Friday, March 26, 2010

A cot-free baby room

In a recent e-mail newsletter I promised to give you a little glimpse into the sleeping arrangements in our house, particularly about the baby room. I want to aknowledge three sources that inluenced me greatly in my decision to have a cot-free house: Firstly, my friend Linnie is a mother-extraordinaire and gave me good, solid advice about co-sleeping, especially in the first months. They have recently been blessed with another little boy, and she writes extensively about mothering this newborn on her blog .I also read two books at various stages during Sweetpea's baby days that helped me change my approach to sleeping issues. The first was Montessori from the Start by Paula Polk Lillard and Lynn Lillard Jessen, and the second was The Good Behaviour Book by William and Martha Sears.

 These three sources all had different and even in a way opposing ideas about where a baby is supposed to sleep, but I read and listened and in the end borrowed a little from all three and came up with a solution that works very well for our family.

Sweetpea slept in a wicker crib next to our bed for the first six months of her life, and then moved, without any drama, to a cot in her own room where she had also been taking her daytime naps since birth. When she was about 20 months old, we put her on a single bed mattress in her room, and a month or so later moved her onto her proper bed.
Sweetpea's room in the days before we went cot-free!

ArrowBoy was a sweet little newborn but decisively different from his sister in his need to be near his mamma all the time. I very soon realized that this little man needed to be close to me just about 24 hours a day and having learnt alot about mothering since the birth of his sister, I was happy to meet his needs in any way I could. He slept for long stretches during the day in a sling or kango pouch against my body, and at night he was snug as a bug between his daddy and me. But at around three months he all of a sudden started waking up if either of us made the smallest of movements or sounds, and my husband suggested we see how it goes if he spends the night in his own room. Now, from my end of the bed in our room to where his cot stood in hs room, was about 7 meters, and yet I spent that whole night fretting that I wouldn't hear him! Of course, he practically slept right through, except for a little feed at around 3h00 am!!

From then on he spent the night in his own room, but I was still not happy with the cot arrangement. Having read Montessori from the Start and agreeing wholeheartedly with their approach to encourge mobility so that the infant can move around freely, I found the cot restricting, despite it being much larger than a standard cot.

The bed in a Montessori room is basically a single bed mattress on the floor. It is pushed into a corner of the baby's room and is therefore protected at 2 sides. A soft rug or pillow can be placed on the 'open' side in case baby rolls off during the night. (My husband made a simple wooden guard which slid under the mattress to keep ArrowBoy safe until his brain has had a chance to 'map'the size of his bed!) Because baby is not restricted, he is free to start exploring his surroundings as soon as he is capable. To help him along in his efforts, a mirror can be bolted to the wall so that baby can see himself when he wakes up. This will encourage him to lift his head, strengthening his neck and back muscles, which in turn will prepare his body to crawl!

(There's a lovely example of a Montessori room at Sew Liberated !!)I love how these rooms are designed with a baby in mind, with shelves at their height, making it easy for the child to access his toys, and giving him something to pull himself up against.

Our son started crawling during the last week of his sixth month, and I attribute this in part to the fact that he has had the freedom to 'roam'. When he wakes up and start cooing, his sister stands on tippy toe, opens his door and joins him on his bed. They spend a lot of time playing happily together there, crawling on and off and tickling and cuddling. Off course, it is imperative to make sure the room is safe: that there is nothing a child can pull over on himself, no uncovered wall sockets, no small toys laying around on which baby can choke, no cords from blinds hanging at a level where baby can reach it, etc.

Not a great photo, but it shows how easy my boy gets off his bed

Another benefit of his comfy, big, baby bed is that I get to lay down with him if he is fussy at night - nothing like Mamma's body to comfort a little one! And I don't have to worry about my child tumbling out of his cot as he tries to climb out. (read more about head injuries caused by falls from cots and bunk beds here). We strive to enable our children to do things for themselves - thereby empowering them to not be so utterly dependant on others. ArrowBoy doesn't have to stand in his cot crying for someone to take him down so he can play. He can just slither off the side and find his toys, or, as is mostly the case, make his way over to the door and 'knock' on it to let us know he's awake now!


  1. i love this idea... as soon as we move, I will move E to a mattress on the floor. And the next baby will be the same. It makes so much more sense

  2. Hi Lizanne! I wouldn't go back to using a cot ever! Baby Rosebud has now been on her mattress from birth. She's been rolling over since she was three months old, and most of the time wakes up quietly and happy from her daytime naps, because she has room to roll around and explore. It also helps that in our new house there are large windows overlooking the garden full of trees, so when she wakes up, she loves looking out at the trees swaying in the breeze.


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