Our mattress on the floor saved my sanity - it got me the most optimal sleep possible, and also offered my family much more than we initially thought it would. The best part of it, is that it got me these highs in a way that I felt positive about. I am not an advocate for Sleep Training. It is not something I could ever conceivable inflict on myself or my babies. But in complete honesty, I really had very little knowledge on newborn and baby sleep patterns, and a whole lot of misinformation and mislaid expectations on what it should look like. We weren't completely clueless - we did know that we wanted to co-sleep/room share for at least 6 months (more on my cluelessness in another blog post!). And we knew that babies woke up to feed in the night. But I actually did NOT want to bed share. So, in the beginning we had bassinets, as well as 1 crib in our room, right beside our bed.
But EVERY night we'd go through this ridiculous routine:
Get out of bed when the babies woke up.
Groggily move into the living room.
Putting on my giant tandem breastfeeding pillow, and sitting on our sofa
Feeding the babies (sometimes feeling so sleepy that my head would slump, sometimes gulping down water and snacking, sometimes checking my phone).
Returning babies to their crib after changing a diaper or two.
Get back into bed and trying to fall asleep until the next wake up.
And, quite often (and completely normal infant behaviour), my babies often didn't want to go back into the crib, so they came into bed with us so we could sleep. I was so EXHAUSTED from this routine, that unintentional bed sharing happened often.
To top it off, I was often so alert from all this moving, lights inevitably going on, looking at my phone, waiting for my partner to rouse and help me get both babies back in their crib, that I just laid awake fretting about how little sleep I was getting.
It wasn't until around 6 months, when we got a second crib in our room, as our babies needed so much more space and could no longer share a crib, that we decided something needed to change. There was literally NO WHERE to move in our bedroom. And my babies started to really hate the cribs even more.
So we got a floor bed. And not only did it help us all get more sleep, it also helped with so much more. Here's how it helped us:
1. Sleep. I no longer had to get out of bed! I stopped checking my phone and there were never any lights being turned on (this really is a no, no! Exposure to light at night wakes you up. Read more about it HERE.). I simply put a baby on each side of me and rolled over when one woke up to nurse. If both woke at the same time, I'd lie on my back and they'd latch while half on my body and half on the bed. I was able to doze through it all.
Sleeping next to your baby also helps maintain your milk supply (if you're breastfeeding) and the nursing in the night actually helps you get back to sleep and remain drowsy through a feed - breast milk contains tryptophan which helps the body make melatonin, a sleep inducing hormone.
2. Physical Development. My babies have been very active from day one. But having this bed really helped them excel with their physical abilities. They really quickly learned how to back off the bed and crawl back on. And they also loved to use the mattress to...
3. Play. We suddenly had a new place to play, cuddle, and read books!
4. Bonding. Sleeping beside my babies was/is (mostly) warm and cuddly. Of course, there have been MANY nights where I just wanted to curl up on my own and sleep without any touch. But overall it's made our family bond - including trust and security, much stronger.
5. We have multiple (and comfortable) sleep spaces. We are now able to comfortably and safely play musical beds. This is particularly helpful during times of sickness, teething and early wake ups.
Our situation is not common in our society, but very common across the world. To be honest, I absolutely (mostly) love (d) it. I'm aware that this will not last forever. That my babies will grow up and want to spend less and less time with me. We will no longer bed share and our mattresses won't be on the floor. I also know that parenting does not run by our chronological clocks - it has no beginning and end once it starts, and we need to be there to support our children at any hour. And it's best to do it in ways that keep everyone as comfortable and well rested as possible.
If you're worried about aesthetics, check out this blog HERE, which outlines various points on how to set up a Montessori style room. This allows for caregivers to snuggle up comfortably when needed. However, I personally would recommend larger mattresses than a crib or single mattress. Slats or a futon base under the bed are also a good option.
However, for many reasons, it is really not for everyone. And that is ok. There are plenty of other ways, and sleep configurations, to help everyone get more sleep, in a safe and secure way.