I am writing this post at the request of a very dear friend and fellow Montessorian who is expecting her first child. This was our personal experience with our child, but every parent has to choose what works best for them and their child. As with everything in a child’s life, it’s important to make decisions based on THE CHILD’S development, and not on the adult’s needs or emotional attachments. Just sayin’…
During the first four weeks of his life, Zachary slept in a travel bassinet on the floor next to our bed (our bed is very low to the ground so this worked well for us). It was comfortable for him to have his own space in which to move and stretch out (yes, newborns move) and yet it was next to our bed so I could nurse him as soon as he requested it and he could hear our breathing. Our mattress is a “full”, we’re tall people, and we’re on a budget, so bed-sharing was out of the question.
I would bring him into our bed around 5am and he’d nurse and doze, but he was never really comfortable there and would not sleep for long periods of time. I think it just felt too big for him, since he couldn’t touch the perimeter! He was always in my arms or in the Moby wrap when he was awake, and as a newborn I would wait until he fell asleep before transferring him to the bassinet.
I made a special pad for the bassinet (a lot thicker than the one with which it came) and also used the topponcino on top of that mattress, so Zach was pretty high up and could get a good view of his surroundings. The sides of the bassinet were mesh, so it helped him to not feel caged in. In “Understanding the Human Being”, Dr. Montanaro notes that it’s important for babies to have “sufficient space for unhindered vision and movement”, so our bassinet fit the bill.
Zach had a strong startle reflex, and he would wake himself up often. I don’t believe in traditional tight swaddling, so what I did was use a blanket to wrap Zach and the topponcino into a loose “burrito”, tucking the blanket under the bassinet pad. He had freedom to move arms and legs, but he felt snuggly and secure and would sleep well like this.
When Zach was 4 weeks old, I moved his bassinet to his own bedroom (which is next to ours) and put it on top of his floor bed. This is where he started napping during the day. At night I would move the bassinet back to our bedroom. I did this for about one week to get Zach used to the new noises, smells, and lighting of his own room. Since he was sleeping well, I moved the bassinet there permanently and he started sleeping in his own room at night. Whenever he would wake up (about every 3 hours) I would go to his room, nurse him there, and put him back down in the bassinet. Yes, it was rough at first to be completely awakened, but in the long run it will help him understand that he has his own bedroom, and it will avoid the drama of him wanting to sleep in our bed and us wanting him to go back to his.
After three or so weeks, I took out the pad that I had made for the bassinet and placed it on his floor bed. By this point he had grown almost too big for the bassinet! I started laying him down on the pad (still using the topponcino), wrapping the whole thing in the blanket, burrito-style. This went on for about 4 more weeks. At one point I tried removing the pad and laying him down on the floor bed mattress, but since he sleeps on his side he still needed the additional support of the pad (he would roll over onto his back and wake himself up). After a few weeks he became stronger, was able to remain in a side-lying position at will, and was then able to sleep on his mattress without the pad or the topponcino (good thing, too, since he was getting too big for the pad!!). His startle reflex dissipated around that time, too, so that helped a lot.
The floor bed has been wonderful… He has lots of freedom of movement; sometimes we’ll find him lying sideways on the mattress or he’ll call for us to come help him because he’s rolled himself off the mattress and onto the floor! He NEVER cries when I lay him down in his bed, and I’m sure that when he starts crawling he’ll continue to enjoy the freedom that comes with not being caged up in a crib.
My husband and I enjoy having our bedroom to ourselves, and having separate bedrooms has allowed everyone to sleep better because we don’t wake up with every little peep he makes, and he rests well in his own space. He’s able to sleep through the night now (at almost 5 months of age), but some nights he wakes up either because he’s lost his covers, has a wet or soiled diaper, or wants some help falling back asleep. I take care of whatever is bothering him, pat his bottom a few times, and he drifts off to sleep again.
He no longer needs to be wrapped up like a burrito; now he likes his covers loose so he can wiggle around on his bed. Just when you think you have your baby figured out, he goes and grows on you… 🙂