Sleep Strategies for Twins

“There are two things in this world that life doesn’t prepare you for. Twins.”

You’re the proud parent of twins! Congratulations! And my sincerest respect and empathy for the challenges you’re likely to encounter. Twin babies, especially for first-time parents, are a massive amount of work, but one of the most valuable investments in your whole family’s well-being is to get them sleeping well.


That’s typically going to be a little more complicated than teaching one baby some solid sleep skills, for all of the obvious reasons that come to mind. If one baby wakes up crying, you’re pretty much guaranteed that the other will be right behind them, and soothing two babies at the same time is just objectively tougher than one.


To further complicate the situation, twins are often premature and preemies are very sleepy babies. And because one baby crying is likely to wake the other, parents of twins are often quick to rush in and soothe a crying baby back to sleep by any means necessary, and that can lead to stronger feed/sleep associations.

I’m not going to sugar coat it, imparting those awesome sleep skills on your twins won’t be a walk in the park. It’s going to require double the determination and discipline on your part, but it’s absolutely achievable, and once your little ones have got the hang of it, you, as the parent, are going to have a much easier go of things.


Think about it; what would you do with the extra time you’d have once both your babies are napping on the same schedule and sleeping through the night? How much would that ease your parenting burden? It’s an absolute game-changer for most parents of one baby, so multiply that by two and you get… a double game-changer? Two game changers? Whatever. You get my point.


It's going to be tricky, but if you’re ready, let’s dive into some strategies to maximize your chances for early success.


Sleep Strategy 1: Choose a sleep training method


First, choose your sleep training method and COMMIT to it! If you are working with me, you don’t have to wonder how to do anything because I have created a plan that walks you through EVERYTHING. No guess work there. But if you are going the DIY route, check this out about your sleep training options.


Sleep Strategy 2: Sleeping Arrangements


Now - think about the sleeping arrangements. I like to tell clients to start where you want to end up. So, if your ultimate plan is for the babies to share a room, start there. If they will have their own rooms, start there. It is important regardless of the room they sleep in that they have their own sleep space (own crib, own bassinet, own pack and play, etc.). If they are in a bassinet but your ultimate goal is to have them in the crib, consider putting the crib together and having it ready for night 1.

For families where the twins will share a room, the biggest concern I get is the concern that if one twin wakes he/she will wake the other. Yes. This is probable. Yet it is an important step so that each of your children can get used to their roommate and learn to ignore or sleep through the roommates antics. It’s just temporary, however, as you coach your babies to learning rock solid sleep skills and in a few weeks it will hardly be a concern.


Sleep Strategy 3: Schedule


Ok then think about the schedule - you’re going to want to keep them on the same schedule as much as possible. Every baby is different and it’s probable that your twins will have slightly different sleep needs. But they will be close enough that you should keep them on the same schedule. I tell clients to not let one twin sleep 30 minutes more than the other twin. When nap time rolls around again, just ignore the 30 minute difference and put them down at the same time.

Having both babies going down and waking up at the same time is also pretty important for mom’s sanity for obvious reasons. Having a little time to yourself during the day can make all the difference in the world when you’re dealing with twins, and once they’ve adapted to their new schedule, you’ll have a lot more time to take care of the other responsibilities that come with having two babies. Who knows, you might even get a little “me-time” in there.


Handling Night Wakings


As for nighttime wakings, I mentioned earlier that mothers of twins are a little more likely to respond quickly when one of them wakes up crying in the night, and more likely to try to quiet Baby down with whatever method is quick and effective in order to prevent them from waking up their sibling. When you are sleep training, you will have to resist that impulse a little.


Obviously I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t soothe a crying baby, but if your usual response is to rush in and offer a feed, a pacifier, or rock baby back to sleep, you’re probably impeding baby’s ability to develop those self-soothing skills, and letting them figure out how to fall asleep on their own is a vital part of the process. Click for help with night weaning and ditching the pacifier.


It can be scary changing things up when you don’t know how your babies will respond (spoiler: they probably won’t like the change…yet). I suggest to plan on getting started on a night when you don’t have to be up early or looking your absolute best the next day because the first few nights of training are likely to be a little rocky. Just remember that you’re going through this rough patch in order to arrive somewhere wonderful on the other side.


Another question I get asked a lot when working with twins is “What happens if one baby wakes in the middle of the night – do you wake the other twin also?” While we want to keep them both on the same schedule, but we also don’t want to interrupt their sleep if we don’t have to. My advice on this situation, outside of weight gain issues or specific instructions from your doctor, is to let your babies sleep. If one wakes up for a feed, don’t wake the other one to offer a feed as well. We’re going to let sleep be the priority for now and allow Baby to make up the calories during the day.


Let the Magic Happen!


After three or four days, you’re going to notice something magical start to happen. As those independent sleep skills start to develop, you’ll realize that one fussing baby won’t be nearly as likely to wake up their sibling. That’s because they’re spending more time in deeper stages of sleep, and as you’ve probably noticed, when a baby gets into a deep sleep, they can sleep through almost anything.


The other benefit that’s going to start taking effect is that sleep begets sleep. It’s a little counter-intuitive, but overtiredness fires up our cortisol production which makes it harder for us to get to sleep, so as your twins start sleeping more, they’ll actually have an easier time getting to sleep, and staying asleep long enough to get into that sweet, restorative, deep stage of sleep that we’re looking for.


Be Prepared and Ready

Finally, the biggest piece of advice I can share with you is to make sure you’re ready before you get started. I see a lot of parents get started when they’re not fully committed to the process only to quit a few nights in, which is thoroughly confusing for their little ones, and typically teaches them that they need to fuss louder and longer in order to get mommy to come and nurse or rock them to sleep. I know this is overwhelming. It is hard with a single baby, so it is doubly hard with two. So, if you’re not entirely sure that this is the time to start, that’s absolutely fine. Consistency is the key here, so don’t just “give it a try” if you don’t think you’re ready to commit.


Conclusion


It’s going to be a lot of work, make no mistake, but I can promise you that it’s going to be so, so worth it, and I’m here to support you every step of the way once you decide it’s time to get those sweet little bundles sleeping through the night.


If you are confused about the how and the what and the when, you are not the only one! Combing through all the information on the internet and in books can be exhausting and even more overwhelming. I can help put together a plan that takes out all the guess work and gives you a straight easy to follow guide to get your little ones sleeping. Click here for a free 15 minute evaluation call to get started!

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