Have you heard the original version of The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe?
It goes like this…
Not sure why it’s the kids’ fault that she had so many kids……but evidently they drove her so batty she starved and beat them.
*Way to start off with a downer, Heather…*
ACTUALLY, I think that little nursery rhyme should encourage you.
No matter how overwhelmed you feel, it’s always good to remember that…
- You don’t live in a shoe. (Think how much you save on Fabreze!)
- You don’t have duodecaplets. (12 kids all the same age would test the sanity of any mom.)
So life could be worse.
That said, as a social worker, I feel it’s my job to help you stay away from the “Starve my Kids” example of Boot-Grandma.
Today I’m going to share the secrets that could have saved her poor sanity (and prevented her children from shipping her to the nursing home and turning the shoe into a really bad planter).
Hint: Do Your Homework First
No intelligent person would jump from an airplane without first checking-over the parachute.
In the same way, any multiple-blessed parent would be courting disaster to jump into scheduling without a little pre-plan prep work.
Keep a Feeding/Sleeping Log
It’s hard to remember how/when a single baby is eating during the day when you’re sleep-deprived. It’s impossible when you’re tracking two.
Don’t try to “remember.” Write. It. Down.
Pick up a lined notebook or use my Sanity Saver Tracking Worksheets (a free gift with The Milestone Marker) and start tracking the feeds and sleeping patterns your babies are showing.
Not only will it help you start to understand your babies’ natural rhythms, it will prevent awkward pauses at the doctor’s office when he asks how many wet diapers Lily is having every day and how much Timmy ate yesterday.
Who knew parenting would have paperwork?
Figure Out Their Adjusted Age
Since multiples are often born premature, it’s really important that you use their Adjusted Age when looking at sleeping averages.
Your twins really have TWO ages. (Such over-achievers!)
- They have their physical age. This is the usual “age.”
- They have their adjusted age. This is the age their brain thinks they are.
For example, a 3-month-old baby who was born 3 weeks premature is developmentally going to be closer to a 2-month old baby than a 3 month-old baby. I know this may sound confusing, so I put an “Adjusted Age Calculator” in The Milestone Marker for parents to use.
By figuring out your babies’ adjusted age, you will prevent unnecessary panics when you see all the other 3 month olds rolling around and your twins aren’t quite there yet.
Of course they aren’t!
Their sweet little brains are still playing catch-up!
The brain has no idea it’s growing OUTSIDE the womb. Using the “Adjusted Age” will help you have realistic expectations for your twins, and prevent hyper-ventilating with worry over needless things.
Double Check for Acid Reflux
I also want to quickly mention that because more multiples are born prematurely, a higher number of them suffer from acid reflux. If your baby spits up a lot or seems fussy and colicky after feedings, have your doctor check him out for GERD.
Two Schools of Thought in Scheduling Twins
Now that these smaller tasks have been done (you have done that 48-hour log, right?) it’s time to start our “rhythm adjustments” (aka scheduling).
There are two main schools of thought when it comes to scheduling multiples.
- The first is to synchronize them so they eat, sleep, and play at the same times.
- The second is to stagger them so one baby is sleeping while the other is playing.
Let’s peek at both of these, and then you can decide which method is best for your family.
Scheduling Method #1:
Synchronize the Twins
This is the method created by Dr. Marc Weissbluth in his book Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Twins.
Dr. Weissbluth’s books are filled with great research and can be really helpful in sleep coaching. However, I will warn you that he does extensively use the Cry-It-Out method. If you want avoid CIO, this method is a better fit.
I’m going to very briefly lay out several principles for this method here, but would encourage you to get the book here on Amazon for all the details. Even if you’re uncomfortable with CIO, it’s a great resource for scheduling. You could always use a different method for sleep coaching.
Synchronizing Feeding Schedules
The first thing you should try to synchronize is the eating. Talk over with your pediatrician (and lactation consultant, if applicable) how often your little ones need to eat.
The important thing with this approach is to remember, when you feed one…feed both.
Even if one baby wakes up in the middle of the night to eat, feed both.
Synchronizing Sleeping Schedules
The guiding principle of synchronized twin schedules is this: one down, both down.
- Even if only one baby seems tired, they both go down.
- Even if you have to separate them, putting one baby in the crib in a darkened room with a noisemaker, and one in the playpen in your room.
They obviously aren’t going to have the exact-to-the-minute sleeping schedule. That’s okay. You just want them in the ballpark, they don’t have to sit in the same seat.
According to Dr. Weissbluth, most parents of twins would tell you that if there’s one time to be absolutely RIGID in terms of synchronizing the sleep schedule, it’s the morning nap. They observe that if you can synchronize that nap, the rest of the day’s sleeping schedule goes much more smoothly.
In the morning, when the first twin decides it’s time to get up and start the day, they both start the day. So when one wakes, they both wake.
The one exception to this would be if one twin has caught a cold and isn’t feeling well, or perhaps coughed a lot through the night. In that case, you’ll want to let that twin get extra rest during the day.
Scheduling Method #2:
Stagger the Twins
The “Staggering Method” comes from the late Tracy Hogg, author of Secrets of the Baby Whisperer.
Staggering is a great technique for the first 9 months. After that, it turns into pure chaos. This is also a great technique for single parents, or in situations where one parent is gone a lot and a “team” of helpers is not available.
Tracy felt staggering twins in the early months was an important part of connecting with each as an individual twin and not as the collective twins.
In this method, you carefully keep notes of the regular eat/sleep/play cycle that babies go through throughout the day.
Then you stagger one of the babies so he’s following the schedule approximately 30-45 minutes behind the other twin.
So if you are feeding Haley at 7:00, you would let Joseph sleep until 7:30 before waking him to eat. This pattern would continue throughout the day.
How to Avoid Feeling Like the Old Woman in the Shoe
It doesn’t matter if your house is a Prada set of heels or a well-worn work boot, by tweaking your twins’ scheduling during the day you can love and care for both and still care for your own sanity needs.
As a reminder, here’s what you’ll need to do:
- Keep a eating/sleeping log for at least 48 hours (more is better).
- Uncover your babies’ Adjust Age.
- Talk to your pediatrician about GERD and how often they need to eat during the day and night. (The feeding log is essential here!)
- Use the Adjusted Age to determine what are the average sleep needs for that age. (Use this free download to help!)
- Decide which method you’ll use. (Synchronize? or Stagger?)
- Pencil out a plan! (But pay attention to baby cues -always choose your infant’s needs over the clock.)
Then let me know below how it went!
(If you know friends with multiples, do them a favor and share this post!)