If you’ve got twins (or higher multiples!) I don’t need to tell you: it’s a lot of work. It’s not twice the work, it’s four times the work (exponential, not additive, for the math whizzes out there). Sleep training twins is not easy, but it’s not very different from sleep training “singletons”.
The books you may find on the subject will tell you basically the same things you’d learn from any general resource about baby sleep. There are only two basic differences in strategy. I’ll tell you what they are up front: 1) Keep a tight schedule. 2) Occasionally break the “never wake a sleeping baby” rule. Now, to the details!
Sleep Training Twins
1) Feed Both at the Same Time
Here’s where the rubber hits the road in sleep training twins. The question is not whether you should feed them together (or one right after the other). The question is when. If you want to avoid going crazy, you’re going to have to feed the twins together. If you’re okay with going crazy, who am I to judge? But if you want to maintain your sanity, here’s what you do:
From the time you come home from the hospital, depending on the gestational age of the twins, you’ll be feeding them every 2-3 hours. Hopefully, this interval is every 3 hours, for so many reasons! Not least among these, you’ll have to plan your day around feeding, and the entire process could last one hour. That leaves you 2 hour intervals to do everything else you need to do, like take them to the pediatrician, bathe yourself, eat, exercise, and most important, sleep!
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By “entire process”, I mean preparing the bottles (less time if you’re breastfeeding them. And if you are, congratulations!) changing diapers, changing clothes, and putting them back down. This truly can occupy one hour. Meanwhile, the clock has been ticking and twin A will need to start feeding again in three hours. So you have to be efficient and have a system down.
2) Waking the sleeper(s)
To do this, you may have to wake one or both of them up! This is a violation of the “never wake a sleeping baby rule”, but I cannot see a way past it. To do otherwise is to risk getting out of sync. Getting out of sync means chaos. And chaos is never good.
The good news is that you probably won’t have to wake one or both of them up for very long. If you do this right, they’ll fall into a pattern and “learn” to wake up around feeding time anyway. Which leads me to the next, and perhaps most important tip:
3) Consistency, Consistency, Consistency
There! I’ve said it three times. Their day should be as regular and as predictable as possible. That is to say, things should occur in the same sequence, at roughly the same time, every day. The fewer disruptions you introduce, the better. The disruptions will introduce themselves, believe me! There are a couple of tricks you can do to help you get a routine going.
- Let night be dark and day be light. Sounds kinda Biblical, doesn’t it? But the one of the best ways to get your multiples on a schedule is to allow their own circadian rhythms to coordinate with the day-night cycle.
- Get a white noise machine. All your babies’ senses are working and they can’t filter them out! The best way to help them through this problem is to distract them with soothing noise.
- Keep a log. I know it sounds dumb. But you’re going to be sleep-deprived. Writing stuff down will help you keep track and avoid confusion.
- Have them sleep together. As long as they are swaddled, placed on a firm surface, and there is no loose bedding, this will save you on precious time, energy, and laundry detergent!
- Incorporate time for yourself in the schedule. Just because you are sleep training twins doesn’t mean you don’t have to sleep, eat healthy, and exercise. You still need all three. You can’t take care of multiples if you are a physical and mental basket case! Take care of you, too.