Every so often I reminisce about the early days with my twin boys. I remember how sweet they smelled, how cuddly and warm they were and how I had never been REALLY exhausted before becoming a mother.
I was in madly in love, exhausted and in total survival mode. Like many first time Moms who don’t have unicorn babies, I had no idea what I was doing, so I didn’t know that I wasn’t setting my boys or myself up for sleep success.
Fast forward 5 years later, I am a certified child sleep consultant, I have worked with 700+ families and I have a special place in my heart for helping twin parents! To help you avoid some of my sleep pitfalls, I’m sharing my top sleep tips for twins.
Tip #1: Keep a Log
In the blur of having two babies, it is hard to remember to brush your own teeth, never mind keep track of when two babies last ate, slept, peed or pooped! I recommend getting it out of your head and onto paper or into an app.
We fortunately had a lot of help in the beginning from our mothers so we kept a paper log on the counter so everyone could look at it. It was an adjustment to be so regimented, but it quickly became second nature and it enabled us to better meet our boys needs, as well as track patterns so we could make adjustments as needed.
Here’s what I recommend you track:
- What time they wake in the morning
- All feedings – nursing sessions, bottles plus ounces / ml and solids
- Pees and poops – I was always worried that they hadn’t pooped and it was so helpful to be able to look back and realize it had only been a day or two
- Naps – what time you put them down for nap, how long they slept and what time they woke up
- Bedtime – what time you put them down for bed and when they fell asleep
- Night feedings and night wakings
- Leave space for comments – this is where we put milestones so when I have time to work on their baby books (ha!), I have all that information captured
If paper sounds so 2000, you can use any of the baby tracking apps that are available. My personal favorite is Baby Connect, but there are a whole host of other options.
Tip #2: Keep Them in Sync
One up, both up. One down, both down.
In order to preserve your sanity and to ensure you get time to take care of yourself, keep those babies in sync for both eating and sleeping as much as possible.
When babies are still waking frequently at night to eat, if one babies wakes up to eat, wake the other one up to eat right after the first. Unless you are a tandem nursing ninja, then you can feed them both at the same time. You go, girl! Doing this will enable you to get a solid stretch of sleep (hopefully) before they are waking you to feed again.
After the 3-4 month mark, when you are encouraging them to sleep longer stretches at night, you can move away from waking the second baby and let them wake up naturally to eat. This is how I found out my baby B could sleep through the night! I didn’t wake him one night and he slept through the night from that night forward.
In the morning, when the first baby wakes up, wake the second baby within 15 minutes of the first so you are keeping them on a similar schedule to go down for naps.
During naptime, if one baby wakes at the 45-minute mark, wake the other baby within 15 minutes. If you don’t sync up their daytime schedules, you will find yourself without any you time all day because there will always be a baby awake.
Also, I highly recommend E.A.S.Y. scheduling.
- E = Eat
- A = Activity
- S = Sleep
- Y = You Time
When babies wake up from sleep, you want to feed them, then move into an activity and then getting them down for sleep. If you keep twins in sync like this, you will get time for yourself while they are both sleeping at the same time!
Also, feeding them when they wake up from naps, help you to move away from feeding them to sleep and also ensures that when your babies start flashing you their sleepy cues that you can start their routine to get them down instead of having to feed them.
Tip #3: Keep Their Sleep Space Together or Apart
Unless your long-term goal is for them to have separate room, I would keep them in the same room for sleep. Embrace the fact that they will wake each other up while they are figuring all this sleep stuff out. Remember, they have never been apart and have an amazing ability to sleep through each other’s noises, but we have to give them the chance to learn. It is oftentimes much easier than we think!
If you separate them for nights or for naps and you decide to teach healthy sleep habits (aka sleep training) when your babies are at least 16 weeks adjusted age, this is an ideal time to bring them back into the same nursery if that is your long-term goal. It’ll be easier to make one transition of teaching them to sleep in the same nursery vs. teaching them to sleep separately and then having to transition them back together.
Tip #4: Keep the White Noise Pumping
I recommend white noise for all babies, but especially for twins! Twins can and will sleep through each other’s noises, but white noise makes it a lot easier for them. White noise sounds a lot like it does in utero and it is very calming for babies and children. (adults too!)
White noise is also awesome at blocking sounds from within the nursery and outside of the nursery. This will help the twins sleep through each other’s sounds, day and night, and also enable you to get the million things on your to do list done (or watch Netflix of scroll Insta) while they sleep, without waking them.
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The sound machine should be tuned to the white noise option – not music or nature sounds. Also, it should run continuously for all sleep periods. Another consideration is doubling up – two sound machines or a sound machine and a box fan. Position the machine by the door to their room or wherever the loudest sounds come from (living room, neighbors, noisy street) and keep the second unit or the fan in the center of the room, between their cribs. If you opt for a fan, ensure it isn’t blowing on the babies.
Tip #5: Keep Calm and Pause
When we are concerned that one twin is going to wake the other one up, we become hyper-reactive and oftentimes rush in to the nursery. We want to be responsive to our babies’ needs, but we also need to keep in mind that not all fussing during sleep periods needs immediate attention from us and it may not need any attention at all.
Sometimes babies will have a loud, piercing cry out – the kind that makes you want to rush right into the nursery. Sometimes they will roll around and for older babies and toddlers, they may even sit up. If all of this is happening and your babies’ eyes are still closed, there is a good chance that they aren’t even awake!
These callouts are what I call battle cries and they happen when babies and toddlers are switching sleep cycles. It is a really common occurrence and it can happen many times a night and even more frequently for babies that are overtired. It freaks us out, but they aren’t even awake!
If we go into the nursery immediately, we run the risk of fully awakening our babies and this will make it harder for them to resettle back into sleep. If your babies are still going down asleep, this means that you will likely need to do what you do to get them to sleep again.
So, what should you do instead? Pause and observe. On your video monitor, watch what is happening and try to determine if they are truly awake. If you aren’t 100% sure, PAUSE. These battle cry episodes can last from seconds to 5-10 minutes, so set a timeframe that you feel comfortable observing your little ones before going in. By doing this, you may be pleasantly surprised that your littles ones were still asleep and can resettle without your help!
Tip #6: Keep an Eye on Adjusted Age
Many twins are born prematurely – mine were born 5 weeks early! When you are looking at factors like sleep needs, awake times, schedules, sleep regressions and sleep training, you want to look at the babies’ adjusted age, not their actual age. Babies that are born prematurely may not be on track with their peers that were born full-term, which is considered 38 weeks for twins. This is especially important when you are considering sleep training. Babies aren’t developmentally ready for sleep training until they are 16 weeks adjusted age. Considering prematurity may be a huge help for you in setting up realistic expectations and meeting their sleep needs, without them getting overtired.
Tip #7: Keep an Open Mind About Sleep Training
No one, I mean no one, wants to sleep train! But if your twins aren’t what I call unicorn babies, babies who sleep through the night from a ridiculously young age, it may be worth considering.
Hear me out…sleep training doesn’t always mean crying it out. Sleep training has a really negative stigma, so I want you to know that there are many methods to help babies and toddlers to learn healthier sleep habits, while parents and caregivers can support them through the process.
A question I get a lot is “will my babies cry?” Yes, unfortunately. Whenever we change the rules or the way that we do things, children protest the changes. Babies don’t like change and how they respond is through fussing and crying.
Sleep training isn’t abandoning, neglecting or torturing our children. It is a way of teaching our babies to learn to sleep independently. Sleep training isn’t selfish. It comes from a place of love and wanting to take care of our babies’ health and well-being and ourselves so we can be the parents we want to be. Independent sleep skills are a lifelong skill that children need to have to be happy, healthy and well rested.
Sleep training twins can seem daunting, but I want to ensure you, while it can be a challenging process, the benefits far outweigh the challenges. Twin parents are highly motivated because sleep deprivation with two babies is crippling. (been there!) This means that these parents are super consistent and their babies become champion sleepers! (consistency is a huge predictor of success) I am one of those twin parents! Aside from a few sleep regression speed bumps, illness and travel, my boys have slept through the night every night and have since they were 6 months old.
Tip #8: Keep a Checklist of Healthy Sleep Tips
Use this checklist to help set your babies up for sleep success – it contains some sleep foundations, plus the top tips above:
- Sleep environment: cool (68-72 degrees), really dark nursery and white noise
- Routines: around 6-8 weeks babies are ready for a consistent bedtime and naptime routine.
- Sleepy cues: these are your babies’ way of saying I’m tired. Look out for glazing over, pulling ears, turn head side-to-side like “no” and rubbing eyes and get your babies down for sleep to help them to avoid getting overtired
- Swaddling newborns: helps babies to feel snug and helps them fall asleep and stay asleep. Stop swaddling and move to a sleep sack once your baby shows signs of rolling
- Log Sleep, Feeding and Diapers
- Keep the babies in sync and on the same schedule
- Consider your long-term goals for room sharing or keeping them separate
- Pause before rushing in
- Consider their adjusted age
- Research sleep training or ask for help from a professional
- Stay calm – your babies and YOU can do this!
About the author
Christine Brown, TLC’s Sleep Associate, is the proud mother of twin boys. After challenges with teaching her boys to be healthy sleepers, a passion was born to help exhausted families on their journey to healthy sleep. Christine graduated from the Family Sleep Institute, an evidence based training program, where she gained hands-on knowledge to help infants, children and families to create healthy sleep habits. She completed over 250 hours of study in the field, including specialty courses on multiples, lactation, special needs, positive parenting, nutrition and SIDS prevention. She specializes in helping families with multiples, babies, toddlers, preschoolers and those that experienced infertility. You can reach Christine at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on our online Twins & Sleep class or private sleep consulting.