The important thing to remember about a twins sleep schedule is that it can change with time, and does change with time. Anyone who has lived with a schedule of any kind knows that schedules change as circumstances change. The exceptions may be schools and prisons, and of the two, the latter is likely to be the more flexible!
Setting Up a Twins Sleep Schedule
Having said all that, it remains true that twins require stricter adherence to a schedule, if for no other reason than to avoid incredible mayhem at home.
How do you start? The best place to start is at the beginning: the hospital. You may have noticed, even if you were lucky enough to be in the hospital only two days, that things run pretty much on schedule there. If you did most of the feeding and cares yourself, you still may have noticed that your nurses looked at the clocks a lot and asked you when was the last time you fed the babies, etc. More likely you had help feeding the twins, and that help came in the form of scheduling.
When it’s time to go home, then, you have the benefit of a starting point for your feeding and sleeping schedule. The two are very much tied together. When the babies are not feeding they will be sleeping, at least for the first few weeks.
Who Goes First?
If you must wake the babies to feed, and to stay on schedule, sometimes you must, the question becomes ‘which baby do I wake up first?’ I recommend waking the “easier” baby first. By now you may have noticed that one baby feeds, settles and sleeps better than the other. This identity can change, but very often it doesn’t. The easier baby can be fed, changed, and put down again in 20-25 minutes (efficient, experienced parents can do it even faster than this!) You’ll have time now to deal with the fussier or more difficult twin, and you’ll have less time pressure on you to get it done.
Of course you can be flexible about this. If the fussier twin happens to wake up around feeding time, and the other is asleep, the choice is made for you! This is what I mean about flexibility. It doesn’t make sense to let one twin fuss, and eventually cry, so that you can feed in a prescribed order. You never want them to get so hungry that they start crying. This throws an even heavier monkey wrench into your schedule! If it happens, feed the awake twin first.
Need a SLEEP COACH?
Pay close attention to the cues the twins are giving you. Are they wanting to stay awake after feeding? Are you putting them down before they’re tired? Are they still hungry after feeding, or are they becoming full before you think they’re done feeding? The answers to all these questions will allow you to adapt the twins sleep schedule to their changing needs.
Write It Down
You may have noticed that I have not written down a schedule for you to follow here. That is because it wouldn’t make any sense for me to dictate to you. These are your babies. It’s your twins sleep schedule. But while I won’t write it down for you, I highly recommend that you write it down! In fact, keep two things written down: your schedule, and a log of what the babies actually do (eating, sleeping, pooping, etc.) The second of these will help you keep track of who has eaten how much and when, and will help you adjust the schedule as the twins’ needs change.
You can do this alone. I’ve seen it done, very successfully, by moms who had no help at all, from fathers or from family. But these women are the exceptions, not the rules. Most of the rest of us do much better if we have someone we can rely on to help with the twins. At the very least, you could benefit from the assistance of someone who can “spell” you: give you a chance to have a cup of tea or even use the bathroom alone! I recommend finding someone who is willing to offer help. It’s a great gift. If you have the resources, it doesn’t have to be a gift: it can be the kind of help you pay for.
Consistency, Consistency, Consistency
Can’t say it enough. The secret weapon of the twins sleep schedule is consistency. To the greatest extent possible, make the day regular and predictable. Do it not just for the twins’ sake, but for yours. Part of that schedule should include time for you to eat well, sleep well, and even to get exercise. If you are a physical and mental basket case, you can’t care effectively for twins or anybody else! And your good health habits will translate your twins. I guarantee it.