One of the toughest part of having twins or multiples in general is the sleeping, or often the lack of structured sleeping. One Twin is often a better sleeper than the other, the stress of having to sleep train or not – is it right for me or do I not feel comfortable with it?’ Previously Twin Love Concierge released an exert from Christy Brunton’s book – Sleep Training for the Exhausted Mom and as a followup to this we asked her the Top 5 sleep training questions from Twin parents she receives on an ongoing basis. Here Christy answers this and more –
Twin Moms’ top-five sleep training questions
The topic of sleep training is such a tough one. There are so many opinions around the various methods, when to start, whether to cry it out and many, many more questions. While I can’t claim to be a medical expert on this, I can tell you what has worked for me personally. I’ve been doing this for a long time and although I sleep trained my last child five years ago not much has changed since then, and I am pretty sure no new research has come out showing that sleep for babies is becoming less important to their health and growth. Over the years I have talked to literally hundreds of moms of multiples and singletons and over and over again I consistently get the same questions. And, since the launch of my book and Facebook page in January I have noticed the same thing…moms today are asking the same questions as moms from a few years ago so I thought I would share them with all of you here.
When do I get started and how do I choose which sleep training method I want to use?
Let’s start with the second part of this question first. Each sleep training method is different. Some are based on years and years of scientific research and studies on sleep, some are based on parent’s personal experiences, some are proponents of letting your baby cry-it-out and some don’t believe in cry-it-out at all. You have to decide what you are willing to try and then be consistent once you choose a method. The good news is that if you try a method and it doesn’t work after a few weeks, you can always choose a new method. This website seemed like a good resource in explaining the pros and cons to the different methods: http://www.divinecaroline.com/life-etc/sleep-training-which-methods-choose
Once you have chosen a method, when should you start? In my opinion, sleep training really starts working around four months old, but I suggest starting it a little earlier to begin getting used to being on a schedule. I chose Dr. Marc Weissbluth’s sleep training method for both my twins and singleton and when they were six weeks old I started practicing his recommended schedule and following it consistently. It did not always work perfectly, but each week I would notice the day schedule starting to click and by four months old I was ready to start implementing Dr. Weissbluth’s tactics for getting my girls to sleep through the night. I had a lot of success with this method and have helped hundreds of moms use it to get their babies on a good nap and night schedule.
What is cry-it-out (CIO) and is it for me?
This is probably the most controversial part of sleep training and there are so many opinions around this topic. Cry-it-out is a technique used in sleep training to teach your baby how to soothe themselves back to sleep similar to how you know how to get yourself back to sleep when you wake up in the middle of the night. What is controversial about it is that some people believe it is harmful to let a child cry for long periods of time and that children may experience attachment issues. I am not a doctor but I don’t believe CIO has any long-term damage. Which is worse on the brain? Less sleep for years or intense crying for a week they won’t remember. I used it with all three of my children and 10 years later they are healthy, happy girls who still sleep well today. I agree with Dr. Wiessbluth when he says that children who are out of phase behave as if they have chronic jet lag syndrome. For those that say crying it out is cruel, Weissbluth counters that sleep deprivation is cruel too, underscoring the fact that infants with sleep problems are chronically sleep deprived. There are many CIO methods including the check and console method, the extinction method and others. You have to decide what you are comfortable with. You know your child best. I go into my personal experience of using the extinction method in my book and also explain other methods but in the past year I have heard other moms talk about their success with the chair method and the sleep lady shuffle which you can check out on the Internet.
Should I work on night and day training at the same time?
Absolutely! I believe that sleep training is a 24-hour cycle. Many parents just want to know how to get their baby sleeping through the night…it is the million dollar question. What these parents have to understand is that it all works together and you can’t just focus on night sleep when sleep training. A good nap schedule will lead to a good night schedule and conversely if the nap schedule is off, it will be hard to get your little ones sleeping through the night. When moms reach out to me about why their babies are not sleeping through the night, the first thing I do is ask them to send me their full-day schedule. I look at how closely they are following the two-hour rule suggested by Dr. Weissbluth, how long the naps are and what time they are starting bedtime. I help them work through their full-day schedule and in doing this we see results pretty quickly.
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My baby just won’t nap, is that normal?
I really believe that all babies and toddlers need naps. Early on, it may be three or four naps a day, around six months it is two naps and then around 12-15 months your babies will transition to one nap that will typically last until they are 3-4 years old. When I hear someone say, “my baby is just not a napper” I have a really hard time believing that. Instead I think these parents have not tried hard enough or have not been consistent in implementing a true nap schedule. Most naps last 1.5 -2 hours and I get lots of questions about how to extend the naps. Dr. Weissbluth explained if the nap is substantially less than thirty minutes you should try to leave your baby alone for an additional thirty to sixty minutes, even if they cry, to see if they will fall asleep on their own.
When my babies were infants, even if they didn’t fall asleep right away at their naps, I would always lay mine down at the scheduled nap time and give them at least thirty minutes in their cribs. If they started crying, I would let them cry for ten minutes. I would literally look at a clock to see when ten minutes was up and 95% of the time they would be asleep well before then. If they were still crying, I would go into the room, give them their blanket or soother and then leave. I would let them cry for ten more minutes. If nothing worked, I would go ahead and get them up and try again a couple of hours later. I would sometimes try the swing as well. Motion sleep is not restful sleep, but I did use it as a last resort to keep them practicing their schedule. If they woke early from a nap I would use the same method and would go in and soothe them and then let them cry 10-15 minutes to try to get themselves back to sleep. I would repeat this until an hour passed and if they still didn’t go back to sleep, I would get them up and try again a little before the next scheduled nap.
Sleep training is just not working for me, how do I know when to throw in the towel?
The first thing I want you to do if you are at this point is to have an honest conversation with yourself:
How long did you try using the same method? How consistent were you with the chosen method? If the answer to these questions is that I tried for a solid two weeks and I was very consistent, then it may be time to look for a new method or to call a professional sleep consultant. Consistency is the key to sleep training. If you stick with it, it will eventually work. You are teaching your baby a lifelong skill and this won’t happen overnight and it will be frustrating at times.
If you are having a bad day with sleep training, take a break! Wake up and try again tomorrow. Missing one day of training won’t affect your baby. And, if you run into problems, turn to other moms who are having them too. You can visit me and other moms on my Facebook page, Sleep Training for the Exhausted Mom, and I would be happy to help brainstorm ideas when you are stuck in a sleep training rut.
Bonus question: Should I sleep train my twins in the same room?
For me personally, I tried to sleep train my twins in the same room but noticed that for naps I had to split them up until they were fully sleep trained. At night I could keep them together and they learned to sleep through each other’s cries even when we did cry-it-out. For some reason naps were different (maybe because of the daylight) which is why I split them just for naps. I also found that having a white noise machine helped quite a bit with sleep training because it drowned out the noises and distractions in the house.
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About the Author: Christy Brunton is a mom to identical twin girls who are ten years old and a singleton girl who is six years old. She was involved in her local moms of multiples club where she served as president for several years. It was in this role where she realized how many parents struggled with getting their babies to sleep and how they all wanted the same thing…quick answers to their many sleep questions. This is where the idea was born to write a quick reference guide about sleep training which has helped hundreds of families so far with their sleep issues. It is a step-by-step guide on how to implement Dr. Weissbluth’s method. It is broken up by age and gives several tips and tricks on getting started including example schedules and special tips for sleep training twins, triplets and more. To see a sample of the book, search Sleep Training for the Exhausted Mom on Amazon.