’s a very quick and easy sewing project)… But then I put it in the back of the baby’s closet and promptly forgot about it.

The baby was born, and as most parents of newborns will tell you, my life was turned upside-down. I went into survival mode, trying to figure out who this little person was, what he needed, and how to best satisfy those needs. For almost four weeks I struggled with his naps; he’d fall asleep without any problems in my arms after breastfeeding, but whenever I placed him in his bassinet he would quickly stir and begin to cry.

Two nights ago around midnight (about 3.5 weeks since his birth), after two hours of “feed, burp, sleep, put in bassinet, wake up & cry, repeat”, I somehow remembered the topponcino in the back of the baby’s closet, and my friends’ suggestion to use it when transferring the baby to his bed. I took the topponcino, placed my screaming over-tired baby on it, offered the breast, and watched him soothe and fall asleep. I lowered him down to his bassinet with the topponcino, very slowly and gently removed my hands from beneath it, and held my breath in anticipation of a meltdown.

Nothing happened. Baby slept. And slept and slept! And guess who’s sleeping as well??? I’ve been using the topponcino for two nights now, and it has been a blessing!!

You can make a topponcino or buy one at

This little anecdote illustrates why Montessori works: It is not some hokey quick-fix that works for the parent but restricts the development of the child. It is simply an approach that bases itself on the observation of millions of children around the world, and derives a series of sensible tactics to support the needs of the child at each stage of his development.

Zachary didn’t need to feel my arms under him; he needed to feel the consistency and security of a surface that wouldn’t change temperature, firmness, or smell during those fragile moments of first sleep. The topponcino does this beautifully, and I am once again humbled by the simplicity and elegance that is Montessori.


11 thoughts on “Topponcino

  1. Yeah I finally found your new blog. Congratulations to you and your husband Pilar! What a wonderfully exciting time for you. I’m soooo happy you’ve started this blog and it’s perfect timing for me as I’m expecting my second in May! With my daughter I only came to Montessori when she was 12 months so I’m looking forward to starting from the beginning with this one.
    I would love to make a topponcino for my little one and was wondering if you have a pattern? If not what dimensions did you make yours and what type of foam? Hope you don’t mind but I’ll probably be asking you lots of questions about your journey as you go along. Once again many congratulations on entering the world of parenthood!

  2. What is the difference between the original and the foam topponcino? Any opinions on how they would functionally different?

    1. Hi Ruth, sorry for the delay. I don’t think there’s any functional difference, it’s mostly a matter of preference and perhaps breathability. I would go with the original, it just seems more appropriate for a newborn, but that’s just me. 🙂

  3. The original topponcino is best, but it must be handwashed and air dried – usually places in the bottom of a regular bathtub and then gently pressed on, not squeezed. It takes some time, and so does the air drying. that is why we have the foam one made. They both serve the same purpose. I enjoyed the picture above, of my eldest granddaughter holding her new baby brother in the hospital on the first day of his life – a very good use of the topponcino!

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