Baby Sleep Schedule for Twins
My husband and I found out we were expecting twins in September of 2010; a double blessing four long years in the making. However, our May 25th due date was met with trepidation. My husband, an officer in the United States Marine Corps, was set to be relocated June 15th to a new duty station . Furthermore, he was told not to expect word of his official assignment until a mere 30 days prior to our move date. Eeek!
With “nesting,” in the traditional sense, out of the question, I set out to prepare in a different way. As a college professor, it seemed only natural for me to seek solace in text. I logged on to Amazon.com and stocked up on literally every baby and, in particular, every twin book with a decent peer review. I knew moving to a new state with two new babies and no support system would be hard, so I needed to learn as much about twindome as possible. I also knew I’d never survive if we weren’t getting some sleep—that meant these babies would need to learn to sleep. And at the same time.
If you’re expecting twins, or especially if you already have them, I’m guessing you have a pretty full agenda. You probably don’t have time to read fifty books only to discover (as I did) that many of them contain the same information: lots of great theories but not as much practical how-to advice. So, below you’ll find a few quick, no-nonsense tips that I garnered from my research and from my experience during my twins’ first year.
I’m not claiming to be an expert in the field of twin sleep training. Far from it. I’m just a mom with twins and through some research and a whole lot of trial and error I’ve figured out a few tricks that have made my boys awesome sleepers from a pretty early age. I hope this information will help get your twins on the same sleeping schedule too.
When to Start
It’s true that newborn babies aren’t ready for “sleep training” in the traditional sense. According to Dr. Sears, it’s not until a baby reaches three to six months old that he is practiced enough in the new skill of sleeping to even be able to learn to fall asleep on his own.
So, I want to be clear that I’m not talking about “sleep training” here. Rather, I’m providing tips that will hopefully help your twins (two individual people with their own needs, we must remember!) get and stay on a similar, if not identical sleeping schedule.
Therefore, with that caveat established, I think it’s best to start immediately, as soon as you bring your little ones home from the hospital.
How to Start
Begin getting your twins on the same sleeping schedule by establishing an eating routine. New born babies lead an exciting life: they eat, sleep, dirty their diapers, and cry. (Hopefully there’s some cuddle time mixed in there as well!) The goal is for your babies to do as many of these things at the same time as possible. This means, if one is hungry, always feed the other as well—whether or not she or he is demanding to eat.
In their book Twelve Hours' Sleep by Twelve Weeks Old: A Step-by-Step Plan for Baby Sleep Success, Suzy Giordano and Lisa Abidin maintain that your goal should be to eventually stretch your baby to four hours between feedings. You can use different methods of distraction (songs, games, or toys during the day; lullabies, or rocking during the night) to help your baby last a little longer between feedings.
I will be honest: my boys (they both suffered extreme acid reflux until 7 months) were not able to make it this elusive 4 hour mark no matter how many songs we sang. However, I think the value in their advice is that these tools of distraction can be used to get your twins on the same eating schedule. Say, for example, one is beginning to get hungry, and the other not yet ready to eat. Perhaps playing under an activity mat will distract the hungry one just long enough for the other to get up a bit of an appetite.
Build a Sleep Routine for your Twins
Getting your twins on the same eating schedule is more than half the battle. When they eat at the same time, they are more likely to also get sleepy at the same time. However, another way to help this process along is to structure a daily routine. A routine helps your twins differentiate between morning, night, active time, and naps. Here are a few tips:
- Begin each day the same. Be sure to change your twins out of their pajamas as soon as it is morning and keep the house well lit and busy with noise and activity. This will signal to your babies that it is time to be alert.
- One of the best tips I can share from is to engage your child playtime (even if it’s just shaking a rattle for a five minutes) after feeding time. The rationale for this is twofold: babies will eventually need to learn to fall asleep on their own, not by feeding. Two: it’s no fun feeding a tired baby. On Becoming Baby Wise: Giving Your Infant the GIFT of Nighttime Sleep by Gary Ezzo and Robert Buckman
- Prepare both babies for nap time as soon as one starts to exhibit cues that he or she is tired (rubbing the eyes, yawning, etc). Do a shortened version of your bedtime routine prior to the nap. For example, we would go to the twin’s nursery which would, at this point, be very dark. I would hold the baby that was more tired and place the other in the swing. I would sing a few lullabies until the first was almost, but not entirely, asleep and then place him in his crib. I would then repeat this with his brother.
- At bedtime, as with the morning, it’s important to establish a routine so they are aware it’s night. Dim the lights, change your twins into pajamas, and create a calming environment. As with naptime, we would begin rocking both boys to sleep as soon as one exhibited cues that he was tired.