Hello friends! Nicole asked me to provide my perspective regarding the sleep habits of my twin daughters Madilynn and Juliana. Last week, she talked here, about why she choose to not co-sleep with her daughter, now I am going to share the similar beliefs, BUT to help all those mamas out there with twins!
Before I continue, I want to mention that everything my husband and I chose to do is what worked for us. I’m a firm believer that there isn’t a “right way”- only the way that works for your family.
From the beginning, my husband and I quickly learned that the typical guidelines or ‘rules’ most people follow with singleton babies are out the window when you have multiples. When we found out we were having twins (I was 20 weeks pregnant), we each picked out one book about raising multiples. In addition to those two books, I also read On Becoming Baby Wise: Giving your infant the GIFT of nighttime sleep by Gary Ezzo and Robert Buckman. I did read several books while pregnant about my pregnancy. I subscribed to Babycenter and Parents’ weekly newsletters that informed me of my pregnancy week by week (and still receive those emails to this date and love them). Both are great resources, but I’m not one for reading multiple books regarding parenting, parenting styles, or parenting methods. My girls arrived exactly 2 months early so I didn’t have much time to sit and read. I had to dive right in and start motherhood two months early with some reading that still needed catching up on.
My girls were in the NICU for about two months. Thankfully, they didn’t have any health issues, they were there mainly to grow since they were 3lb 4oz (Madilynn) and 3lb and 12oz (Juliana) at birth. The only blessing having the girls in the NICU was having the nurses get the girls on a feeding schedule every 3 hours. Don’t think I had it too easy. The entire time the girls were in the NICU, I was waking up every 2 hours to pump them breast milk to stockpile for the hospital and my freezer. At one time, I sure did fall asleep with the breast pump still on and pumping away….thank goodness I heard my husband get into the shower for work at 6am, or there could have been a catastrophe!
Because the girls were preemies, their digestive systems were obviously much less developed than that of a full term newborn. When visiting the girls at the NICU, we noticed after feedings when laid flat in their (separate) beds, they would squirm and make the strangest sounds for several minutes as their food digested. The nurses assured us this was normal, it was just due to their digestive system being premature. When we were given the OK to bring the girls home, we decided keeping the girls upright after feedings seemed to make them most comfortable. We put them in their bouncers after feedings and overnight for the first couple months. Yep, they slept in their bouncers on the floor right next to my side of the bed.
We were prepared for the girls and had 2 bassinets, but the girls didn’t like them. At one point I felt guilty, like I was doing something wrong because they were sleeping in their bouncers. So I tried the bassinets, but the girls didn’t like them at all and made sure I knew it as they screamed and screamed the moment I laid them down. I thought maybe they just needed to get use to them – nope. That idea went out the window, and I stuck with what worked for all of us, and made us all happy. The bouncers it was.
The girls never shared a bed at the hospital, so we never put them in the same crib. We wanted to keep things consistent with what they were comfortable with. However, they did share a room. When it came time for the girls to go in their own room, which was around 3 months, our lives began to change again. Again, because they were preemies and needed the night time feedings, it took them until they were about 4 months to sleep through the night. One difference with having multiples and a singleton is, if one baby woke up in the middle of the night and the other was asleep, we woke up the other baby. For us, it worked. If one had a dirty diaper, 99.9% of the time, the other did as well, but just let her sister take the role that night to wake us up to let us know.
Below are some key guidelines that worked for our family with sleep:
We are the Moses family of robots
Yes, we believe in consistency, a schedule, and routines. Even before becoming parents, my husband and I were always routine people. We felt it was something best to continue with the girls for multiple reasons, especially after reading Baby Wise. A schedule is what they were used to from the NICU. A schedule and routine helped calm them when they knew what was coming next, it helped them thrive, and it made all our lives easier and happier – especially if I had to take a “mommy break” and get out of the house for a while. While out having sister time or QT with friends, my mind was for the most part at ease because I knew my husband knew what to do because of our routine. Being so, my phone rarely would ring while out (I would be the one calling in). We didn’t just have a bedtime routine – our day started and ended with the same schedule mostly for the girls first year of life.
My girls are now almost 3 ½ and we still loosely follow the same schedule as far as meals, nap, and bedtime. Now I say we are robots (because that’s what we felt like for the first year), but mind you – there were times when we had to break up our schedule to avoid going crazy, and plus – sometimes you just have to go off schedule. Preparing for those off schedule days are what made them easier. If a birthday party, family pictures or a holiday was coming up, or if we just wanted to have a couple days to mix things up a bit and go off schedule, the only thing that made those days more enjoyable was being prepared. For us, putting the girls down for a nap a little earlier (because they were skipping a nap later), adjusting feedings or whatever we could do to make the adjustments easier for us (and anyone that would be around us with two potential fussy infants) would help. A schedule is how we function, but we also know when to make the necessary adjustments to keep everyone happy.
We don’t eat in bed
For our family, we eat together at the dinner table with music in the background. Not in front of the TV, and not in bed. So when the girls were babies, we didn’t put them to bed with a bottle. We had to teach them in the beginning of what was to come.
We sleep in our bed, they sleep in theirs
I don’t know if it’s because we had multiples or if because it was just never an option for us, but my husband and I never discussed co sleeping. Even though we have a king size bed, my husband is 6’2, wakes up at 6am for work (sometimes earlier), and works 40 plus hours a week. He likes and needs his sleep, as do I. After the girls first birthday, I went back to work full time and also worked over 40 hours a week. I couldn’t imagine two full time working parents with 2 infants/now toddlers in one bed. It simply just didn’t work for us.
We didn’t put the girls to bed asleep
When the girls were drowsy, we laid them in their cribs. Doing so let them get comfortable in their crib as well as with their surroundings. They learned this is their place for sleep, and not in our arms. Once they were familiar with their crib and bedroom, they weren’t waking up in the middle of the night or in between naps crying because they had no idea where they were.
Sometimes, they just have to cry it out
This was fun, especially with two! Sense the sarcasm? We had to do this for a couple reasons. The obvious, we weren’t going to be up all night for every single cry, but also because the girls had to learn to sleep in the same room with each other. We have a video baby monitor, and we could see the girls weren’t in any harm, but after a few minutes if the crying didn’t stop, we would pick up whomever was crying, comfort them, and lay them back down. Most times, the crying baby wouldn’t wake the other, but we certainly had our nights where we would look at each other with the “Are you kidding me?” face, when both babies would be crying or the crying baby woke the sound sleeper. Those were double duty nights.
All of the above took time, tears and much learning. I had two babies, two months early – I was a nervous wreck at first. For weeks, I was “that mom” calling the pediatrician’s office sometimes multiple times a week – pretty much on a first name basis with the nurse. Mind you, my mother would remind me “Jamie, there is that sign in the office that specifically says not to hesitate with any questions – to just call. It doesn’t hurt to call and ask”. There was a period where my girls had some reflux and didn’t nap, one daughter was needier and fussier than the other, but I got through it, I learned from mistakes and I learned what didn’t work and what did work for our family. With the help of God, my husband, family, friends, the nurses – a village, I got through the first year.
It took a lot of conversations with my sister who walked me through much of the first year, but because I had multiples I had to learn a lot on my own too. I picked the brains of other moms of multiples and singleton moms to help me feel sane, learn, and figure out what was best for my family. I learned far more through conversations with other moms and trial and error than I did from a book. Remember those much needed “mommy breaks” I had? I’d say 99.9% of them were talking about motherhood, parenting, and kids when I was taking a “break”. The first year is certainly the hardest – especially with two – but regardless of what path you choose to raise your child, establishing a sleep routine or sleep system that works for your family is the best thing you can do in the beginning. I keep saying the first year because the sooner you start, the easier and happier your life will be. Thankfully, our children have been sleepers. After learning what works for us, we haven’t had any issues with sleeping thus far, and hopefully we stay on this path down the road. If not, we’ll just have to figure out what will work for us. I’ve learned a well-rested child is a happy child, a child that thrives, eats well, and wants to learn.
What were your hardest moments with your infant/toddler with sleep? Are you going through any struggles currently or can you offer and advice or feedback to other moms out there? We’d love to hear from you! Be sure to follow me on Instagram and Pinterest for an inside look at my life with my Toddlers!
Nicole & Jamie