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Ah Sleep.. we all need it. In those first few weeks/months you probably won’t get a lot of it, and you will spend your days and nights trying to get your newborn twins to sleep.
‘Sleep’ suddenly becomes the be-all and end-all in your household.
There are many books out there on getting your twins to sleep and most of them seem to follow a rigid almost military style schedule. I thought that I would thrive on a more systematic approach, so while I was pregnant I read from cover to cover a couple of books on routines with twins and thought great! Sorted! I will have perfectly sleeping babies….
The problem was my babies hadn’t read the same book and it didn’t take me long to work out that actually babies aren’t robots…
Just like us adults they have hungry days and not so hungry days, sleepy days and not so sleepy days or just days we don’t feel 100%. And with twins unfortunately they often don’t synchronize their hungry/sleepy/just feeling grumpy days!
Trying to expect my babies to live by a strict schedule was crazy, so the idea of a schedule was abandoned. I also found it extremely stressful trying to stick to the timetable.
Is a Baby Led Routine Best for Twins?
In those first three months (and this is especially important if you are breastfeeding) it is important for the ‘routine’ to be guided mostly by your babies cues for hunger.
They go through a few growth spurts during their first year which will mean they may wake more frequently and be hungry. These growth phases generally happen at around 7-10 days, 3 weeks, 6 weeks, 3 months, 4 months and 6 months and, of course, with twins they may not happen at the same time.
Your babies will wake more frequently, be more unsettled and just want FOOD to fuel their growing little bodies. So just feed them. It’s easy to get stuck into the ‘they only need feeding every 2.5-3 hours’ mentality that we forget that they are growing little people and some days they want feeding every 1.5-2 hours.
And remember full tummies generally sleep easier (unless they have colic but that’s a whole other topic).
Your Sleep Routine Options
When you bring your newborn treasures home it will take a little while for you to find your rhythm with your babies and family. If your babies have spent some time in NICU then they might already be in a routine of sorts, if not then just take each day as it comes to see what you think might work.
Here are the three options you have and it might be worth giving each of them a go to see what will work best
- Wake BOTH babies at the same time to feed
- Stagger the awake times so you are dealing with one baby at a time
- Work to each babies’ individual routine
I tried all of the above at various stages.
When I first brought my girls home I staggered their awake times, as being a single mama I only had one pair of hands and found it easier to deal with one baby at a time while I was learning. It didn’t allow for much sleep time though, but I knew it would be for just a short time frame.
Once the first baby woke I would get them up feed them, change them have a quick cuddle and then settle them back to sleep and then wake the other baby. This worked for the first few months until the girls were able to be awake for a bit longer. I enjoyed the one to one time and it also meant I didn’t have to listen to a hungry, crying baby that was impatiently waiting to be fed.
Some Things to Consider
Waking both babies is your best option if you have help or you are tandem feeding (either breast or bottle). You then can get some ‘time-off’ while they are both sleeping.
Some parents want to work to each individual babies’ sleep/feed rhythm and this can become necessary for most families during those fussy growth phase periods. Its easy just to ride it out for a few days and then settle back into your normal routine once they return to their ‘normal’ eating pattern.
If your babies are born prematurely then you may need to wake them to feed to ensure they get enough food. They will be much sleepier than full term babies so run the risk of missing out on essential feeds. You are best to get advice from your NICU/SCBU team.
Babies generally sleep in 45 minute sleep cycles and the goal is to try to get them to sleep for TWO cycles each naptime so a total of 1.5 hours minimum.
It’s also extremely important that they are only up for around 45 minutes – 1 hour total as an overtired baby is very difficult to get to sleep (I learned this one the hard way!).
Your ‘routine’ might look something like this:
Baby wakes up
Top-up feed (can be important to help build supply if breastfeeding)
Settle back to bed.
This whole routine should take no longer than 1 hour otherwise baby will start to get overtired.
During those first few months use whatever props you can lay your hands on to get them to sleep. Just remember you CAN’T spoil a new baby and it won’t ruin them for life if you cuddle them to sleep for a few weeks.
Some babies just need a bit of comfort to deal with whatever is going on in their little minds – it can be a scary world for a newborn so don’t leave them to deal with it alone.
You could try any or all of the following:
- White Noise machine/app
- Blackout curtains
- Essential Oils
At the end of the day, you have two babies to work with and every book/sleep consultant/advice column will tell you something different. One thing may work for one baby but not the other so just try a few things and stick with what works.
You will find that you will need a few tricks up your sleeve as their needs change so what may have worked last week may not work next week.
They love to keep us on our toes!!!