Oh, infant sleep. What a world of varying different styles and opinions. I think it’s pretty accurate to say that most moms of infants focus a lot on sleep patterns and habits in the first year. And for good reason! Healthy sleep habits have been linked to all sorts of amazing benefits for children, including good temperament, attention, physical and developmental growth.
So, we can all agree that healthy sleep habits have wonderful benefits for babies. Additionally, there is that feeling of mom victory when your baby is finally asleep. Is there anything better?
I feel strongly that one of the best things you can do for your twins, your relationship with your partner, and your own mom sanity is to focus (strongly!) on establishing healthy sleep habits early on.
But what do we do when there are two babies?
The short answer to that question is: get them to sleep at the same time.
One of the recurring pieces of advice that I got as an expectant twin mom was to get my twins on a schedule as soon as possible. I took that advice very seriously. While on maternity leave, I considered it my job to establish a predictable, healthy schedule for the babies.
1. Anchor Feeding & Sleep Times
For the first year, I scheduled my entire life around the babies’ schedules. We did not leave the house if it would compromise meal or nap time. Meals and naps served as the anchors of our day, and everything else fit into the brackets of time created by those anchors.
When the babies came home from the NICU, we lived in 4-hour time blocks. Feeding times were the main anchors since all they did was sleep in between feedings. Bottles were at 7, 11, 3 AM & PM for a few months. As they became more alert, we incorporated a little play time after feeding and before their nap.
Once they dropped the 3 AM feeding, the 7 AM feeding was a little earlier for a bit and the 11 PM was a little later. They dropped the 11 PM feed next and eventually were sleeping 12 hours nightly when I went back to work on their four-month birthday.
2. Consistent Sleep Environment
For the first three months, the babies slept next to me in a co-sleeper that attached to our bed. However, I only used this for nighttime sleep, which was from about 11 PM to 7 AM.
Starting at about 3 months, I wanted to transition them to their cribs at night in preparation of me returning to work. I first had them sleep in one crib together (they were swaddled and could not roll) for a few nights and then separated them after about a week.
At about 4 months, I started transitioning them to napping in their crib. I started with the first nap of the day (since it was so soon after the morning feeding) and eventually added in the rest of the naps.
3. Sleep Cues
I tried to remember the five senses when thinking about sleep cues for my twins.
–Touch: from their time in the NICU, they slept in Halo Sleep Swaddles. We eventually switched to sleep sacks when they could roll over. Now that they are almost 2 years old, they still sleep in their sacks, but the ones with the foot holes!
–Sight: whether they were in the family room or their nursery, the lights would be off and curtains were drawn for both nap and bedtime. I eventually got blackout curtains for their nursery as it gets a lot of sunlight. They had crib soothers for a few months, as well.
–Sound: I loved playing music for them in the early months. I Dream of You by JJ Heller is a beautiful lullaby style album that was our soundtrack for a few months. I consistently used a white noise machine in their room, which they still use today!
–Taste: this one was easy. They slept after feedings!
–Smell: I occasionally used (and still use) a scented lotion before bedtime. And of course, lots of hugs and cuddles and swaying with mom or dad provides a calming, reassuring scent. When the babies were in the NICU, I brought in my favorite swaddle blankets after sleeping with them the night before. I would then bring them home and sleep with them before washing them (is that weird?), because that was the closest I could get to them while we were apart.
4. Read the Books
There are a million books about infant sleep out there. There are even some books specific for twins. I strongly recommend reading or listening to at least two or three, and see which philosophy feels the most comfortable to you. A friend may recommend a book to you, but the style may not fit into your parenting instincts. Or, you may find that your own personal style is a little bit Babywise and a little bit Ferber. Regardless of what habits you decide to adopt, just exposing yourself to the science of healthy sleep will leave you enlightened and encouraged to establish a healthy routine.
5. Establish Shifts With Your Partner
The first few months of twin parenthood will be challenging on many levels. If you and your partner commit to supporting each other, this time will be so much easier.
It’s likely that one parent may have an extended family leave and the other will return to work. Consider having the working parent take either the late evening feeding or the morning feeding. For example, mom takes 7pm feeding and dad takes 11pm feeding. Mom goes to sleep around 9pm and is able to sleep until 3am feeding. Or, if mom takes 11pm feeding, dad can take 7am feeding before getting ready for work, thus giving mom a long stretch from 3am to close to 11am.
Don’t forget to take time to support one another and acknowledge that this season is difficult for both parents. Give each other grace and remember the beautiful journey you are starting together.