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Floor beds for babies and toddlers: What they are and why you might choose one?

Updated: Mar 11

The use of floor beds seems to be increasing in popularity at the moment, but when it comes to where your young child or infant sleeps, it's crucial you make sure that if you choose to use a floor bed, you do it safely. The mantra should be that it is safety over style.


This post should help you to decide when it might be appropriate to use a floor bed for a baby or toddler, and how you can do it safely.


What is a floor bed for babies and toddlers?


In a nutshell, a floor bed is simply a bed that is low to the ground and easy for young children to get in and out without assistance from an adult. It might have a frame, but it can be as simple as a mattress on the floor.


Floor beds have become popular recently as they are a bit of an extension of the Montessori approach to education. Montessori education focuses on children being able to take the lead in developing real-world skills.


The idea behind a floor bed is that everything is at your child's level which fosters and nurtures within them a sense of confidence and independence to choose when to sleep and when to play.

Baby lying on a floor bed

When age is it safe to use a floor bed?

There are differing opinions on this and there is no set age. Some suggest that this can be as young as 5-10 months of age, while others suggest it's something you should wait to do between the ages of 1 and 3.


Who is a floor bed good for?

A floor bed can be useful in a few scenarios and is not just for those families who want to follow a Montessori in other aspects of parenting:


  1. If you've been bed-sharing with with child and you are worried about the risks of your child rolling out. In this scenario, a floor bed would be a much safer option and might give you more freedom too, as a baby or toddler should not ever be left unattended in a bed of adult height because of the risk of falling and this can be very restrictive.

  2. Your baby or toddler has managed to climb out of their cot. In this scenario, it can be a risk to keep your baby in their cot if they have learnt how to climb out and a floor bed would be a safer option, particularly for younger toddlers as it is low the the ground.

  3. You have a physical restriction which makes it hard for you to lift your baby in and out of a cot. However, in this scenario, it may be just as difficult to bend down and pick up a heavy toddler who is low to the ground.

  4. You have been bed-sharing with your baby and you want to transition them to sleeping in their own space. In this scenario, you may have tried to transition your baby to sleeping in their own cot using sleep training methods, or by transferring them to their cot once asleep, but you find your child gets very distressed when separated from you by the bars of the cot. Here you can transition your baby to sleeping in their own space by being able to comfort them in their floor bed as you lie next to them and you are able to slowly make incremental steps to move further away from them. After this point you can either choose to keep them in a floor bed, or you can work on transitioning your baby into a cot once they are able to fall asleep independently.

  5. You just want to. And why not?

Are there risks with floor beds?

When it comes to sleep, it's always important to be very mindful of the risk of SIDS, and there are risks associated with floor beds.


A study of 5 infants who died while using a floor bed in Australia between 2001 and 2009 found that:

  • 3 babies died while wedged between the mattress and a wall

  • 1 baby was wedged between the mattress and a chest of drawers

  • 1 baby had their head pressed against a plastic bag containing clothes

But there were only 5 deaths during the span of 9 years in a whole country with a population of around 20 million. But that would be misleading - the prevalence of floor beds was significantly lower back then.


But below are a few risks associated with floor beds:

  1. Your child could become trapped between the mattress and the wall if there is a sufficient gap, or if the mattress isn't secure in one spot.

  2. As your child will have the freedom of movement in their bedroom, there's a risk that any unsecured heavy furniture such as wardrobes or chest of drawers could collapse on your child if they were to climb on them.

  3. As your child has freedom of movement in their bedroom they could be at risk of electrocution if any electrics are left in their reach.

  4. If any dangerous objects or bags are left in the room then your child might be at risk of strangulation, suffocation or choking depending on what was there.

  5. If you live in a house with pets who are able to roam the house freely, this can be a risk to your child.

  6. If you don't use a firm mattress specifically designed for the use of infants and toddlers, your child could be at risk of 'rebreathing' if they lie on their front on a softer mattress. Rebreathing is where your baby would rebreathe their own expelled air, which is high in CO2 and not in oxygen.

All of these risks can be mitigated against.


How can you reduce the risks associated with floor beds?

  1. Make sure there are no gaps between the bed and the wall where your child could become stuck.

  2. Make sure once the floor bed and mattress is in a safe position with no gaps, that the bed or mattress itself cannot move to create a gap between the wall and mattress.

  3. Either make sure the bedroom is completely free of all heavy furniture such as chest of drawers or wardrobes or make sure they are secured to the wall.

  4. Ensure any electrical items are out of your child's reach but do NOT use plug socket covers as these are a fire hazard in the UK.

  5. Ensure the bedroom is clear of any potential objects that could suffocate, strangle or choke your child.

  6. Ensure there are no pets able to roam freely into your child's room.

  7. Make sure you use a firm, flat mattress meant for use with babies and toddlers.

  8. Make sure there is no loose bedding, pillows, bumpers or toys that could cause a risk of suffocation, especially in babies below the age of 1.

Do I need a frame for a floor bed?

Lots of people ask if they need a frame or if it can just be a mattress on the floor. The use of certain frames is where I see lots and lots of dangerous setups when it comes to the use of floor beds. There are beautiful-looking floor bed frames but they simply are not safe, depending on the age of the child.


Floor beds are not made and designed specifically for babies - particularly those under 1. Cots and moses baskets are designed for infants and in the UK and manufacturers are urged to comply with British Safety Standards. These standards are:

  • Bars around a cot should be vertical and smooth and the gaps between each bar should be no less than 2.5cm and no more than 6.5cm

  • The mattress should fit snugly inside the frame with no gaps for a baby's head to get stuck

  • The distance between the top of the mattress and the top of the cot sides should be at least 50cm

  • A cot mattress will not change shape or indent when a baby is placed onto it to reduce the risk of rebreathing when a baby is placed on their front

The height of the bars here is important for infants below the age of 1 because if an infant is young and their head becomes trapped on low bars as they sleep, this poses a risk of asphyxiation. A real-life example of how this can be an issue is the case of a 7-week-old infant who was sleeping in a bedside crib which had a foldable 'safety ridge' at the side which was just 7cm high. The infant managed to manoeuvre themselves so that their head was resting on the ridge, the ridge cut off the oxygen supply to the brain. Many floor bed frames have very low rails around the sides, which poses this same risk to infants.


For older toddlers above the age of 1, this isn't as likely to be a risk, as they are more able to move the head, limbs and body more freely, but if you are using a floor bed for an infant, I would either just use a mattress on the floor, or a trundle style base with no sides.


Is it okay to just use a mattress on the floor?

In theory, yes. But there are a few caveats to this. Firstly, you need to make sure any sheets are not likely to come loose, posing a strangulation hazard. Also, you need to make sure that the mattress has no gaps between it and the wall where a baby can become trapped. If the mattress it nicely snug against the wall with no risk to your baby of getting stuck, just make sure the mattress isn't able to move around as your child tosses and turns in their sleep.


Real-Life Examples

The risks outlined in these examples below are particularly important for infants (babies below the age of 1). Put the points should be considered when getting a floor bed.


Image of a child's wooden framed floor bed

This is unsafe for infants for a couple of reasons. Not only is the frame low down, it does also pose the risk that a child (particularly an infant) could get their head stuck between the mattress and the outer frame. I would suggest this is only used for children aged 2 and up.


Wooden style floor bed with wooden picket style fence

The spacing between the bars on this bed do not comply with British Safety Standards for a bed for an infant as they are at risk of a baby getting a limb stuck in the bars. Likewise, a young infant could get their head trapped on the low sides of this bed. Again, I wouldn't suggest this is used for under 2s.


Wooden playpen style floor bed for babies and toddlers

This particular style of playpen with mattress does comply with British Safety Standards in that its height is over 50cm from the top of the mattress and the slats are the right width apart. The care needs to be taken to find a mattress that is firm and would fit snuggly into this playpen leaving no gaps.

Will a floor bed help my baby to sleep better?

No, and if your child wasn't sleeping well before, it's unlikely to have the miracle effect of making your child suddenly sleep better.


Toddlers especially can find the freedom of a floor bed to be too much temptation, and if you were getting night wakes before where you'd have to attend to them in a cot, you'll now find it likely that they make the trip to you, and thus ensues the cycle of returning them to bed in an infinite loop.


But it can help to get some babies to settle independently in a sleep space by being able to offer support as you lie next to your child as they fall asleep. Particularly helpful for those who have been bed sharing out of necessity.


If your baby is climbing out of their cot, it's likely to be the most safe alternative.


Do I recommend floor beds?

Sometimes. Here's a good example, if a family is struggling with multiple night wakes because they are rocking or feeding their baby or toddler in their arms and then transferring them to a cot, and then the remainder of the night to save their sanity they bed share. They don't mind bedsharing, but they feel the setup they have is unsafe. OR they want to transition their little one into a cot and they have tried lots of sleep training methods - gentle and not so gentle, but their little one really struggles to be comforted in a cot, then a floor bed with a parent comforting them in it can be a nice interim step.

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