Did you know parents lose over 44 days of sleep during the first year of a baby’s life? That is equal to 1,056 hours. And this is just for ONE baby, not for parents that have twins, triplets or more!
If you are reading this blog post you were ‘most likely’ blessed with multiples and are desperately looking for tips to get your little one’s sleeping better. I remember the days when I would spend time Googling, “How to get my twins on a nap schedule,” or “How to get my twins to sleep through the night.” My biggest challenge was naps. They were short and it just sucked! I felt like I never had a break with two babies. My family was across the country, my husband traveled 3 to 4 times a week, so I was left alone to take care of my little ones.
After extensive research and some trial and error, I was able to improve my babies’ naps, and now after becoming a certified sleep consultant I am helping others all around the world that have similar issues with their multiples.
I’m expecting twins/triplets/quads, how can I create the best and safe sleep environment possible?
Creating an ideal sleep environment is key to your little one’s sleep. Let’s walk through some essentials to create the safest sleep friendly environment possible. It’s best to prepare early on with multiples just in case you are put on bed rest (like I was). I recommend ensuring the nursery is ready to go at 20 weeks pregnant. Here’s what you will need:
1. Blackout blinds or blackout curtains are a must.
2. White noise machine (sometimes you may need two, or you can always introduce a box fan if you have a loud house). I love the DOHM machine by Marpac.
3. A crib or bassinet for each baby.
4. An amber light or pink Himalayan salt lamp for those middle of the night nursing / feeding sessions.
5. Baby video monitors so you can see all babies.
6. Love To Dream SwaddleUP Original. You can order directly from their website, or if you want to make a trip to Target they have them as well.
7. Comfy, velour crib sheets. I personally love these from American Baby Company.
8. A wall thermometer in room so you can ensure room temp is between 68-72 degrees.
9. Bedtime book so you can use for your bedtime routine. My favorite is Goodnight Moon.
10. A very comfy chair for middle of the night feedings, or if you are formula feeding get two bouncers and use as their feeding chairs as you hold two bottles.
You can view and purchase some of these recommended items by going to my website here.
My babies have arrived, and you brought them home, now what? Sleep together or separate?
When you first bring your little ones home you are going to be overwhelmed with love and excitement, and you may or may not feel a bit anxious as a new parent to twins, triples or quads (or more). Many parents ask me if they should separate the babies or keep them together. I recommend keeping them together if they are small enough, until one of them shows signs of rolling or they are just too big to
sleep side by side. You can use one of the cribs to put them to sleep in, or you can purchase a bassinet made for multiples.
The best advice I can give you is…DO NOT WORRY about them waking each other up from crying. This is the biggest fear I see with parents when I work with them 1:1. However the best thing to do is to start off the way you would like to continue their sleeping arrangements – and I recommend this is TOGETHER.
In addition to getting used to each other’s sounds, squeaks and cries, the babies will comfort each other in a way that nobody can explain. They are siblings. They have always had each other’s presence nearby, so why interfere with their bond for the fear that one will wake up from the others cries. Trust me on this one – let them sleep together.
Should I keep the babies on the same sleep and feeding schedule?
Yes, you should absolutely keep them on the same feeding and sleeping schedule if you have enough hands to help you out. Twins are easy to keep on a similar schedule, triplets and more you may need help.
It’s ok to veer off by 15 minutes for sleeping or feeding, but let’s stick to a similar schedule. If you do not do this, I can assure you will drive yourself crazy. Therefore, to keep your sanity, if one wakes to feed, then wake up the other baby(ies) to feed as well. This holds true for night feedings too.
What aspects of sleep should I focus on with my babies now that they are home?
When you first bring home your little one’s their natural bedtime will tend to be late – somewhere between 9pm and 11pm. As they approach 8 weeks after their due date you’ll notice their bedtime will shift much earlier. It will occur sometimes between the hours of 6pm – 8pm. Creating healthy sleep habits from the beginning is important if you have twins, triplets or even just one baby.
Below are some tips as to what to focus on the first five months: *NOTE: You don’t have to do EVERYTHING the first day you bring home the twins. Maybe just check off a few items every couple of weeks so your goals for healthy sleep habits are attainable.
1. Incorporate a short and calm naptime and bedtime routine. Something short like feed, change diaper, pajamas (if night), swaddle, sing a song, turn on white noise machine and say goodnight.
2. Ensure you are feeding your babies when they awake from a nap or shortly after.
3. Avoid nursing / bottle feeding to sleep.
4. Keep to age-appropriate wake times. Another important note, if your babies are born full term for multiples you will still want to go by their due date, not their birth date.
5. Ensure the room is sleep inducing and safe.
6. For naps, if one wakes up you can allow the other baby(ies) to sleep an additional 15 minutes, but wake the other(s) so they are on a similar day time schedule and get tired for bed at the same time.
7. Set a morning wake up or out of crib time. 6:30/7:00am is a reasonable time to start your day.
8. Incorporate a dramatic wake up so your little one’s can distinguish that it’s morning and the official start of their day. They cannot tell time, so it’s your job to cue them.
9. Practice one nap a day (preferably first nap) in the crib.
What should I focus on once my babies are older than 5 months?
If at five months your little ones are still giving you trouble with sleep then it’s time to figure out if you would like to do formal sleep training, or your best bet may be to talk to a sleep consultant to help ensure you get success. Just a small tweak to your schedule can make a world of a difference, and sleep consultant will be able to identify how to correct this and they can also provide 1:1 support and sleep education so that you know how to deal with other sleep related issues like sleep regressions, nap transitions, and much more.
If you do decide to move forward with sleep training without the assistance of a professional sleep consultant, then the biggest tip I can give you is to identify the more sensitive sleeper and follow their lead. The second baby will just have to learn to adjust.
Should my babies nap together or apart?
Naps were a struggle for me – I just couldn’t figure out how to get my babies to sleep longer than 45 minutes without being in a swing. I recall venting to my pediatrician about naps and how hard they were to figure out. She just didn’t get it. She said told me to choose nap times and then just nap the twins at that time. Well that didn’t work! In fact, it made things worse because they were showing signs of being overtired.
If naps are a struggle, sometimes it’s best to separate your baby’s and nap train them together BUT separated in different rooms. Daytime sleep is different than night sleep. For one our bodies produce melatonin at night, and for naps the drive to sleep just isn’t as strong. There is so much more stimulation during the day, and the sun is up (again another reason why blackout blinds/curtains are critical).
If you feel that one baby is waking up the other – or one doesn’t settle as fast as the other it’s ok to separate them. Usually you’ll have one baby that is a better sleeper, so put that baby in a pack and play in another room equipped properly per my safe / sleep inducing room suggestions.
Once naps improve you can then reintroduce your multiples back together in the same sleeping space. If they are taking more than one nap a day, then you may want to take it slow and introduce them for one nap only for a few weeks.
How long will it take to sleep train my babies they have been horrible sleepers?
Well this is a loaded question that I hear often. I tell parents that with one baby it can take 7 – 14 days to get nights in order, and for naps it can take another 2 – 4 weeks. For twins, double that. For triples, triple that. Let’s be realistic. We are working with more than one baby that may have two different sleep needs. Plus , they could wake each other for naps or one could be overtired compared to the other. So yes, it will take more time, AND more effort. But it will be well worth it!
Last but not least, love yourself.
Give yourself permission to feel overwhelmed and sit with those feelings. Be good to yourself. Treat yourself to a weekly candlelit bath or go get that pedicure you’ve been dreaming about. Join a Moms of Multiples support club. Lean on your village. And always remember: This too shall pass!
Questions? Comment below and I'll answer ya as soon as I can.