Although I get a lot of questions about sleep and the floor bed, I’m always a bit hesitant to talk about it because sleep can be a controversial topic. I’ll start by saying that I respect whatever choice you make for your child, and your family. From co-sleeping to cribs, there are a lot of options for sleeping, and ultimately, the decision is up to you! For us, co-sleeping wasn’t an option for a variety of reasons, but I did want to keep D in our bedroom for the first 6 months. When she transitioned out of the bassinet in our room, she transitioned into the floor bed in her room. This post is about our sleep and floor bed journey:
The importance of Sleep
I want to start by saying that although we all sacrifice sleep in the first few months and learn to function without it, that shouldn’t become our norm. Sleep is just as important for parents as it is for our children, because without it, our physical health, mental well-being, and parenting ability really takes a beating. Similarly, our children, especially babies and toddlers, need adequate sleep for their development and health. As a toddler teacher, I could see huge differences in attention, happiness, and behavior in general between the children who slept well at night and those who didn’t. Here is a useful website with recommended hours of sleep for each age in childhood. Every child is different, but typically more is better. Although D can and will function on an 11-hour night and no nap, she is at her best when she gets her usual 11-hour night plus a 2-hour nap.
From the Beginning
Our sleep the first 4 months with D was pretty challenging. For the first three months, D would fall asleep easily when nursed/rocked to sleep but never slept longer than 2-3 hours at a time, and only napped on my body. At 4 months, she wouldn’t even fall asleep in our arms at bedtime, and was still waking up frequently, nursing around the clock. I was completely exhausted all the time and at a loss of how to help her consolidate her sleep. At her 4-month check-up our pediatrician gently suggested that many babies need to cry a little to fall asleep, and that babies can begin to self-soothe at this point, so my husband and I began to do some research on sleep learning methods. Side note: rather than call it “training”, I prefer “sleep learning”. With sleep learning, we are gently helping our children learn how to self-soothe, not training them or abandoning them completely to cry it out. So began our journey of sleep learning.
When D was close to 5 months old, we started sleep learning using The Sleepeasy Solution book as our main guide. My husband and I both read it front to back so we could be on the same page, and created our own personalized plan.. (Note: another option is the Taking Cara Babies online course, which is expensive, but my friends have said her videos and consultations are especially comforting in an otherwise stressful endeavor. I am planning to take her newborn sleep course for baby #2.)
The SleepEasy Solution book's philosophy is based on "the least-cry approach", which definitely appealed to me. While it does involve some crying, it allows for check-ins, and caters to various family situations, ages, and sleeping arrangements, including room-sharing (which we were still doing at the time). The "no-cry sleep solutions" hadn't worked for us despite my best efforts, and this book helped explain why. "All children protest change, and the way they let us know they don't like the change is to cry." For many babies, constantly intervening when they are trying to sleep only frustrates them more and prohibits their ability to figure out how to self-soothe. This was definitely the case with D, our headstrong little girl. We had to let her work off her own steam at the end of the day, and accept her struggle instead of trying to fix it.
Using the Sleepeasy Solution methods, D was putting herself to sleep without fussing after just a few nights, and we never felt like we were abandoning her. I was still able to nurse her during the night, but on a more predictable schedule, and could let her put herself back to sleep after each feed. She still took some naps on me, but others in her own bed, and I appreciated having that flexibility. Everyone in my family was almost immediately more well-rested and happier. I gradually night weaned her over the course of several months. By 10 months, she was sleeping 12 hours at night straight.
Transitioning to the Floor Bed
We started sleep learning before the transition to the floor bed in her room (around 6 months), but continued to use the methods after. We started with naps on the floor bed and then moved nighttime sleep to the floor bed too, and didn’t have a lot of issues because she already had the skills to self-soothe. I have written more about the floor bed in this blog post, but we chose this route because it allows her freedom to move and not feel “stuck” in a crib. It allows her independence while providing a safe and cozy place for winding down and to sleep. It has worked really well for us: she mostly stays in her bed, but can go get books and her “lovies” before and after sleep on her own, and fall asleep when she’s ready. Even though it’s a crib-sized mattress, being on the floor also allows me to snuggle with her on it before bed, and to read with her on it after she wakes. And I can sleep well knowing her room is safe and she is content and well-rested. (She is also just next door to us, and we use a video monitor.)
There have, of course, been sleep regressions since transitioning to the floor bed. When she began to crawl, she would crawl toward the door after bedtime and get upset. We tried a few techniques but in the end, just letting her wander a bit and occasionally fall asleep on the floor was the best solution. After several nights of falling asleep on the floor (and me sometimes moving her back after she fell asleep), she mostly stopped wandering off her bed. The real struggle hit when she learned how to open her door. Because she wouldn’t fall asleep if she could leave her room and wander, and I worried about her safety at night, we put a child lock on the door handle so only we can open it. Again, we had a couple of rough nights where she was upset she couldn’t get out, but we checked in and were consistent about her needing to stay in her room, and she figured it out. Times when she’s been sick or just upset, we offer extra snuggles and occasionally, I’ve laid down on the floor next to her to help her sleep. There always has to be room for flexibility!
Our Bedtime Routine
As the sleep books and courses will tell you, a huge part of sleep learning success is a consistent routine. When babies and toddlers are given plenty of time to wind down, and have that one-on-one time with you, self-soothing is much easier. You can read more about our daily routine here, but I’ll go over our bedtime routine here too. We stick to a pretty strict bedtime - usually starting no later than 7pm. It looks like this, and my husband and I take turns:
Potty, bath, then brush teeth (we do it first, then let her have a turn).
Change her into her pajamas and a diaper
Read a few books in her tent, and then cuddle and sing a couple of songs (she now sings along)
She collects her favorite books and baby dolls and sets them up “just so” in her bed. I also give her a water bottle and a light blanket for the night.
We kiss her goodnight (sometimes she requests a lot of extra kisses), turn on her white noise machine, and walk out the door
Sometimes she falls asleep right away and other evenings she reads or snuggles her babies for a while before dozing off. But she’s happy, and sleeps like a log through the night. When she wakes up (usually between 6:30 and 7am), she just reads to herself or plays with her toys (as pictured below) until I go in and greet her for the day!
That is our floor bed and sleep journey, and while not perfect, I’d definitely do it again. Sometimes she misses naps, and sometimes we travel and everything is thrown off, but for the most part, she is a great sleeper now. I’m sure we’ll hit more obstacles as we welcome this baby boy any day now, but it’s all a process. We still aren’t sure whether we will have the kids room-share when he transitions out of our bedroom, so updates to come!
Favorite Sleep Products
Hatch White Noise Machine (can control via phone to change sound, color, etc) - We also use it as our nightlight for D
Halo Bassinet (up to 6 months)
Husband-made frame to fit mattress!
Black-out curtains (as these are white, they don’t completely black out light)