For me lack of sleep is in the top three hardest things about being a parent – especially in the first year with twins. The sleep deprivation begins in the hospital and ends (if you’re fortunate) around the 10-12 month mark. I am by no means an expert in this matter but I wanted to share some of what I have learned with other moms. It’s OK if you don’t agree with all of the techniques that I have chosen but perhaps there are some helpful tips that you can glean from this post.
Getting Some Sleep Yourself
Some of the factors that affect your sleep are uncontrollable but there are some things that you can do to improve your chances of getting some good rest. Breastfeeding can be exhausting when you are feeding your twins every two hours. I felt like a zombie milk cow some days. In the very beginning I was so up-tight about nursing my kids and not wanting to miss any feedings that it almost endangered my health. Our pediatrician called me out at the twins’ 2 week appointment and told me that I needed to loosen up and find a way to get more sleep. That’s when we came up with our plan to have me sleep through one feeding in the evening. I would nurse my babies at 7pm and then go straight to bed. Joe (my hubby) would take care of them and feed them either pumped breast milk or formula at 9pm. This meant I would get 4 hours of uninterrupted sleep!!!!! Although I would wake up very full at 11pm, it wasn’t too uncomfortable because your milk production is usually slower in the evening anyway.
At 11pm, I would take over. I would nurse the kiddos and put them back down to sleep. Joe would head upstairs to his twin bed in his office. Yes, that’s right. We slept in separate rooms for about the first 10 months. This started a few weeks into the process when we realized that Joe was going to fall asleep driving home from work if we didn’t make changes. The poor man was getting up at 6am, going to work all day and then taking care of babies once he got home until 11pm. In addition to that, he had taken on a second job as an adjunct professor at the local college to cover the loss of my income.
This solution worked well for us. It meant that he could get a good 6 hours of sleep every night in an area of the house that was far enough from the crying. On the really tough nights I would wake him but on the whole I managed just fine. This also allowed me to keep the babies in their rock-n-plays in my bedroom. Then if one of them was having a rough time sleeping, I could bring them into bed with me to nurse them or to co-sleep. (I kept my kiddos swaddled and kept a small pillow by my hip so I would not roll in their direction. Recently I came across a product called SnuggleMeOrganic that I would have loved to have at that time.)
Let me take a minute here to stand on my little soapbox. As a Mama, you need to find the solutions that work best for your family. Your first concern should not be “Will everyone approve of this?” or “Am I following the books to the letter?” or “What would the other moms in my group say about this?”. Obviously, your decisions should be made with safety, your family’s health and God’s Word at the forefront of your mind but do what works for you! My marriage is very healthy despite this time of being apart for sleeping. (It was actually kinda fun to sneak into each others room for “special visits”.) My kids are very healthy despite being supplemented with formula and they didn’t have their first cold until they were 6 months old. We do the best we can and then leave the rest up to God.
Getting My Twins to Sleep
I didn’t have much success with the bassinet. I never really put my twins together to sleep because it seemed to cause more problems that solutions. Also, Levi had terrible reflux the first four or five months and it turned out that Lily had silent reflux which lasted until about six months. So, I needed to keep my kiddos elevated to keep their milk down and to keep them comfortable. These Rock-N-Play sleepers worked amazingly well for the first 4 months. I could swaddle the twins and put them in it. It has vibration to help soothe them and it’s super easy to rock it with one foot while nursing the other child. These things were my extra pair of hands. They kept my kiddos close to me when I was dealing with them alone. (I never was successful at tandem feeding so I fed my kids one at a time.) They also are super lightweight and fold right up so you can move them around the house with you with your one free hand.
Once my twins started rolling over and getting too squirmy to sleep in these, I started transitioning them to their crib. I have tried to think of how old they were at this time but I cannot remember. The details of those first 9 months are often a blur to me. I know they were old enough to roll to their side and I think it was around the age of 5 months. The transition began at nap time by me reading them a book (they liked these books with finger puppets). Then, I would rock them while singing for 10 minutes and lay them down in the crib. Once they got used to this, I started their night time routine that has not changed much to this day.
I loosely followed the guidelines of the Baby Whisperer but modified it to fit my children’s needs. The most useful part of her book was the guidelines for eating and sleeping schedules. It helped me have a plan for establishing a routine. If you are a type A person like me, you need structure or you get overwhelmed by the chaos. I think that when you are raising twins, it is really important to have a routine. It makes it so that you can plan out your day and find ways to eek out time for yourself. This is how I managed to keep working 10 hours a week as a bookkeeper while raising my twins. It’s how I have time to write this post right now. My twins are napping. 🙂
We started establishing a routine at the hospital. It started out just as a feeding routine. My kids ate at the same time every time. Then about 2 months in, I started establishing a nap routine. In the book referenced above, I learned how to look for signals that your baby is getting tired. I would put one twin on the floor for tummy time or in the swing while I rocked the other to sleep. Then baby #2 would get rocked to sleep. They napped at the same time. If one woke before the other, the sleeping baby would get a max of 30 minutes of extra sleep and then I would wake the baby. This was necessary to keep them on the same schedule and I never had any trouble with them pitching a fit over it.
My twins share a bedroom. They have separate cribs that are placed in an L shape so they can see each other through the slats. Many people have asked me if they wake each other up but on the whole they don’t. I’ve been amazed sometimes at how well one can sleep while the other is screaming bloody murder! Often times in the morning they will wake up a little earlier than I want so I will leave them for about 15 or 30 minutes while I get up and get things together for the day. They stand in their cribs, laugh and make silly faces at each other.
It was still necessary for at least another two months after the transition to the crib to keep my kids’ heads elevated so we used books under their mattress to create a slight incline. This worked fine for their reflux and also helped when they were stuffy from their first cold. But as soon as they were able to wiggle around enough to put their head where their feet had been, it was time to take out the incline.
Bath, Bottle, Book, BED
Once Lily and Levi were adjusted to napping in their cribs, we made the overnight change. Around this same time, I implemented their bedtime routine. I think it began at 5:30pm and now at 17 months old it has moved back to 6:30pm. My kids are in bed by 7pm daily and sleep until about 6:30am. You can try to push back their bedtime later to get a later wake up time but it never worked for my kids. So, I enjoy the evening with my hubby and make sure I’m in bed by 10pm. This has turned out to be a blessing over the summer because I can take the twins out for a walk early in the morning before it gets too hot.
Bath – When they were still too small to sit in the tub they had a baby bath that I sat in the tub. I would bathe one child at a time and hand the first one off to my husband to dress while I bathed baby #2. We alternate our kids every night so that each night they have the other parent putting them to bed. If your husband’s schedule allows for this, I think it is such a good thing. My kids LOVE having their daddy be a part of putting them to bed and whenever someone else does it, they don’t seem to sleep as well. When they were old enough to sit up in the tub, they began to bathe together. I haven’t had an issue with them being boy/girl. Once or twice they’ve noticed something different about their sibling and I just explained that’s their private parts and we don’t touch private parts. Obviously when they get a little older, they will start bathing alone but right now they love splashing and playing together.
Bottle – Once they were dressed I would offer their bottle (or breastfeed) right away and I did not rock them or sing to them while they drank. Usually I would use this time to say their bedtime prayers for them. I do not use a scripted prayer but just thank God for the things we have or maybe something special they got to experience that day. My prayer also includes that they would sleep well and not have pain from their teeth or their tummies. I pray that God would protect our family and that He would lead us and guide us in our lives so we can live for Him and be a blessing to others.
I offered the milk before the book intentionally because I did not want them to associate it with sleeping. My desire was for them to be able to fall asleep without a crutch. Occasionally, when they were really tired, they would fall asleep while eating but on the whole this wasn’t the case. Now that they are 17 months old, we have transitioned to giving them milk in a sippy cup. They prefer to sip at it while I read to them.
Book – Both twins love when we read to them. They learned pretty early on to turn the pages and you have to be very patient in the beginning with this but it is well worth it. They feel such a sense of accomplishment and they feel a part of the process. Some of their favorite books are: The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Dear Zoo, Goodnight Moon and How Much Does God Love You? Whenever they are getting bored of the same books, I buy some new ones on Amazon and have them shipped to me for free in two days with Amazon Prime. They seem to have the lowest price compared to other places I have looked.
BED – When the twins were about 5-7 months old, I would rock them for 10 minutes and then lay them down. They would have a crocheted blanket and their pacifier. I did a modified version of cry it out. I would lay them down, give them a kiss and tell them it was night time. Then I would leave the room. I would let them fuss or cry for 10 minutes (while listening on the monitor to make sure it wasn’t a concerning cry – you can tell the difference). Then after 10 minutes, I would come in and pick them up, give them a kiss, tell them it was time to sleep and lay them back down again. Then repeat. I think it took maybe 3 times the first night and then once or twice for the next few nights. Then they figured out the process and settled down.
At about the 8 or 9 month mark, I started to decrease the amount of time rocking them to 5 minutes. Then around the 12 month mark, I started just giving them a cuddle after their book and laying them right down. They adjusted well to this and do not depend on me to put them to sleep. Also around the age of 12 months, I started letting them have a toy in bed with them. They have either a stuffed dog or a doll or this LeapFrog My Pal Scout that they can use to play bedtime music. Sometimes they will wake up in the middle of the night and play for a few minute with these toys and then go back to sleep. At nap time, they will often play for a bit with their toy and then fall asleep with it.
There are going to be times of regression like when they are teething or sick. (Here’s an encouraging post for you during those times.) In those cases, I have rocked them to sleep and then set them down. Some of those times, they ended up in bed with me. These are not failures, they are just temporary setbacks. As long as on the whole you are being consistent, they will get with the program. My kids don’t fight me when it’s nap time and they rarely kick up a fuss at bed time. We have a consistent routine and I can make it through the rough afternoons because I know that come 7pm they are going to be in bed and I can relax.
Whatever method you choose to use, be consistent and give it a real try. This means attempt to implement it and follow it for at least two weeks. If after that time it’s still not working, do some more research and try something else or change it up a little. Many books say not to rock your child to sleep and don’t pick them up and all sorts of things. I gleaned the useful information from those books and then made the decision on what would work best for my kids. After all, I spend more time with them than anyone else so I have a better idea of what’s going to work.
Don’t stress about implementing a routine before you’ve even started. Each of these times I’ve described, I worried about how well it would go over because I myself am resistant to change. Yet each time, when I followed through and did it anyway I found that it was much easier than I had envisioned.
It’s important to understand that although your twins were born at the same time and have almost the identical upbringing, they are going to react differently. After all, they are two different people with their own identities and that is going to manifest itself in all aspects of life. Levi was sleeping through the night in his own crib by 7 months. He slept 12 hours straight! His sister woke me up at least twice each night until she was 12 months old. Even now it’s a 50/50 chance we’ll go an entire night without her crying once for her pacifier. I usually crawl out of bed, pop it back in and we all go back to sleep. Despite these minor interruptions, I get quality sleep now and that’s the goal.
I hope my story here has helped you. Do you have any tips or comments to share?
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