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Creating your baby's first bedroom can be as overwhelming as it is exciting. From gear and furniture to a theme (or not), this is one area where you can direct all of the nervous energy that comes with being pregnant into something tangible.

The Montessori approach views the baby's first room as not only a fun space to personalize, but also an important environment that can help shape your baby's first experiences in the world.

Babies take in and absorb everything around them, so it naturally follows that the space where they spend the most time will influence how they see the world. Montessori-style nurseries all have certain things in common. They focus on simplicity, natural elements and encouraging independent exploration. Still there is room for so much creativity and you can definitely tailor your Montessori baby space to fit your home and budget.

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Here are some elements that are usually included in a Montessori baby space to get you started:

1. Use visual simplicity

Montessori baby spaces are calming, peaceful environments. They often have a fairly neutral color palette, emphasize natural light when possible, and use natural materials, such as wood and fabric, whenever possible.

You will usually find a few carefully selected pictures hung low on the walls where the baby will be able to see them. These might be black and white images for newborns. Later the images are often from nature or pictures of people.

Even small Montessori baby spaces have plenty of empty space, free of clutter. This is both so the baby has room to move around and explore, and to minimize visual distraction when a baby is first experiencing focused concentration.

Montessori baby spaces often include live plants or animals, such as a small fish tank, as well.

When thinking of the aesthetic of the room, it is helpful to lay on the floor and consider how things will look from the baby's perspective. You can have the most beautiful picture hung, but if it's way up high at adult level, your baby may never notice it.

2. Add a movement + play area

Most nurseries have a play area for the baby, but a Montessori play space looks a little bit different. Montessori rooms always use child-sized furniture. A baby's room would have a very low shelf so that a mobile baby could choose, and put away, his own toys.

Montessori nurseries also have far fewer toys than other baby environments. For a very young baby, there might be a shelf with four or five different items on it, each with a designated spot on the shelf.

This allows the baby to really see their options and choose one thing on which to focus his attention. It also supports babies' growing sense of order as they learn that they can always find a favorite toy in its designated spot.

You can rotate the toys as you notice your baby getting tired of something or if you think they are ready for a greater challenge.

Other common elements in a Montessori baby play space are a mirror and mobiles.

A mirror is often hung horizontally, low on the wall of a baby's room. This allows baby to see themselves, and the room, as they lie next to it. If you have safety concerns, you can use a shatter-proof acrylic mirror. Their own reflection is often one of the very first things a baby will concentrate on independently.

There is also a specific progression of Montessori mobiles designed to appeal to an infant's growing interest and abilities. It starts with a very simple black and white mobile, and progresses to one that beautifully displays different shades of the same color. Tactile mobiles, where the baby can reach for and grasp a bell or ring secured to a piece of elastic, come next.

Each element of the baby's play area is designed to promote a relaxed state of concentration where the baby can independently explore his environment.

3. Create a comfortable sleeping area

The Montessori sleeping area is perhaps the most different from a standard modern nursery. Many Montessori families use a floor bed instead of a crib. This can be as simple as a low mattress on the floor, although you can also purchase a floor bed.

The floor bed allows newborns to visually explore their room without crib bars in the way. It allows older, mobile babies the choice of getting into and out of bed on their own. Independence is a huge part of Montessori, and this includes sleep.

Sleep is such a personal topic and different things work for different families. A floor bed may be something you're comfortable trying, but if it doesn't work for you, that's okay, too—you can still incorporate Montessori into other elements of your child's environment.

4. Consider safety for exploration

Montessori baby spaces are completely baby proofed from the start. This is especially important if you are using a floor bed, but even if you're not, it's great to have a space where your baby can play and explore without constantly being told "no."

Having a completely baby proofed nursery also gives you the freedom and confidence to encourage your baby to play independently sometimes, even if you need to leave the room. Because of their simplicity, baby proofing Montessori nurseries is usually fairly simple. It may help to hang a high shelf on the wall for any adult items you need in the room.

Montessori is much more about an approach to children than it is about any one material. No two Montessori nurseries will look alike, as they should be customized to meet both your family's and your baby's needs.

You can start with one aspect of a Montessori environment and experiment to see if it works for your family. It doesn't have to be all or nothing.

Using these Montessori principles as a starting point for designing your baby's room can help you create a space that is not only beautiful, but will encourage independence and confidence in your baby from the start.

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When I was expecting my first child, I wanted to know everything that could possibly be in store for his first year.

I quizzed my own mom and the friends who ventured into motherhood before I did. I absorbed parenting books and articles like a sponge. I signed up for classes on childbirth, breastfeeding and even baby-led weaning. My philosophy? The more I knew, the better.

Yet, despite my best efforts, I didn't know it all. Not by a long shot. Instead, my firstborn, my husband and I had to figure it out together—day by day, challenge by challenge, triumph by triumph.

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The funny thing is that although I wanted to know it all, the surprises—those moments that were unique to us—were what made that first year so beautiful.

Of course, my research provided a helpful outline as I graduated from never having changed a diaper to conquering the newborn haze, my return to work, the milestones and the challenges. But while I did need much of that tactical knowledge, I also learned the value of following my baby's lead and trusting my gut.

I realized the importance of advice from fellow mamas, too. I vividly remember a conversation with a friend who had her first child shortly before I welcomed mine. My friend, who had already returned to work after maternity leave, encouraged me to be patient when introducing a bottle and to help my son get comfortable with taking that bottle from someone else.

Yes, from a logistical standpoint, that's great advice for any working mama. But I also took an incredibly important point from this conversation: This was less about the act of bottle-feeding itself, and more about what it represented for my peace of mind when I was away from my son.

This fellow mama encouraged me to honor my emotions and give myself permission to do what was best for my family—and that really set the tone for my whole approach to parenting. Because honestly, that was just the first of many big transitions during that first year, and each of them came with their own set of mixed emotions.

I felt proud and also strangely nostalgic as my baby seamlessly graduated to a sippy bottle.

I felt my baby's teething pain along with him and also felt confident that we could get through it with the right tools.

I felt relieved as my baby learned to self-soothe by finding his own pacifier and also sad to realize how quickly he was becoming his own person.



As I look back on everything now, some four years and two more kids later, I can't remember the exact day my son crawled, the project I tackled on my first day back at work, or even what his first word was. (It's written somewhere in a baby book!)

But I do remember how I felt with each milestone: the joy, the overwhelming love, the anxiety, the exhaustion and the sense of wonder. That truly was the greatest gift of the first year… and nothing could have prepared me for all those feelings.

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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As mamas we want our babies to be safe, and that's what makes what happened to Glee actress Naya Rivera and her 4-year-old son Josey so heartbreaking.

On July 13, the Ventura County Sheriff's Department announced the 33-year-old mother's body was found at Lake Piru, five days after her son was found floating alone on a rented boat. According to Ventura County Sheriff Bill Ayub, Rivera's last action was to save her son.

"We know from speaking with her son that he and Naya swam in the lake together at some point in her journey. It was at that time that her son described being helped into the boat by Naya, who boosted him onto the deck from behind. He told investigators that he looked back and saw her disappear under the surface of the water," Ayub explained, adding that Rivera's son was wearing his life vest, but the adult life vest was left on the unanchored boat.

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Ayub says exactly what caused the drowning is still speculation but investigators believe the boat started drifting and that Rivera "mustered enough energy to get her son back onto the boat but not enough to save herself."

Our hearts are breaking for Josey and his dad right now. So much is unknown about what happened on Lake Piru but one thing is crystal clear: Naya Rivera has always loved her son with all her heart.

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