As the mother of twin babies, do you ever feel a little like The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe?
There was an old woman who lived in a shoe.
She had so many children she didn’t know what to do;
She gave them some broth without any bread;
hen whipped them all soundly and put them to bed.
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. (Why in the world is this a nursery rhyme??)
Despite the completely inappropriate parenting advice, though, I do think there’s some here to take away and be grateful for.
- You don’t live in a shoe.
- You don’t have duodecaplets.
As a social worker, I feel like it’s my job to help you stay away from the abusive tendencies of Grandma Boot.
Today I’m going to share the secrets to getting your twin babies to sleep through the night as early as possible. This very likely could have saved her poor sanity (and a CPS call).
Sleeping Tips for Twin Babies:
Do Your Homework
No intelligent person would jump from an airplane without first giving the parachute a thorough inspection. In the same way, any multiple-blessed parent would be courting disaster to jump into sleep scheduling without a little pre-plan prep work.
Assignment #1: 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 pretty much impossible when you’re trying to track two.
Don’t try to “remember.” Write. It. Down.
Pick up a lined notebook or find a tracking app and start tracking the daily feeds and sleeping patterns your twin 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? Here’s the good news, though: this is temporary. Once we have them BOTH snoozing like champs it will no longer be necessary. (And if only one twin is giving you sleeping problems, feel free to just track that one!
Assignment #2: 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 panic attacks 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.
Assignment #3: 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.
This article talks more about how to tell if acid reflux is causing your child pain. It’s centered on the various formulas that can help with reflux babies, but there’s a lot of good content for parents to use, even if you’re not using baby formula. It will help!
Sleeping Tips for Twin Babies:
Find Your Daily Rhythm
When it comes to helping your twin babies sleep through the night, the easiest way to make adjustments is to take a look at your daily rhythm and make sure your children aren’t getting overtired during the day. The truth is, an overtired baby will be difficult to soothe to sleep and wake up MORE at night, because instead of having a brain swimming in Melatonin (the sleepy hormone) the baby’s brain is swimming in Cortisol (the stress hormone).
The key to avoid this cortisol-brain-bath is to make sure you’re not letting your twin babies get overtired during the day. Here is the maximum length of time your child should be awake before falling asleep again (either for a nap or at bedtime):
- 0-4 Months: 1 to 1.5 hours
- 5-6 Months: 1.5 to 2 hours
- 7-8 Months: 2 to 3 hours
- 9 – 11 Months: 2.5 to 4 hours
- 12 – 18 Months: 4 to 5 hours
These wake-time numbers are taken from my free Average Baby Sleep Needs printable. It’s a very pretty handout that we encourage our clients to hang on the fridge for easy reference. Click here to request your free copy.
Now take a look at the Sleep Log you started for your first assignment. Are your child’s wake times aligning with those? If not, it’s time to make adjustments.
Adjustments are easy when you have one kid to adapt, but twin babies aren’t that easy. You will need to either synchronize the changes or stagger them to avoid completely stressing yourself out. Let’s go through how to do that.
Sleeping Tips for Twin Babies:
The Synchronize Method
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 Cry-It-Out, let us introduce you to gentler methods.
It actually doesn’t matter which method you choose, though, when it comes to synchronizing a schedule for your twin babies. Any gentle sleep coaching method can be adapted to create a synchronized schedule (or rhythm) for your babies.
Synchronizing Feeding Schedules for Twin Babies
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 only one baby wakes up in the middle of the night to eat, you feed both. The idea here is that you will get up less often at night, by taking care of both tummies at the same time.
That said, why not get rid of ALL the nighttime feedings? Sure you can go cold turkey, but that’s going to involve a LOT of tears (from you and the twin babies). Why not let us teach you how to gently remove those nighttime feedings?
Synchronizing Sleeping Schedules for Twin Babies
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.
The only nap you have to be absolutely rigid on is the first nap of the day. If you synchronize that nap for your twin babies, the rest of the day’s schedule tends to go much better. That said, nap training can be tricky. I would focus on your nighttime sleep first, and then address the naps.
If you’re still having trouble, sign up for my online (and quite cheap) Napping Know-How Webinar or I’ll show you how to create a customized napping plan to cater to both your twin babies.
DISCLAIMER: If one of your twin babies has a cold and isn’t feeling well or has had a barking cough during the night, let that twin get as much extra rest during the day as possible.
Sleeping Tips for Twin Babies:
The Stagger Method
The Staggering Method comes from Secrets of the Baby Whisperer. It’s a great technique for twin babies under 9 months old. After that, it can be really chaotic to try to implement. It is also a great technique for single parent or in situations where one parent is frequently away and a team of helpers is not available.
It was Tracy’s theory that staggering twin babies in those early months was an important part of connecting with each as an individual twin and not as the collective twins.
- Look over the Sleeping/Eating Logs you filled out for the past few days on each twin.
- Stagger one of the babies so he’s following the schedule approximately 30-45 minutes behind the other twin.
So if you are feeding Susie at 7:00, you would let Joseph sleep until 7:30 before waking him to eat. This pattern would continue throughout the day.
Using the waketime suggestions above, plan on putting Joseph in the crib with a few safe toys to play for a while by himself while you put Susie down for her nap. Then, once she’s down, start putting Joseph down for his nap (or bedtime).
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, a few well thought out tweaks can help you find a better sleeping rhythm for your twin babies during the day and throughout the night.
As a reminder, here’s what you’ll need to do:
- Keep an eating/sleeping log for at least 48 hours (more is better).
- Uncover your twin babies’ Adjusted Age.
- Talk to your pediatrician about GERD, confirm how often your child should be eating during the day at night, and make sure your child isn’t feeling sick from constant reflux.
- Make sure your twin babies aren’t missing their sleep window during the day. (This free download can help.)
- Establish a daily routine by synchronizing or staggering your child’s feeds and naps.
- If necessary, add on a gentle sleep coaching method on your own or meet with me and I can help create an effective sleep plan for both your babes!
Call me biased, but I think that if the Old Woman was getting a full night’s sleep and had a less-chaotic daily routine, she may have felt a whole lot better about all those kids around her. It’s amazing how a solid daily rhythm can strip away the chaos that twin babies can bring.
There was a young woman who lived in a shoe.
She had so many children, she used careful daily rhythms for a more peaceful home
She gave them some broth with lots of bread;
Then kissed them all soundly and put them to bed (where they slept all night long)
Sure, the rhyming is terrible…but it has such a happier ending, don’t you think? And who doesn’t want a happy ending at the end of a very long and exhausting day?
So start your sleep log and let’s turn this chaotic shoe into a dainty, delicate, peaceful, and snooze-worthy slipper!
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