The Topponcino: Safe Sleep for infants at home and in programs

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Safe sleep  for infants and toddlers matters especially for programs away from the home. 

The thing is, just because you have all the knowledge or training that exists out there doesn’t mean your boss is going to allow you to put it into practice, or to be honest when you see questionable things happening within a program where you are employed.  At my last job, I saw and heard about things happening in their infant program around sleep that were not OK.  Things like:

~ the lead of the infant room allegedly had only 3 ECE units, but ran the infant program anyway because s/he was the owner. This is illegal.  She also wasn’t Montessori trained.  And to be honest, is a nido really a nido if the lead isn’t Montessori trained?

~ many babies in the infant program were swaddled well beyond the age of AAP recommendations.  The American Association of Pediatrics recommends that all swaddling stop at two months as of 2018.  There were no infants two months old in that program– all of them were older.  I told my boss about the swaddling observation, I told the lead of the room about it, I gave the head of school literature from the AAP and they told me they would stop. But my friend who had her baby in that program said her baby would constantly swaddled despite asking the lead to stop swaddling her child.

Even if it wasn’t a textbook swaddle, they habitually used to take the bottom of the blanket, twirl it up, and tuck it under the floor bed mattress.  If the baby is enclosed in the blanket and can’t get itself out, I consider that unsafe and unnecessary, personally.  AMI trainer Sarah Brady had a lot to say about swaddling and freedom of movement, and cautioned us all against it.

~ Babies were put to sleep with way too many layers on.  Upon stepping in to return some laundry to the nido that wasn’t ours, I saw a baby put to sleep with a sleep sack and a blanket on top of the sleep sack. When out of immediate surprise and concern, I uncontrollably blurted out my observation aloud with the assistant that that was probably unsafe; and babies don’t need that many layers to sleep and could overheat which is dangerous (when a baby is too hot going to sleep they sleep longer and deeper, and can struggle to arouse from sleep if they are low on oxygen), the assistant ran to my boss, told her what I said, and then I got a talking to because I’m not the lead of that classroom and I shouldn’t be sharing my observations with any of the staff who work in there.  There was no “thank you for keeping all the babies in our school safe and catching that!”, I basically got scolded.

~ I heard straight from  a child’s mother who was an employee at one of my jobs that a baby was found in the nido sleeping with a blanket over its face.

I somewhat digress from the topic of topponcinos, but I think you get the drift– sleep safety in a nido is critical.  People out there don’t always know what they’re doing; and you’re leaving your precious little baby in their care.  I feel so blessed to have been required to take this safe sleep course, and I think every single infant/ toddler Montessori program ought to have the same requirement of its staff.  To be honest, I think it ought to be a mandatory part of the AMI assistants to infancy curriculum.

Which brings me to my next point: given the safe sleep recommendations of putting infants to sleep on a firm mattress with a fitted sheet, where does the toppencino factor in? 

Here are my thoughts, after taking that safe sleep course.

~ I would never allow a baby to sleep on the toppencino; and would always put the baby to sleep on the mattress, bassinet, or firm play pen.  Will they fall asleep on the toppencino? Probably.  But It’s totally possible to transfer the baby to the bed and remove the toppencino if need be; because better safe than sorry.  It might look cute on social media when your little one is sound asleep on their topponcino, but it’s not safe. OK? It’s not worth the risk.  AASB (accidental asphyxiaton or suffocation in bed) or cute? Exactly. See these photos below?  It’s like a quarter turn to suffocation territory.  Also, never, ever let a baby sleep on a couch.

~ I strongly suggest the use of an AMI-standards hand-made toppencino as opposed to a commercially made brand, whether the baby is using it awake or asleep.  Why? Because the AMI-style hand-made toppencino is constructed with only a few layers of thin, felt-like batting, and the cover is constructed and stitched to maintain its integrity of shape if you make it right.  You want a toppencino that is on the thinner side rather than the plush side; and you want a tight-fitting cover.  You should struggle to get the toppencino in the cover and get the cover to fit over the inner.

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Look how flat, otherwise plain, and un-embellished this topponcino is.  This is what an AMI-style topponcino comes out like.  Flat, boring, no visible plushness, no visible padded quilting.  And yet, incredibly difficult to construct according to your trainer’s impeccable standards.  LOL.  When I made mine, when it came to the optional lace, I was like #Ican’teven.  If a topponcino has lace on its cover, I applaud you.

~ Avoid an overly-quilted toppencino.  (see photos below) Commercially made brands tend to be WAY too quilted.  Our AMI toppencinos are flat as a pancake; and there is no extensive quilting or plushness involved.  These commercially sold topponcinos are WAY too plush and quilted.  They are even described as “plush”.   These are a no-no for sleep safety, even though they look cute in pictures.  They are quite deviated from the AMI standard for topponcino construction.   Contrast the photo above, to these.  Dr. Montessori was a doctor.  She knew what was up.  She knew babies could suffocate.

~ always directly and immediately supervise the baby when it is laying on its toppencino. As a general practice, don’t put babies on any kind of device and walk away.  In the last employer’s nido, they habitually put babies down on boppy pillows to have a bottle and self-feed, then would walk away.  This was also unsafe but they didn’t want to hear what I had to say.

~ I think it’s totally OK to carry the baby in a cradled position with the toppencino beneath.  Again, supervision and immediate attention is the key here.

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