Whenever I hear anyone say, “Twins, so it’s like twice as hard!” I laugh a little. It can be more than twice as hard, at least in those early weeks. Trying to navigate the ever changing waters can be overwhelming, and leave many new parents just trying to get by.
When I ask parents of twins to tell me the one thing they want to learn first, they always say
“How do I get them to sleep at the same time?”
This is because, either they have heard or they know firsthand, that if your twins aren’t sleeping together, then you aren’t sleeping at all.
While each set of twins comes with their own unique start to life, they can all benefit from this “secret” to getting twins on the same sleep schedule. The “secret” is there right in front of you: schedule. We are talking more of a rhythm than a hard set routine, but the idea is there. Getting both babies to eat, sleep, and play together will create a balance and an even flow to your day and night.
Start with feedings:
When working with twins, it is best to do as many thing in tandem as possible. Feeding at the same time, whether breast or bottle, can be done with twin feeding pillows or feeding “stations.” This allows one parent to be able to begin the process of a combined schedule for their babies. If one baby wakes up before the other, play or snuggle and see if you can wait a little longer to feed. If not, wake your other baby up and start the feeding process, together. Tandem feedings can be tricky at first, but with a little help, it will become like second nature. As an added benefit, those babies love to be close together while feeding and sleeping, in those early weeks.
“What about the nice one-on-one bonding that comes from single feeding?”
While this is nice, and can be a goal that is worked towards, it will make it much harder to get your babies in-sync and on the same schedule; tandem feeding will also eliminate the “round the clock” parenting that happens when everything is done in succession rather than in tandem. Parents can get their one-on-one time in during play time or in those moments where one baby is awake before the other.
Create a Rhythm or Pattern to the day:
Creating a pattern for the day helps both parent, and baby, to anticipate what is going to happen next. Babies do 3 main things during the day: eat, sleep, and play. When your babies are young their play time may simply be an awake period, but as they grow this play time will become more interactive and last longer.
Your pattern, in early weeks, make look like: Sleep – Eat – Play – Repeat, while another family’s schedule may look like: Eat- Sleep- Play – Repeat. Find what works for you and your babies.
“What about those times when we can’t be home all day,
or our routine gets out of order?”
While we cannot control everything or anticipate every outcome or change, we can try to stick with our babies patterns. This pattern setting can be established in those early weeks when parents should be home healing and relaxing, but life still happens. If you have to head out to a doctor appointment, or similar event, their rhythm may be off for a bit, but aim to get back into your pattern as early as you can. If your babies fall asleep on the way to your appointment, and wake up wanting to play, rather than eat, just go with it; then continue on your normal pattern after that.
Early to Bed:
While the idea that, if your baby stays up late they will sleep in, is nice, it never works. Babies, and toddlers, thrive on earlier bed times because their minds want to end the day and move in to restorative sleep. Putting your baby to bed at 6pm, might mean a feeding at 9 or10pm and then mom or dad can go to sleep as well. While both your babies may take different amounts of time to actually fall asleep, and one may wake before the other for a feeding, try and sync all nighttime activities together. If one of your babies wakes to feed, and cannot be settled back to sleep, then wake your other baby and feed both of them, and put them back to sleep together.
“We are night owls, and if kids go to bed at 6pm
they will be up at 5am, and we will be too tired.”
Babies will rise with the sun, whether they go to bed at 6pm or 10pm; the difference, however, is that your baby will wake up feeling refreshed and ready to great the day if they have those extra hours of sleep. If you or your partner tend to enjoy the night hours, perhaps consider taking shifts. This will allow one parent to go to bed earlier, and sleep through a feeding if needed, or wake only to feed and then return to bed. You can then switch, and the early to bed partner can wake for the early morning feeding and play time, while their partner sleeps in.
It is much easier, in the long run, to start these rhythms early on. While it is tempting to just “get by” by doing anything that will work, it will eventually make the days and nights harder on the whole family.
If both parents are overly tired, or need an extra set of hands to help out in those early weeks, hiring a Newborn Care Specialist or Sleep Consultant can help tremendously.