When preparing for the arrival of a baby, getting a crib is one of the first things on most North American parents’ to-do lists. Questioning whether to not get a crib would likely horrify most parents-to-be. But cribs might not always be ideal. They take up a lot of space, are heavy and immobile, offer awkward access to the baby, and are usually an expensive option. Here are some ideas from across the world for parents who might be looking for new inspiration for their sleeping setup.
Finland has one of the lowest infant mortality rates. Some attribute this to a tradition that began in the 1930s when the Finnish government started to send mothers-to-be a cardboard box filled with a starter kit for a newborn. The boxes nowadays include toys, cloth diapers, sheets, and clothes. A mattress lines the bottom, making the box usable as the baby’s first bed. Simple, safe, and effective, a cardboard box is the most cost-effective, space-saving alternative sleeping scenario.
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In Japan, it is not common to find a regular bed for adults, let alone a crib for infants! Most people, including the very young, sleep on a futon mattress, usually on top of a rice-straw tatami mat on the floor. Elevated only by a few inches, floor sleeping is a very safe alternative for infants and toddlers, as there is no risk of falling to the ground! They also look pretty chic and would appeal to parents who are into minimalist, simple home interior.
The “Montessori floor bed” is now gaining popularity in North America as an alternative to a crib. The concept began in Italy in the early twentieth century, when Maria Montessori, a child educator, discouraged cage-like containers for babies in favor of independence. Floor beds, she said, would enable infants to get in and out of bed all by themselves, even as young babies! Early Montessori floor beds were often just a mattress on the floor, but they’ve now been adapted to a wooden box frame which slightly raises and protects the mattress. As well as looking neat, Montessori floor beds offer unique independence to the baby and easy access to parents.
In India, babies are rocked to sleep in a ghodiyu, a type of hammock that sways the baby like a hanging cradle. Ghodiyus can be made of any fabric – in India mothers often use their saree! Modern-style ghodiyus, which come with a frame, can be transported easily from room to room. Although they sound unusual, they aren’t so hard to find on eBay, Etsy, or Amazon.
Native American cradleboards are a traditional way in which a mother would carry her infant on her back, to be able to use her hands. Cradleboards were usually made from natural, woven fibers, and filled with soft moss. The motion of the moving mother would soothe the baby and send it to sleep. Cradleboards are no longer used, but baby-wearing equivalents such as wraps, and carriers can be used to have the same effect. Though not for night-time sleeping, baby-carrying is an effective way to get your baby to nap during the day and provides a great bonding opportunity for mother and baby.