One of the single biggest complaints you will hear parents of twins complain about in the early months is sleep. Or, rather, the lack of sleep experienced in those first few grueling months. To make matters worse, twin parents will get advice from singleton parents about how at 6 or 9 weeks their newborns will magically begin the know the difference between day and night and SLEEP.
The problem is, these general singleton guidelines do NOT apply to twins. So, as a parent of multiples, what can you do to help your babies sleep better.
Here are 5 tips on things you can do from the very beginning to help your twins sleep better.
#1: Establish a nighttime ritual from day one
When babies first come home from the hospital you will experience what is often referred to as the “honeymoon stage.” Your newborns will be super sleepy and take catnaps both day and night. As you sleep alongside babies you may feel like this whole sleep thing may not be as bad as expected. Then reality sets in.
This is where a nighttime ritual can be so important. As babies “wake up” and become less sleepy, they will have no sense of schedule. This is where you come in. By creating a ritual before bedtime, you can help your twins learn when bedtime is coming. Things like giving babies a bath, lowering the lights noise in the house and playing soft music are indicators that sleep time in coming. It might not be instant but it will pay off in the long-run.
#2: Put your babies to bed when they are calm but awake
In those early days it is very tempting to rock babies to sleep and gently lay them down to sleep. The problem is if you set this precedent early, it can be hard to undo. Your sweet 6 pound angels may be adorable to rock and coo to sleep but imagine when they are two 20 pound movers and shakers.
This is why putting down babies when they are calm but still awake will pay off in the long run. You will teach them to self-soothe from the start and save yourself many sleepless nights in the future.
#3: Help babies establish day and night
Most babies come home from the hospital completely confused on day and night. Even during pregnancy, many moms will report that their babies come alive as soon as the sun goes down. Fast forward a couple of weeks and you now have babies who want to play and get attention in the middle of the night.
The first way to help baby establish day and night is to discourage night-time wake-ups. When babies wake at night, keep the lights dimmed and speak very softly. On the other hand, when morning comes, draw back the curtains and speak at a normal level. These tiny gestures will help your babies develop a sense of night and day.
#4: Settle the calmest baby first
With twins (or more) it can be tough to figure out who to get settled first. Do you settle the one who is upset and crying? Or do you calm the baby who is quiet and closer to sleep? Most sleep experts suggest that you calm the quietest baby first and then move on to your more unsettled baby.
There are a few reasons why. First, you are offering your more unsettled infant and opportunity to self-soothe. Second, you are setting a precedent that the squeaky wheel does not always get the grease. In other words, crying isn’t always going to secure you the most attention. Third, once you have quieted the calmer baby you can spend a little more time with your fussier babe if they are having a tough time calming down.
#5: Swaddling works
A final way to help your babies learn to sleep better is to swaddle them. All of those months held tightly alongside their brother or sister mean that your baby is used to a cramped space. If you now try to lull them to sleep with their arms and legs free, this can be a disaster.
Swaddling is helpful for most infants, but even more so for twins who are used to being snuggled tightly. Whether you are a burrito wrapping magician with a swaddling blanket or you need the assistance of a special swaddling blanket, swaddling until at least 4-6 months can be a key to helping them sleep.
While there is no magic bullet to get your twins sleeping the night, there are some steps you can take to help move the process along. As you implement these strategies it will certainly require patience and trial and error. Know that it will be a process, but you will get through to the other side.