I don’t have twins. But I wish I did. Crazy, right? When people find out they are having multiples they immediately ask themselves “am I ever going to sleep again?” The answer is yes! I promise you will 🙂 The same sleep principles apply to multiples as they do singletons. The key is getting multiples onto the same feeding and sleeping schedule. I will be referring to twins throughout this post but the exact same rules apply to triplets, quadruplets, quintuplets, sextuplets, septuplets, John and Kate plus 8….wait I mean Kate plus 8. Anyways, you know what I mean….
Sleep Environment- just as we want a singleton’s sleep environment to be dark and conducive to sleep (these blackout blinds work great), we want the exact thing for twins. Parents often place twins in the same crib with each other from day 1- and this is fine. I would, however, suggest separating them once they get to be around the 3 or 4-month when they start to get mobile. We don’t need Twin A smacking Twin B in the face (let’s hold off on the sibling rivalry for as long as we can). Parents often ask about where to place the twins during sleep training.
The answer is simple- if you are going to keep the twins in the same room long term after the sleep training, then keep them in the same room during the sleep training. We want them to get used to each other’s sounds during naps and nighttime sleep. I recommend a white noise machines with singletons and I still recommend it with twins. The purpose of this isn’t to entirely drown out the noise from the other twin (as we want them to get used to each other’s sounds), but more for dampening external noises (dogs, doorbells, traffic, etc.).
Routines and How to stay organized- this can at times be hectic enough with one child- let alone 2! Try to do things that incorporate both twins. I.e. sit with them on the floor and read books, sing a few songs, etc. There is nothing written in stone saying that babies need to have a bath as part of their bedtime routines. If you have extra hands in the house at 9 am, make that bath time. Don’t get stuck on trying to incorporate that into bedtime routine! The tricky part comes when you are getting one twin ready for bed as you can’t physically change two diapers at the same time. well….maybe you can….anyone up for a challenge?! 😉
You will likely have one ‘sensitive sleeper’ out of the two. The sensitive sleeper is the one who has a harder time adapting to sleep changes and becomes overtired easily. You will want to make sure you are getting the sensitive sleeper to bed before the other twin. If not, your sensitive sleeper will become overtired as they impatiently wait for you to put the other twin down. So this may mean laying Twin B on the floor while you get Twin A (sensitive sleeper) into bed. If you push the boundaries too far with Twin A (sensitive sleeper), she will quickly become overtired and the rest will be buckets of fun- I’m kidding. It will not be fun. Get the sensitive sleeper to bed first- always.
Keeping twins on the same schedule- feeding and sleep schedule. This may (and often means) that you will need to wake Twin B at the same time Twin A wakes in the morning. Yes- a sleep consultant is actually encouraging you to wake a sleeping baby- relax…..I’ll be doing it a lot more 😉 Our primary goal is to have both babies sleeping on the same routine. We want to ensure they go for naps at the same time and are also waking around the same time (give or take 15 minutes). Twin A may take a 45 min nap, which means we are waking Twin B no later than 15 minutes later than Twin A waking. It seems unfair to have to wake Twin B but in the long term it will be so worth it to have their sleep cycles synced up.
Nothing felt better than when I was able to line up the nap times of my 9 - month old and 2.5 year old- mama had 2 glorious hours of “me” time (aka immediately passing out). The crumby part was when my 9- month old would nap in the morning, then my 2.5 - year old would nap around 1:00 pm and then my 9 - month old would nap again around 2:30. It seemed like I literally couldn’t leave the house because one of my children was always napping! But, it’s a very short phase, and I would much rather this than the alternative- 2 sleep deprived meltdowns happening at the grocery store. What I’m getting at is take advantage of your babies being the same age and being on the same schedule- You will have much more flexibility than you think you will!
Night feedings- this is the part where parents cringe and imagine themselves getting tag teamed all night by their sweet little babies as they take turns feeding. All. Night. Long. Up until around 16 weeks (adjusted), Baby’s sleep doesn't form any sort of rhythms yet. Night feeds will still be sporadic. Check out my blog here on newborn sleep. One way to ensure you aren’t up all night feeding is to feed Twin A when he wakes, then wake Twin B after and feed him. Once your little babies reach 16 weeks (adjusted) we want to start focusing on them having longer stretches of sleep during the night. This means that when Twin A wakes to feed, don’t wake Twin B to feed. See if Twin B will sleep through Twin A’s waking. When parents choose this I highly encourage a bottle so the other parent can do it so you aren't ping ponging in and out of the room.
A few other things I want to mention with twins: as most multiples (60% of twins and 90% of triplets) are born prematurely, I highly recommend swaddling- they need that snug tight feeling. Try your best to avoid rushing in when Twin A starts to make sounds. I know you worry (and any parent would) that Twin A will wake twin B and then you’ll have 2 awake babies. But we really want to give these babes the opportunity to learn to fall asleep independently to become used to each other’s sounds. Give Twin A some time and you may be pleasantly surprised.
Lindsey Hennigar is founder of The Sleep Ranch and a Certified Infant and Child Sleep Consultant through the Family Sleep Institute. She helps exhausted parents and families get the healthy, restorative sleep they need. Your child can LOVE sleep!