Getting Our Twins to Sleep: The First Year

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If you’re a parent of twins, you will undoubtedly find yourself at some point Google searching for tips to get your little bundles of joy to sleep. It’s a desperate need the first few weeks. Caring for newborn twins is exhausting and parents can be frantic for a solution.

The First Month

For us, the first few weeks at home with our twins were all about survival. I got almost no sleep at all for the first week – maybe an hour here or there. I was completely worn out.

I started pumping throughout the day to store enough milk for a couple of bottles in the evening. At 8 p.m. my husband and one of our older children would take over and I would crash until 1 a.m. and I was back on twin duty. I would move into the living room, get situated on the couch with my Brest Friend nursing pillow, get the twins latched in a tandem football hold, prop my feet up on a foot stool and try to catch another hour or two of sleep. Occasionally I would move them to the swings and snooze on the couch off and on in between feedings until morning. Then I had to be up and at ’em for the day, keeping up with my toddler and three older children. Naps were few and far between for me.

Months 2 – 4

After the twins turned two months old we decided it was time to try to move them into their crib in our bedroom. I missed going to bed with my husband. I was ready to give it a shot.

We set the twins Boppy pillows in the shared crib. Please note: it is NOT recommended to let your baby sleep in their Boppy pillow. There is a danger of the baby slipping too low and being suffocated. It is recommended you supervise baby at all times while they are laying on a Boppy pillow.

But I wanted to be honest and share what worked for us, because I know what it’s like to scan through infant sleep routine tips with bloodshot eyes after days with hardly any sleep. We broke the rules: the twins slept in their swings, they slept in their Boppy pillows, they slept wherever we could get them to sleep. The twins liked sleeping in the Boppy pillows because they felt like they were being held. And I liked that they were sleeping.

We arranged the Boppy pillows side-by-side in the same crib and I stretched a receiving blanket over each pillow and tucked it underneath to help keep the babies from slipping too far down in the pillow. The twins were positioned in a way that kept their feet braced against the side railing of the crib to help keep them from sliding down. We swaddled them in their Miracle Blankets. We kept the room dark at all times (including diaper changes) and we used a large fan to circulate air and create white noise. This system helped the twins to sleep for around 2 hours at a time.

Around 3 or 4 months old the twins were outgrowing their Boppy pillows and would often squirm around in their sleep and begin to slip out of position. We worked for a week to wean them away from the Boppy pillows. They still shared a crib, sleeping side-by-side with a heated rice-filled sock between them to trick them into thinking they were next to mommy. They were still swaddled in their Miracle Blankets.

Months 5-6

The twins were growing much bigger and running out of room in their crib. David had completely outgrown and no longer needed his Miracle Blanket. Harmony still could not sleep without being swaddled. Both twins were able to roll around from belly to back unassisted. We decided it was time to split them up into separate beds.

We also decided to establish some sort of bedtime routine at this point. Beginning at 8 p.m. we would get the twins ready for bed and I would take the most tired twin to the bedroom, and nurse them individually to sleep. Usually Harmony would go down first. She was still being swaddled and it was easy to wrap her up, nurse her to sleep, gently lay her in the crib and sneak out. David was much more difficult. He would nurse to sleep, I would lay him down, sneak out – and have to come back ten minutes later. He would wake up and want to play. I was worried his crying would wake up Harmony, so I would bring him into the living room with us. Often David would sleep in our bed, nursing off and on all night. Harmony would wake up every two or three hours for a feeding and I would swap them out.

It wasn’t ideal – but we managed to get a little sleep.

7 Months

Harmony outgrew her Miracle Blanket and we weaned her away from needing to be swaddled. She would still fling her arms out in her sleep and wake up. It was very frustrating. David would also wake up frequently and need to be nursed and rocked back to sleep. Both twins would wake up every two hours (or less) one at a time. I was getting less and less sleep. Enough was enough. We began sleep training, letting them fuss for a few minutes and helping them learn to self sooth.

At first it was terrible. But we learned something surprising: they didn’t wake each other up with crying. If one twin was crying, the other would stay asleep. They didn’t seem bothered by the noise at all. After a few nights of controlled crying-it-out they finally started putting themselves to sleep eventually after about 20 minutes of crying.

I hated hearing them cry. As an experiment one evening, I laid the twins down on their bellies to sleep.

The results were amazing! They fell asleep much faster and stayed asleep longer. They went from 20 minutes of crying at bedtime to about 5 minutes or less. We were finally able to get three to four hours of sleep at a time. After about a week I could nurse them and lay them down on their bellies and they would go right to sleep, with very little fussing or crying.

After a little over a week, once they were able to easily fall asleep on their own, we moved them into a room with our 2 year old.

Currently

The twins are now following a regular nap/bedtime routine. I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to put them to bed at 8 p.m. and have a break. It’s been a long, hard road getting to this point – but the work has paid off and they’re finally starting to sleep. We have our bedroom and our bed back to ourselves. The twins are actually sleeping much better in their own room with their big sister.

We get all three Littles ready for bed around 7:45 in the evening. My husband will dress the two-year-old in her pajamas and read her stories from her “Jesus Book” in the living room while I tandem nurse the twins together in their room. We rock, nurse for about ten minutes – then my husband brings in our two-year-old, lays her in her crib, picks up one of the twins from my lap and lays them down in their crib while I lay the other down. There might be some fussing (they’d rather stay in mommy’s lap all night, naturally) but we quietly leave and after only a minute or two everyone is usually asleep.

One twin (most often Harmony) will wake up around midnight. I go in, quietly feed whoever is awake, lay them down and go back to bed. I know I should follow the golden twin sleeping rule: if one is awake, get the other up and feed them too – but I just can’t bring myself to wake a sleeping baby. Usually I’m just too tired. Sometimes it will pay off and I can catch a few more hours of sleep without needing to feed both, and sometimes it will backfire and I’ll be up every hour or two, feeding the twins.

If I’ve gone in, fed them and they’re up again in less than two hours – I don’t go right back in the room. I let them fuss for a little while. Most of the time they’ll go back to sleep. If they fuss for longer than 20 minutes, I’ll go in and feed them. The twins are teething right now and it’s causing some sleep problems.

Here is a general idea of how most of our nights go:

  • 8 p.m. – all three Littles are in bed and usually asleep. I use this time to unwind, clean, catch up on blogging/social media, hang out with my husband. We go to bed around 10:30-11:00.
  • 11:30 – midnight – one of the twins is awake and needs to be fed. I go in, quietly feed for 10 minutes, place them back in bed and sneak out.
  • 2:00-3:00 – whichever twin did not wake for the midnight feeding is awake and needs to be fed. I stumble in, half asleep, snooze in the rocking chair while nursing, place them back in bed after 10 minutes and shuffle out.
  • 4:00-5:00 – the twin that was awake for the midnight feeding is now awake and needs to be fed. Many times I’ll bring this baby to my bed and finish feeding while we sleep.
  • 6:00-7:30 – the other two Littles (Abby and whichever twin is not in bed with me) are awake for the day.

I’ve shared our journey here in hopes of encouraging other twin mommies looking for sleep advice. Do you have any tips to share? Please, comment on this post and help other mommies (and tired daddies) looking for ways to get their multiples to sleep. Are you an overly-tired mommy (or daddy) with a question? Post here in the comments and we’ll try to help find a solution for you.

8 thoughts on “Getting Our Twins to Sleep: The First Year

  1. Thank you for your honesty and sharing your story. I don’t have twins but spend a lot of time thinking about my son’s sleeping patterns. I’m amazed at what moms of multiples do. Keep up the good work!

    • Hang in there, mama! It’s so tough at the beginning – I had to keep telling myself, “They have to sleep sometime…” and eventually they do. Make sleep your top priority. I had to choose between sleeping and brushing my teeth and showering: sleep won, hands down. You do what you gotta do!

  2. Background: Calvin and Hobbes were born 5 weeks early and Hobbes had breathing problems so my husband stayed up during the night to watch them and ensure they were still breathing ok while I slept and he would go to bed at 6 a.m. and I would wake up and take over for the day)

    We also used the Boppy Pillows until they were about 2 months old. It’s almost a blur now, but from what I can remember, about 8-9ish pm we would feed them, change them and swaddle them and place them in the Boppys, side by side on the couch (one of us was always in the room). I would go to bed and they would sleep there for about 3 hours and wake up about 11-midnight. Hubby would then change them, feed them, and swaddle them back up and back on the Boppy pillows they would go for another 3 hours. They would wake around 3 and 6 a.m.

    About 2 months we kept the same routine but moved them into their cribs, in the dark, swaddled and side by side with a monitor on. They would wake about 11-midnight and wake again about 3 a.m.

    At 3 months they started to wiggle out of their swaddle and flail their arms around often hitting each other in the face and waking each other up, We would still start them laying down swaddled, but in separate cribs. The first night we did this they woke about 2 a.m. then 6 a.m. A few nights later I decided to try to cut our the midnight feeding and just went in the room with the lights off and re-swaddled them if they woke up crying. They slept until 4 a.m! At 14 weeks they would go to bed at 8 p.m. and sleep until 7 a.m. Solid. No waking at all.

    Another thing that really helped us was the video The Happiest Baby on the Block, by Harvey Karp. I highly suggest it. My 1st child was sleeping through the night at 4 weeks, the second child at 8 weeks and the twins at 14 weeks. It worked for us and hoping it will work for others too.

  3. Oh my, I feel for you! We had a rough go of it in the hospital and had to stay an extra day because our boys lost too much weight. I had planned to BF exclusively, but I have had to supplement with formula. My boys sleep at least 6 hours a night with the occasional rough night. My nurse midwife said, to save her sanity when her twins came, she BF during the day, but would give her boys a formula bottle at night and they would sleep most of the night. Not ideal, but if you are in desperate need of sleep, it could help. I am really impressed with your determination! Go mommy!

  4. The rule of “wake the other twin” only applies when they are newborns and feeding every 3 hours.
    We had the girls in separate cribs at 5 months when they started rolling around and almost head-butting every night. At about 9 months, our girls finally stopped needing feedings in the middle of the night. Occasionally we’ll have one wake up, but now they usually go back to sleep without nursing (they’re 22 months). Sometimes, when we’re desperate and tired, I will nurse her back to sleep. They’re great sleepers now (we have used crying it out, but only for 5-10 minutes – beyond that we went in to calm them down). Their bedtime is 7-7:30, depending on how tired they are, and they’ll sleep until 7 AM. Sometimes I have to wake them so we can get them ready for daycare so I can go to work! Now I’m only nursing them at night before bed.

    http://www.honestpreggo.com

  5. GREAT post! Thanks for your honesty. I love how you chronicle your sleep journey because it makes me feel hopeful for ours! We also have twins and because of mild reflux we put them to sleep in a boppy pillow on our bed. Similar set up to yours but in addition we folded/rolled up a receiving blanket under their bums to prevent them from sliding down in the boppy itself.

    • Hang in there Rosie! 🙂 it will get better! The twins are now almost 17 months old and they sleep from 7:30 at night until 7 in the morning, and take a two-hour nap around 11 a.m.

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