So, you’ve spent countless nights (and days) awake, juggling two babies who most likely are on totally opposite schedules.
Going on day 4 without a shower (or longer) and your pretty sure the only viable source of energy keeping you alive is your love for these two little.
Before diving directly into the strategies for sleep training twins, let’s answer a few critical questions first…
When Can You Start Sleep Training Twins?
Have you recently been mistaken for the walking dead?
To anyone with one or more newborns at home, the expression “sleeping like a baby” probably seems like a cruel joke. But sleep is essential for babies and for parents too.
There comes a time when you can help teach your twins to sleep through the night, but do not be tempted to try too early. Here are signs that your babies may be ready to sleep through:
They Are at Least 4 Months Old
If your twins were premature, use their ADJUSTED AGE, not their actual age.
They Weigh at Least 12 pounds a Piece
They Consume At Leastgobble up 20-30 ounces of breast milk or formula on demand during awake hours (for example, between 6 AM and 6 PM).
Nighttime wakings have become less frequent and/or your baby is eating less at each feeding and falling back asleep
If your babes don’t meet the criteria for sleeping through, the good news is that it is never too early to start practicing good sleep habits!
It may be tough in the beginning, but the sooner you start putting your babies down awake and start establishing bedtime routines, the easier it should be when it’s time for the big league sleep training.
How To Create A Perfect Sleep Environment In Your Twins’ Nursery
Uninterrupted sleep is quality sleep. Sure Grandpa can nod off in the arm-chair with the lights on and TV blasting, but babies do better with a little more quality control. Make your twins’ nursery provides a space that beckons them into dreamland!
Make it Dark
First, make it dark. Room darkening shades or curtains are the perfect way to “turn out the lights.”
If you can’t install them on your windows or you have some hard-to-cover light source (like windows in a door or a skylight) then use blackout window film.
You can cut it to any size or shape and stick it on the window, but like the protective screen-covers on a cell phone, it has no adhesive…totally removable and repositionable!
It might seem drastic but we’ll see who’s calling who crazy in a few months when you are bent over some blackout film with a pair of scissors like you are making paper snowflakes. Sleep is serious business!
Make it Cool
Next, make it cooooooool. Not icicles from the ceiling, Mr. Freeze about to move in cool, but 68-70 degrees Fahrenheit ought to do it.
Put your snuggle bunnies down in sleep sacks or footed PJs and they will be like baby bear’s porridge….juuuust right!
Make it Quiet
Lastly, make it quiet-shhh! A simple white-noise machine works great. That may seem counter-intuitive, introducing a sound machine when trying to keep it quiet. To the contrary, a white noise machine is soothing (even to adults!) and can help keep house sounds out of the nursery. While this is definitely a worthwhile purchase, a fan can work well also.
Ok, the room is dark, cool, and quiet, time to put the babies to bed! Read the tips below for how it’s done.
How to Get Twins to Sleep Through the Night
There is no universal approach to sleep training babies. Period. Every baby is different-even twins!
Some babies may escalate their crying very quickly and need to be picked up to calm down. Others fuss but do not cry. Some can be soothed in minutes with just your voice or gentle patting. Others could carry on a tirade for hours.
And for twins, particularly fraternal twins, each is very likely to have different needs! Some of the steps outlined below involve some crying.
Simply put, if you aren’t comfortable with any crying, then you don’t have to do it. If you are able to tolerate periods of crying to promote better sleep for your family, go for it!
Sleep-training twins in the same room is a whole different ballgame than working with singletons. Remember, raising children is not a competition, so never compare your family to any other, especially if those families have one baby to deal with at a time.
When one of your twins wakes up you have the choice to A) respond immediately or B) wait before responding.
Your baby may associate feeding with sleeping. When they wake up they nibble a bit and then fall back asleep because they are not actually hungry, rather they need to eat to fall back asleep.
Try putting the baby back to sleep by other means, such as patting/rubbing their back, shhhhhh-ing them, singing softly, etc.
Methods that don’t involve picking up the baby are best to try first, before holding or rocking the little grumpy face.
Whatever ends up working to get baby back to sleep will likely become a new association, which you can then gradually wean baby overtime by incrementally decreasing the time or intensity with which you console them.
This approach may take longer, but you can respond to your baby right away if that is preferable to you.
Note, that this depends not only on parenting style but the baby too! Some babies may actually escalate rather than calm down when they see their parents, and wind down when left alone.
Some babies escalate when left alone and wind down when they see their parents. Can’t make it easy!
Wait Before Responding
When baby cries, do not respond immediately.
Wait a few minutes, then respond and soothe your baby, feeding if necessary to calm them down. Each time, wait a few minutes longer than the previous time.
You can set a maximum time that you feel comfortable spending sleep training each night (e.g. one hour total when you add up the minutes) or a maximum duration of crying at once (e.g. half an hour), it is all up to what you and your partner are comfortable with and how your babies respond.
Ultimately, the goal is that the baby learns to self-soothe themselves back to sleep when they wake up. Some babies learn in one day, others in a few days, and yet others in a couple of weeks.
You might be in for a rougher night than when Harry Potter had to regrow all the bones in his arm, but it won’t be forever…better sleep is on the horizon!
Where Twins are Different
You will need to keep track of how many minutes each twin is on, which can get confusing in the middle of the night. Write it down on a sheet of paper, and keep a clock and/or stopwatch right next to the baby monitor. If possible, you might assign one parent to each baby.
Here is the kicker: One twin may sleep through the crying of the other…or he may not. Remember, every baby is different! Either way, you do not need to separate them.
If one twin starts crying because awoken by the other, pick up where you left off. It’s no fun, but neither is chronic sleep deprivation.
This is how twins differ in sleep training from singletons, and it can take a little longer (in the duration of crying and the number of nights spent sleep training) than with singletons.
That said, it is a method that has worked really well for a lot of twin families to get their babies sleeping through the night! Follow the tips below to ensure sleep training your twins is a success.
3 Tips for Sleep-Training Twin Babies
Tip #1: Prioritize Nap Time
In order for babies to sleep through the night, they need to get enough quality sleep during the day.
Overtired babies actually get more wound up and have trouble falling and staying asleep! Go Figure.
Getting twins down for naps can be a hassle, but the good part is you can finally do some laundry or dishes. Wait, what was the good part again? CHORES?!
Anyways…Newborns nap almost constantly when they aren’t eating, but each month they stay up for a bit longer in between naps and take fewer naps over the course of the day (just when you thought you had it all figured out, of course).
If your baby is five months old, they likely need 14-15 hours of sleep a day.
If they sleep around 11 hours at night (including any feedings) then they will need to nap about 3 hours during the day, spread out over 3-4 naps.
A baby’s sleep needs changes almost monthly, so check out the appendix of “Baby S.T.E.P.S. to Better Sleep,” (reviewed below) to make sure your twins are napping enough for their age!
While you should sleep train your twins in the same room, it is ok to separate them occasionally for nap time if it one is going to cause the other to miss a nap entirely.
And lastly, while all of the sleep resources will tell you that all naps should be in the crib…try for MOST naps to be in the crib.
With twins sometimes you just gotta do what you just gotta do…if this means the occasional nap in the swing, car, or stroller? No biggie. Just try to keep them asleep for at least 45 minutes.
Tip #2: Feed ‘em Up!
Ever wake up with your stomach grumbling because you didn’t eat enough?
Or wake up with indigestion because your eyes were bigger than your stomach at dinner? Babies are the same way!
Having enough energy to sustain themselves through the night means that the little ones need to take in enough throughout the day, not just right before bed.
If your babies don’t take in a full day’s worth of food during their waking hours, then they will need to eat at night.
If your baby cannot eat enough during the day to sustain them at night, then they are not ready to sleep through.
The average baby eats 25-30 ounces of milk or formula a day, perhaps less if they are well established on solid food.
Tip #3: Bedtime Routine
Create a thirty-minute routine before bedtime and stick to it AS IF YOUR LIFE DEPENDS ON IT.
It needn’t be involved, as long as it isn’t too stimulating and you are consistent with it. The idea is to signal to your sleepy heads that it is time to unwind and go to bed.
At the end of the routine you should, hopefully, be able to put your babies in the crib pretty sleepy, but still awake. In these instances, you may choose to rock or nurse your babies to sleep.
Putting them down awake helps them to learn to fall asleep on their own so if they wake up in the middle of the night you don’t need to help them back to sleep.
Bath time, a bedtime story, a lullaby, a massage, a walk around the house are all good examples of what you could incorporate into your bedtime routine.
Some parents like to end the routine with a consistent phrase, such as “Good night, Sleep Tight!” or “I love you, good night!” Even when you travel, try to recreate the routine best you can to give your twins the heads up that bed-time is a-coming.
Now that you have your babies “sleeping like babies,” pay it forward. Next time you see a zombie-mom pushing her double stroller through the grocery store, give her the three-finger salute, because you know…you know…
The Best Books to Read for Sleep-Training Twins
Thinking of picking up a book or two to help you understand how to sleep train twins better?
If so, that’s a great idea! Be sure to check out my top recommendations below, as both of these books greatly assisted me in sleep training my twin girls.
Book #1: Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Twins (Marc Weissbluth, M.D.):
Weissbluth is a well-known name (perhaps right after Ferber) in the sleep-training world for his publication “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child.” This version is simply a reiteration of the principles outlined by his former text, but sprinkled with golden tidbits of multiples-specific advice.
“Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Twins” provides not only the sleep basics (i.e. distinguishing good sleep from “junk” sleep, recognizing “drowsy signals,” etc.) but also takes into account sleeping arrangements for twins, synchronizing twin schedules, and more.
Book #2: Baby S.T.E.P.S. to Better Sleep (Nicole Johnson):
Sleep is so important when raising twins, that we put two books on your shopping list! Published by Nicole Johnson from the Baby Sleep Site, “Baby S.T.E.P.S to Better Sleep,” is a great teacher.
Not everyone follows a schedule, but many twin parents do, so while not written specifically for twins, “Baby S.T.E.P.S…” is a good companion to “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Twins.” “Baby S.T.E.P.S. to Better Sleep” goes into greater detail about how to schedule age appropriate naps.
It also explains not just one, but many sleep philosophies, thereby embracing the diversity of parenting styles and infant temperaments. Parents can truly customize a sleep-training plan to fit the needs of each of their babies!