Montessori baby – the topponcino

Until recently, unless you were a Montessori teacher with an AMI training for birth to 3, you would probably never have heard of the topponcino.

When I had my first child, I had no clue what it was. Even after I had my second, 7 years ago, it was still not that popular and that easy to find.

Since Montessori is more visible on social media, you can now see the topponcino all over Instagram!

So, what is the topponcino?

The word has in its roots in the Italian language and more precisely from a Italian dialect from Naples.  The Topponcino is also referred as the “security pillow”

“Topponcino” ("little pillow" in Italian) that is used to hold, carry, and comfort a child from the first day of life. It provides comfort and security and has been part of Montessori Assistants to Infancy (A to I, birth to three year) program since its inception in Rome, Italy in 1949.

From the Michael Olaf's newsletter

And further info from the Michael Olaf website:

It wraps the infant with security from birth, preventing the startle reflex, and allowing him to be held securely, and easily put down after falling asleep without being awakened. Yet when the infant awakens he is free to exercise his body in the most natural manner, which is not the case when being swaddled. The infant also finds comfort in the feel and smell of his topponcino. The value came home to us when the grandfather of our neighbours' tiny infant sat holding his granddaughter securely in his arms and said that, because of the topponcino, it was the first time in his life he had felt comfortable holding one of his many grandchildren! It also allows an older sibling to safely and comfortably hold the baby.

Peinture by Susan from the Michael Olaf website and newsletter.

Why using a topponcino?

  • It acts like a transitional object. Make sure it carries your smell so sleep with it for a few weeks before your baby is born
  • It helps grand-parents and sibling to hold the baby safely. Parents reported that it was their other children and elderly relatives who benefited the most from using the pillow.
  • It allows you to transition the baby from one place to another with as little disturbance as possible, allowing your baby to stay asleep longer
  • It’s the perfect first movement mat that your baby can enjoy awake to observe the world around.

However, some parents who enjoy baby wearing didn’t see the point of the Topponcino. They preferred carrying the baby in the sling than leaving the baby on the pillow.

So I have asked parents their opinion:

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We use a topponcino. My grandmother makes them (and the covers) for all the babies in the family. It was super useful in the fact that it kept him comfortable, He even slept on it at night. Also, it makes it a lot easier to pass him around. We are using it till he’s 8 weeks (he is currently only 7 weeks). This is our first child, but our family uses them for all babies. The whole family loves them! We’re so used to using them. Not just for our comfort but for the baby’s. Before he was born, I made sure to hold the topponcino as much as I could, so he would be able to sense me on it, to make him more comfortable when other people held him only thing I don’t like is washing it, but who likes laundry?! (Tori)
We love ours!!! We bought (both) of ours on the Michael Olaf website which I don’t think is around anymore (which is so sad!). We used it for its intended use until 3 months but not my toddler is 22 months old and he still has them in his room and lays on them on the floor sometimes! I Used for my first child and we will use for our baby due any day now! We loved it and so did all our family members! (Katy)

Personally, I loved mine, handmade it which gave it even more enjoyable to use. I make them regularly and gift them to friends with newborns. (Michelle)
I have a week old baby and we are currently experimenting with the topponcino that we bought. It definitely helps with moving the baby without disturbing him, but we keep forgetting to use it when we pick him up. I also worry about whether it's safe to leave him sleeping on it in his cot. (Alice)
I made one for my second child out of upcycled material. I loved using it. It made it easier for my older child to hold the baby and gave baby a defined place. I definitely plan on using it b for the new baby when it arrives as well
I'm getting our household ready for the day now, but can come back and post pictures later in the day. (Joy)

Where to buy the Topponcino?

The Topponcino company has been set up in 2018 to provide the topponcino to families around the world. 

I searched tirelessly and unsuccessfully for a high quality, animal-friendly, and modern topponcino that felt safe and healthy enough for our newborn. Instead of settling for something already on the market, Ryan used his corporate product development background to create and design a topponcino just for our son. (Amber, founder of the Topponcino company)
Handcrafted of 100% natural cotton. Our authentic topponcinos are hand-crafted to the standards laid out by the official Montessori Assistance to Infancy course. Covers are made of a finely brushed, French cotton twill which creates a rare blend of softness and durability. This unique fabric is soft as a cozy sweater, but still tightly woven to reduce potential “leak throughs”. Inserts are made of multiple layers of USA manufactured cotton batting encased in premium cotton muslin. The layered construction was specifically designed to trap heat, as well as your family’s smells, so your baby will feel comfortable in any environment.

The company sells the topponcino in various colours as well as the washable covers. They deliver worldwide.

Make your own topponcino

Many parents and grand-parents made the topponcino for their baby.

Here a pattern from Voila Montessori if you want to try.

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About the Author Carine Robin

Carine Robin is a a mother of 2 children. She raises them the Montessori way. Originally from Belgium where she worked as a child psychologist for several years, Carine spent 6 years in Ireland before settling in in the UK. She qualified as a Montessori teacher 10 years ago and has since worked as Montessori teacher and preschool manager. She founded Montessori-family in 2011 to provide opportunities for parents to discover Montessori. She believes that it’s truly possible to implement the Montessori ideas at home to make your house and family life welcoming to your child, her needs and her thrive for independence. She offers parents & babies classes, toddlers playgroups; Montessori home designs, one to one support, parenting classes and online courses.