Who Needs a Crib? The Nursery, Montessori Style

Screen shot 2014-02-26 at 8.17.43 PM

image via Montessori for Everyone

Want to save a quick $100 or more on your nursery? Do your tot’s room up Montessori style and skip the crib and toddler bed completely.

Many assume that a crib is a baby “must-have”, but it’s not. What you really must have is a safe place for your baby to sleep. Montessori-style nurseries often forgo the crib in favor of a Montessori child bed– a mattress or pad on the floor, since in the Montessori way of thinking, a crib is not an “inspiring’ place for a baby. The idea is that with just a crib mattress or pad on the floor in a baby-proofed room, babies are free to explore their environment at will. This helps babies develop motor and cognitive skills.

If you’re familiar with Montessori education, you may have already known about Montessori infant rooms. I learned about them recently after seeing a post at the BlogHer website about why blogger Tara (of Tall Tara) and her family had decided not to use a crib. I read more about the idea at these sites (Google Montessori low bed to find more articles):

This is an idea that really intrigues me from a child-rearing perspective in addition to a money-saving one. I like the outside-the-box thinking. I think I could do it.

What about you? Have you tried a no-crib nursery? Do you think you could?

What other pluses and minuses do you see with this idea?

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  1. Heather Cansler says:

    Interesting concept that may work well for a parent with their first child, but with older children running around I’d be concerned that the baby would get stepped on, at least in my house. However, crib free the “natural” way is easy…breastfeed and co-sleep! No crib needed!

    • Jennica says:

      I agree with Heather. It’s much easier if it’s just the first baby. But regardless of that, breastfeeding and co-sleeping also require no crib and that’s what we did! It is not only more natural, but it seems more loving. The idea of putting the baby in a completely blank space seems so disconnected for the baby. *shrug*

    • Tamra says:

      co-sleeping is a very dangerous practice and accounts for dozens of infant deaths every year! When you breast feed, you should NEVER do it in your bed, but sit upright with the baby in a chair or rocker or on a couch. It’s way too easy to fall back asleep in the bed and allow a tragedy to happen! In one year alone 4 babies died right here in Tulsa from that very thing. One mother actually went to jail for it, because it was her SECOND child to lose that way, and Child Protective Services had warned her repeatedly NOT to do so before she left the hospital with this baby! We all want the very best for our babies, but snuggle time shouldn’t be in the bed through the night!

      • CaitlinRenae says:

        Almost all co-sleeping deaths are highly correlated with alcohol, drug use, and/or sleep disorders. One of my family members is mother of 5 children and has co-slept and nursed them all. They are among the most well-behaved, responsive, intuitive, and responsible children I’ve ever known. Her parenting post-babyhood has a lot to do with that, but I wouldn’t doubt that the secure bonding to their mother as an infant helped. She is a smart, together, responsible woman who co-slept carefully, with awareness of blankets and sheets, and did it the right way.

  2. Heather says:

    I’m a chronic worrier and would never be able to sleep comfortably with my child sleeping this way. I’d be afraid he was crawling or walking through the house getting into trouble. Not for me! But then…I’m not a fan of the whole Montessori thing either.

  3. Sandra says:

    I agree with the above poster… this is ideal for a first child or in a day care situation where the older kids are seperated. But in real life, when there is a 2 year old running around or possibly sharing a room, putting baby some place other than a crib is just asking for a big accident!! Although we would all like to think we are perfect mothers, there are instances where we cant watch them 110% of the time and having a safe place for baby while you go to the bathroom is ultimately a crib!

  4. Leslee says:

    The room essentially becomes the crib. With so many cribs being recalled, it’s not likely to be any difference in safety if the room is properly baby proofed. It might be more challenging with babies that share a room with older siblings though.

  5. Teri s says:

    Wow, we did this and didn’t even know it was a ‘thing’. My ds kept climbing out of his crib so we took it away, and put the mattress on the floor, problem solved. Just before turning three, we took the child lock off the inside of his door and put it on the outside of his little sister’s door. (so he cant get in her crib with her). We just discussed when we will move our daughter to the floor last night while lowering her mattress to the deepest setting. It has been the best solution for us!

  6. Evin says:

    I’m with the poster who worries about older kids stomping on baby – unless baby has his or her own room, it’s a worry. We’re co-sleepers, so it’s not much of an issue. I might try this for my toddler tho – too big for mommy and daddy’s bed, not big enough for a big-girl bed. Might be a good in-between.

  7. Quite frankly, this sounds like an idea thought up by someone who has never actually had children.

    • I agree with you! There are so many accidents that could happen: If you accidentally drop a coin or bobby pin or an older kid leaves a choking hazard in the child’s room. Oh, and what happens if the take off their diaper like most do? Do you have poo smeared on the carpet as well as all of the sheets? Oh, and when they learn to walk and open doors at around 18 months…I am about to have a panic attack just thinking about it. This has disaster written all over it….uhum in my opinion 🙂

  8. Kimberly says:

    I think this is awesome. Maybe something to do with our last baby since eventually our girls will be sharing a room, and my youngest girl is already in a toddler bed that she is comfortable in. Wouldn’t be that hard to throw a baby gate on the door to the bedroom for added safety. Great solution for those who worry about baby falling out of a crib or a toddler bed.

  9. Christine McDaniel says:

    Interesting idea but may interfere with sleep habits, which in turn interfere with learning and mood later on. Not sure its worth it. Maybe with an older baby who had already developed sleep habits.

    • Deb says:

      Sorry Christine, but you are absolutely wrong. Not only is there NO evidence that this set-up would interfere with sleep habits and certainly not learning or mood later on, the principle behind of this type of set-up is based on research that has found that providing infants with the ability to explore on their own INCREASES cognitive capabilities and independence in later childhood. If it doesn’t work for your family (as it doesn’t for mine), that’s fine, but you really shouldn’t spread such blatant misinformation.

    • Annalisa C says:

      I don’t think so. If a baby has been in this set up since the beginning, as toddlers they understand what is going on. I am personally not raising my DD that way, but we did something similar once we moved from co-sleeping to her own crib. We set up a routine with the expectation that “sleep time means you hug Teddy and close your eyes”, and now it’s second nature. If the child has been sleeping in bed from the very beginning, they understand that once on the bed, you go to sleep.

  10. Kirsten Kieffaber says:

    I think this is a great idea! When my older kids were in toddler beds, they always ended up getting off of it and sleeping on the floor. I don’t have my older kids sleeping in the same room with the baby so I wouldn’t have to worry about him getting stomped on, not that I have ever had a problem with my kids stomping on him while playing in the living room or anything….

  11. Smiffers says:

    My children attend a Montessori school. The teacher had a baby who is now approaching two years old. Her baby has slept successfully with a mattress on the floor since she was born. Her room was totally childproofed and once she became mobile they placed a gate at the door so that she can’t leave the room, but is free to explore the room within the boundaries of the gate. Baby number 2 is expected soon and will be sleeping “Montessori-style”, too. I’m not sure this arrangement would work well if the baby shared a room with an older sibling, but parents and baby seem very pleased.

  12. Missy says:

    We have two girls- now 35 months and 17 months. We never bought or used a crib with either of them. When I was pregnant with our first, I remember people asking why we weren’t buying one and my thinking that it was such a waste! We’ve always co-slept, just mattresses on the floor (we have 2 large beds so there’s plenty of room to spread out, or sleep with an arm/leg/small face right in yours, haha) and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I can calm a nightmare with a simple touch of my hand or cuddle a sick babe without leaving the room. I know it may not be perfect for everyone, but it can’t get much more perfect for us. (Oh, and no worries with having a newborn AND an 18 month old sleeping in the same space… they actually do better!)

  13. Sarah says:

    I’m quite familiar with Montessori aproach and while I do agree in many things THIS is not one of them. We don’t live in 3rd world country to place out kids on the floor just like pets, SORRY!

    • Maci says:

      I find your comparison of this to pets ludicrous. A crib is essentially a “cage” – how is a mattress on the floor with the option to move around the room treating your child like a 3rd world inhabitant or a pet? Putting them in a crib (cage) is less so? I’m not really for or against this method as I just now learned about it. But, I find this comment to be extreme and judgmental when it obviously works for some.

      • Clara says:

        Extremely judmental indeed. Not only about the Montessori approuch but also about different cultures. Third world inhabitants do not raise their children like pets. Besides, in industrialized countries such as Japan, futton beds (montessori style) are usual not only for adults but also for children.

  14. A.k says:

    This person must have the best back ever, bc even laying baby into a pack n play to sleep killed my back …lay down, pick em up, lay em down pick em up, lay em down…ouch, my back hurts just thinking about it, ESP when baby becomes over 10, 15 lbs.

  15. Deb says:

    If I was going to have my baby sleep in a separate room, this would definitely be the way to go. We have a crib, which we used with our older little one and are using again for our 2nd, but we use it sidecarred to our bed (mattress level even with ours and with no railing between our bed and the mattress–with appropriate safety measures taken, of course–like a co-sleeper). It looks like a great idea for a separate room (assuming you’ve child-proofed appropriately).

  16. Jill says:

    Buying a crib for our 1st child was definitely the BIGGEST waste of money. She’s never slept in it for more than a couple hours. We never planned on it but she ended up breastfeeding & cosleeping with us (so much easier & less worry for me). She stopped breastfeeding just before 22 mos & started sleeping in her own bed off & on at just before 24 mos. We just took her crib mattress & put it on the floor in our room.

    We’re now expecting baby #2 & are just going to play it by ear with what we need/want. My biggest debate right now is whether to eventually buy a 2nd crib mattress or whether just to move an extra full sized mattress into our room for our oldest daughter & use our current crib mattress for the baby. (We have a REALLY large master bedroom so we certainly have the space & my daughter is too scared to sleep in her own room yet)

  17. Lisa says:

    Heavens, I think this is nonsense. The idea that a crib isn’t “inspiring” is truly one of the silliest things I’ve ever heard. Where do people come up with this hoo-hah? A crib is for sleeping, it’s not meant to inspire.

  18. Rachael says:

    I think this is fine if you are on a tight budget, lack space, or have some other reason to not buy a crib. I don’t buy the child development argument either. Personally, I want my children to know that sleep time is for sleeping, NOT playing or exploring, and that is why they go to crib/ bed when it is sleep time. This just blurs the lines and confuses them. Baby DOES need lots of time to explore the world on his or her own, but sleeping time is not when that should happen.

    I also slept on a mattress on the floor for a few weeks when our new bed was backordered. It is MUCH dustier down there, even if you keep a pretty clean home.

  19. Lisa says:

    I agree with some Montessori concepts but this is not one of them. I also don’t agree with co-sleeping with your baby either. If you are co-sleeping, it is just for your benefit not your child. When I was breastfeeding, it was hard to get up at all hours but that is why they have bassinets. After three months or when outgrown it, the crib is a safe way for the child to be able to fall asleep on their own ( not with a breast or bottle in their mouths) and learn how to soothe themselves. This will help them later on throughout their development. This isn’t even considering the chance of Rolling over your child in bed which does happen. It happens more than we know and that is why all pediatricians and the AACAP do NOT co-sleeping with your baby!

  20. Brittney says:

    Mattresses on the floor are for college students and single men. Our son started off in the pack & play in our room until 4 months of age where he moved to his own room…in his own CRIB. He has slept through the night since then and has no issues. We were against co-sleeping since the beginning after hearing so many horror stories, and we stuck to our guns. We have family members who co-sleep and they have ended up with children in grade school who refused to sleep in their own bed still. A crib is the safest and best place for a baby. NOT in bed with parents and NOT on the floor!!

  21. Marina says:

    Im pregnant with our second child – I’m not gonna lie, I can’t decide how I feel about this. On the one hand, I like the idea, both creatively and fiscally. On the other, esp with a toddler as a big brother (sharing a room) I’m not sure its the best idea for us. Worth considering, though.

  22. Anitra says:

    It’s a nice idea, but requires an extra level of child-proofing that I’ve never mastered. Also, it’s definitely NOT safe if an older child is sharing the room – between dropped toys/items, “snuggling” the baby, and soft toys, I’d be seriously worried for my baby’s safety when I’m not there to supervise.

    Thankfully, the crib is a safe place to park my 1-year-old when I need to put him down away from big sister.

  23. Kira says:

    I think it’s a wonderful idea. My son never even used his crib. He slept best in his seater. So we gave his crib back to my dad, who bought it, so they could use it for him there. He slept on a mattress on the floor for 4-5 months. When we finally decided to get his crib back he would just crawl out of bed in the middle of the night and sleep on the floor anyway. It’s a great idea. Kids need room to run and explore.

  24. Karin S. says:

    Sounds like crunchy granola nonsense to me ;o)

  25. Allison says:

    As long as the room is childproofed (and secured) I suppose it’s okay. I wouldn’t do this with an infant. For a toddler, sure. I don’t buy that it’s somehow “better” for the child though. I attended a playgroup with a mother who put little bowls of food around the house so her child could “graze” naturally instead of being forced into the rigid Western concept of “meals.” I’m sure she would have loved this idea.

  26. emily says:

    I work at a preschool and our 2-year-olds sleep on cots that lay just an inch or so off the ground. It works great with almost all of the kids (and 3 teachers constantly watching) but I have spotted a few try and sneak away. Sometimes my 7-month-old son falls asleep on the floor but only for his naps. Its not on purpose, just that it randomly occurs. I also do not have any other kids. If I did, I would probably move him so he a) wouldn’t get wakened and b) wouldn’t become an exhibit for older siblings to poke and prod til he did wake up.

    I would say to the poster that said sleeping on the floor is for people in third-world-countries and pets–that’s not true. Because you’re in the middle class or upper class, living in America (I assume), this is the only reason you feel this way. I would challenge you to explore how individuals in other countries raise their children. Many of them don’t have baby sleep experts, child development experts, etc. What the Western world term to be “baby secrets” that you see plastered on books in parenting sections and blogs, is in reality, something that has been practiced by these cultures far before we ever got our hands on it.

    I also am somewhat alarmed that some parents are concerned their child would get stomped on by older kids by sleeping this way, yet they practice co-sleeping with infants. I’d be more concerned of me rolling over my infant (I am a deep sleeper) than I would a 4-year-old toppling over my 7-month-old (worse things could happen—right?) I’m not advocating for leaving your baby out to be stomped on (not in the literal sense–do you really expect an older sibling to just kick and stomp continually on a young babe?!) But I think its interesting some parents expressed concern about this, rather than the suffocation factor w/ co-sleeping!

  27. Nikki says:

    Something no one has mentioned is the threat of bugs. There’s a reason people in non-3rd world countries sleep in raised beds. My dd slept on her mattress on the floor for 2 months this past summer. We were living in very nice, bug-treated, furnished temp housing while our house was being built and everything was in storage. On multiple occasions we found a spider, and once a fire ant on her bed! We were fortunate she was never bitten, especially since we discovered multiple brown recluses in the home after we moved her up on the guest bed! Not that bugs can’t crawl on the bed, but it DOES lessen the chances!

    • Clara says:

      Again, all this 3th world prejudice… In regions where the conditions are prone to bugs, 3th world inhabitants do not usually sleep in the floors. Indigenous peoples from the Amazon, for instance, use hammocks. In Japan, which is one of the most industrialized countries on the globe, people do sleep on futton style beds.

  28. While we didn’t necessarily know about the Montessori piece, we switched both of our children (one just recently) to a lower style bed on the floor at year of age or a little before. Since we were having baby #2, we wanted to transition our boy before then to a ‘big boy’ bed. We liked the Ikea bunk bed that has the bottom bunk on the ground. We bought an Ikea mattress and he basically sleeps on the floor. To add to previous commenters, we don’t have any bug problems so that wasn’t an issue and we would put up the child gate in his door way at night so if he got up, we could hear him and he couldn’t venture during the night. We also did this with our little girl; however we found a homemade adorable low to ground toddler bed. It has sides that are rounded and raised just enough where she can’t roll out, but still where she can crawl to the end of the bed to get out. Even before a year of age, we had more problems with our kids hanging over the crib and almost jumping out. We have had no issues with our bed styles methods and I don’t expect us too. It has worked out perfect for us. However, as a small baby I would still want some type of barrier whereas they couldn’t roll out of bed and not knowing where they are and they might get stepped on or trapped.

  29. Sierra says:

    Just a note, traditional outlet covers can be pried off the wall buy skilled little fingers.If you want to thoroughly baby-proof the room, you should have baby-proof outlets installed by an electrician. That way there’s no possible choking hazard for a curious baby.

  30. Tris says:

    Wow, amazing how worked up we get about other people’s parenting decisions 🙂
    Personally, I’ve considered this approach for my daughter when she’s a bit older. She won’t be sharing a room and our older son is a tween. We would put a baby gate on the door. We co-sleep now, but also have a crib.
    My concern is in regards to how the mattress is positioned in the room, that is, pushed into a corner. I think it creates a suffocation hazard if the child moves her face onto the space between the mattress and the wall, especially babies who could wiggle themselves into a tight space. Easy solution is to simply pull the mattress away the wall.
    Co-sleep can be practiced safely! But it does mean you need to give it some thought and not be a heavy sleeper or medicated or drinking. I’d like to give a plug for Dr. James McKenna’s book “Sleeping with Your Baby” which has good sense guidelines for when it is safe to co-sleep and when it isn’t. So much more helpful than Dr. Sears who is too vague.
    We all know what is best for our children and families, even though we might choose opposite ways of parenting. Thankfully, our babies our very flexible about all of this. Have confidence in your choices and be nice to other parents.

  31. Jmh says:

    I enjoy my sleep and could not deal with my child getting up down up down up down all night. Cribs have been used since the olden golden days and we all turned out just fine.

    I don’t like co sleeping either, it may work for some, but I think it’s very traumatic to try and get them into their own room/bed/crib or whatever you use when it’s time to do so. I may sound like a mean mama, but my two were in their own cribs and own rooms at 5 weeks and within a week to 10 days slept solid from 9-6 every night. And yes, they were breastfed.

  32. Pamela says:

    Mattress on the floor worked for us! My daughter has been there since 8mos for most of the night and every nap. She’s an easy-going kid, which helps, but I like that at an early age, she was given responsibility for staying in her bed so she never got up or walked around in the night. And now that she’s 25mos and a bit more independent, she’ll sometimes get up in the morning by herself, go out of her room and play quietly while we sleep. We childproofed her room and recognize the very low risk of her pulling off the outlet covers, getting bit by dangerous insects (really? not in my part of the US, apart from the occaisional mosquito), etc. I suppose it depends on the kid, but for us, giving up control of when she can get in and out of bed has taken that battle off the table completely.

    Also, we transitioned from co-sleeping to the mattress on the floor pretty easily. A few low-sleep weeks of lying next to her in her room, but after that she was happy to stay in her bed.

  33. Nena says:

    Not every method works for every baby. I was moved from a crib to a twin bed at 9 months old. My brother, who is 18 months older, would get me out of my crib and we would sleep in front of my parents bedroom door. When my parents moved me to the twin bed I would stay in the bed unless my brother got me out. I may or may not try this method. I do know that I will not just go out and buy a crib just because that is what is expected of me. I won’t know what works until she is here.

  34. Didi says:

    Love this idea! I did it with my first and will again for my second. They will be sharing a room at first but I think this idea is still very doable. I’ll put dangerous toys up high or in a cabinet with a baby lock and have one bed on either side of the room. I didn’t use a baby gate the first time but I will this next time; I’ll just teach my older son how to use the gate. Really, it’ll be easy. Don’t understand all the comments about this sleep set up as unsafe since all you have to do is baby proof.

  35. mamma k says:

    we honly had a bassinet for the first few months of my sons life before we had to pack up and move across country, when we got to our destination we had no funds to buy a crib or even a pack n play, he slept on a sleep mat we made out of the eggcrate foam for beds and large blankets that wrapped it, never had a problem with it at all, when he turned 1 1/2 he got a “big boy bed” with a rail we got offline for pretty cheap and that worked just fine as well, i could easily co sleep but my husband on the other hand is a very very heavy sleep and is afraid he would roll over on our new son.