Twin Pregnancy and Parenting Information
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How to get Twins to Sleep Through the Night

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With two-or-more young babies, the need by parents to develop strong sleeping patterns for their multiples can be critical. While every parent of twins will likely find a different solution that best fits their infants' needs and patterns.

Below is a guide to hopefully assist parents of young multiples more quickly reach the joyous stage where their twins are sleeping through the night!

Part 1: What is Preventing Sleep?

Here’s something that may really surprise you: As much as we may want our babies to sleep through the night, our own subconscious emotions sometimes hold us back from encouraging change in our babies’ sleeping habits. You yourself may be the very obstacle preventing a change in a routine that disrupts your life. So let’s figure out if anything is standing in your way.

Examine Your Own Needs and Goals
Today’s society leads us to believe that “normal babies” sleep through the night from about two months; my research indicates that this is more the exception than the rule. The number of families in your boat could fill a fleet of cruise ships.

“At our last day-care parent meeting, one father brought up the fact that his two-year-old daughter wasn’t sleeping through the night. I discovered that out of 24 toddlers only six stayed asleep all night long.” …Robin, mother of thirteen-month-old Alicia

You must figure out where your own problem lies. Is it in your baby’s routine, in your management of it, or simply in the minds of others? If you can honestly say you want to change your baby’s sleep habits because they are truly disruptive to you and your family, then you’re ready to make changes. But if you feel coerced into changing Baby’s patterns because Great Grandma Beulah or your friend from playgroup says that’s the way it should be, it’s time for a long, hard think.

Certainly, if your little one is waking you up every hour or two, you don’t have to think long on the question, “Is this disruptive to me?” It obviously is. However, if your baby is waking up only once or twice a night, it’s important that you determine exactly how much this pattern is disturbing to you, and decide on a realistic goal. Be honest in assessing the situation’s effect on your life. Begin today by contemplating these questions:

  • Am I content with the way things are, or am I becoming resentful, angry, or frustrated?
  • Is my baby’s nighttime routine negatively affecting my marriage, job, or relationships with my other children?
  • Is my baby happy, healthy, and seemingly well rested?
  • Am I happy, healthy, and well rested?

Once you answer these questions, you will have a better understanding of not only what is happening with regard to your baby’s sleep, but also how motivated you are to make a change.

Reluctance to Let Go of Those Nighttime Moments
A good, long, honest look into your heart may truly surprise you. You may find you actually relish those quiet night wakings when no one else is around. I remember in the middle of one night, I lay nursing Coleton by the light of the moon. The house was perfectly, peacefully quiet. As I gently stroked his downy hair and soft baby skin, I marveled at this tiny being beside me-and the thought hit me, “I love this! I love these silent moments that we share in the night.” It was then that I realized that even though I struggled through my baby’s hourly nighttime wakings, I needed to want to make a change in our night waking habits before I would see any changes in his sleeping patterns.

You may need to take a look at your own feelings. And if you find you’re truly ready to make a change, you’ll need to give yourself permission to let go of this stage of your baby’s life and move on to a different phase in your relationship. There will be lots of time to hug, cuddle, and love your little one, but you must truly feel ready to move those moments out of your sleeping time and into the light of day.

Worry About Your Babies Safety
We parents worry about our babies, and we should! With every night waking, as we have been tending to our child’s nightly needs, we have also been reassured that our baby is doing fine – every hour or two all night long. We get used to these checks; they provide continual reassurance of Baby’s safety.

“The first time my baby slept five straight hours, I woke up in a cold sweat. I nearly fell out of bed and ran down the hall. I was so sure that something was horribly wrong. I nearly wept when I found her sleeping peacefully.” …Azza, mother of seven-month-old Laila

Co-sleeping parents are not exempt from these fears. Even if you are sleeping right next to your baby, you’ll find that you have become used to checking on her frequently through the night. Even when she’s sleeping longer stretches, you aren’t sleeping, because you’re still on security duty.

These are very normal worries, rooted in your natural instincts to protect your baby. Therefore, for you to allow your baby to sleep for longer stretches, you’ll need to find ways to feel confident that your baby is safe-all night long.

Once you reassure yourself that your baby is safe while you sleep, you’ll have taken that first step toward helping her sleep all night.

Belief That Things Will Change on Their Own
You may hope, pray, and wish that one fine night, your baby will magically begin to sleep through the night. Maybe you’re crossing your fingers that he’ll just “outgrow” this stage, and you won’t have to do anything different at all. It’s a very rare night-waking baby who suddenly decides to sleep through the night all on his own. Granted, this may happen to you-but your baby may be two, three or four years old when it does! Decide now whether you have the patience to wait that long, or if you are ready to gently move the process along.

Too Fatigued to Work Toward Change
Change requires effort, and effort requires energy. In an exhausted state, we may find it easier just to keep things as they are than try something different. In other words, when Baby wakes for the fifth time that night, and I’m desperate for sleep, it’s so much easier just to resort to the easiest way to get him back to sleep (using a baby swing, nurse, or replace the pacifier) than it is to try something different.

Only a parent who is truly sleep deprived can understand what I’m saying here. Others may calmly advise, “Well if things aren’t working for you, just change what you’re doing.” However, every night waking puts you in that foggy state where the only thing you crave is going back to sleep-plans and ideas seem like too much effort.

If you are to help your baby sleep all night, you will have to force yourself to make some changes and follow your plan, even in the middle of the night, even if it’s the tenth time your baby has called out for you.

So, after reading this section and you’re sure you and your baby are ready, it’s time for you to make a commitment to change. That is the first important step to helping your baby sleep through the night.

Part 2: Early Bedtime Means Better Baby Sleep

Early Bedtime Means Better Baby Sleep
by Elizabeth Pantley

In their efforts to encourage their baby to sleep better, one approach that many parents use is to put their baby to bed later in the evening. They think, “If he’s “really tired” he’ll sleep better, right?” Wrong! This often backfires because Baby becomes overtired, and chronically sleep-deprived.

In the majority of cases, a baby’s biological clock is preset for an early bedtime. When parents work with that time, a baby falls asleep more easily and stays asleep more peacefully. Most babies are primed to go to sleep for the night as early as 6:30 or 7:00 p.m. I often hear about how babies and toddlers have a “melt down” period at the end of the day, when they get fussy, whiny and out of sorts. I suspect that it’s simply a sign of over-tired children longing for sleep.

Early to bed, early to rise?
For babies, early to bed does not mean early to rise! Most babies sleep longer with an earlier bedtime. Many parents are afraid to put their baby to bed so early, thinking that they will then face a 5 a.m. wake up call. But keeping your little one up too late backfires, and more often, a late night is the one followed by that early morning awakening.

My youngest child, two-year-old Coleton used to go to bed at 9:30, the time when my three older children went to bed, because it was convenient for me. At that time in the evening, it would take him a long time to get settled. I never connected his inability to settle with his late bedtime. When I started putting him to bed at 7:00, he fell asleep much more quickly and slept more soundly.

What About Working Parents?
If you are a working parent, and your evening with your little one begins at 6:30 or 7:00, you may find yourself torn between keeping your baby up for some playtime and getting him right to bed. You may find, though, that when your baby goes to sleep earlier, and sleeps better, he awakens in a pleasant mood, eager to play. Because you have gotten a good night’s sleep, you can consider getting up earlier in the morning and saving some time before work to play with your baby, as an alternative to that late-evening play session. You’ll both enjoy that special morning time. Later, when your baby is consistently sleeping all night, every night, you can move bedtime a little later and judge whether the difference affects your baby’s sleep.

 

Haley (l) and Cassidy (r) at 3 months in a good moment. The now 13-month-old twins continue to have inconsistent sleep patterns.
Haley (l) and Cassidy (r), age 3 months

 

 

Finding Your Baby’s Best Bedtime
It can take some experimentation to find your baby’s best bedtime. If you have been putting your baby to bed too late in the evening, you can approach this adjustment in one of two different ways:

  • Adjust your baby’s bedtime to be earlier by fifteen to thirty minutes every two or three nights. Pay attention to how easily your baby falls asleep as well as his awakening time and mood to gauge the effectiveness of the changes until you settle on his best bedtime, or
  • Beginning at around 6:30 p.m., watch your baby closely. As soon as he exhibits any signs of tiredness (fussing, losing interest in toys, looking glazed, yawning) put him right to bed, even if his previous bedtime has been 11:00 p.m. When you do this, keep your home quiet and the baby’s room dark so that it resembles his usual environment in the middle of the night. If this bedtime is substantially earlier than usual, your baby may think he’s going down for a nap and awaken after a short snooze. If he does this, respond very quickly so that he doesn’t fully awaken. Follow your usual method for helping him fall back to sleep, such as rocking or nursing; keep the room dark and quiet as you do during the middle of the night.

Here’s what Tammy, mother of seven-month-old Brooklyn had to say about changing her baby’s bedtime, “I had been waiting until 10:00 to put Brooklyn to bed because that’s when I go to sleep. But your suggestion made so much sense that last night I put her down at 8:00. I loved having the evening to spend with my husband. We haven’t spent that much time alone together in months! And the baby actually had a better night’s sleep. I’m happy that all our needs can be met in such a pleasant way.”

It may take a week or more of adjustment to settle into a new bedtime, but once you do, you’ll find that both you and your baby are happier.


Part 3: Newborn Babies and Sleep

Congratulations on the birth of your new baby. This is a glorious time in your life. Whether this is your first baby or your fifth, you will find this a time of recovery, adjustment, sometimes confusion and frustration, but – most wonderfully – of falling in love.

Babies younger than four months old have very different sleep needs than older babies. This article will help you understand your newborn baby’s developing sleep patterns, and will help you develop reasonable expectations when it comes to your baby and sleep.

Read, Learn, and Beware of Bad Advice
Absolutely everyone has an opinion about how you should handle sleep issues with your new baby. The danger to a new parent is that these tidbits of misguided advice (no matter how well-intentioned) can truly have a negative effect on our parenting skills and, by extension, our babies’ development…if we are not aware of the facts. The more knowledge you have the less likely that other people will make you doubt your parenting decisions.

When you have your facts straight, and when you have a parenting plan, you will be able to respond with confidence to those who are well-meaning but offering contrary or incorrect advice. So, your first step is to get smart! Know what you are doing, and know why you are doing it. Read books and magazines, attend classes or support groups – it all helps.

The Biology of Newborn Sleep
During the early months of your baby’s life, he sleeps when he is tired, it’s really that simple. You can do very little to force a new baby to sleep when he doesn’t want to sleep, and conversely, you can do little to wake him up when he is sleeping soundly.

Finding Your Baby’s Best Bedtime
It can take some experimentation to find your baby’s best bedtime. If you have been putting your baby to bed too late in the evening, you can approach this adjustment in one of two different ways:

 

It can happen....This is Jared and Riley sleeping at 3 months. At the time of this essay posting, the twins were 5 months and very close to consistently sleeping through the night.
Jared (l) and Riley (r), age 3 months

 

 

  • Adjust your baby’s bedtime to be earlier by fifteen to thirty minutes every two or three nights. Pay attention to how easily your baby falls asleep as well as his awakening time and mood to gauge the effectiveness of the changes until you settle on his best bedtime, or
  • Beginning at around 6:30 p.m., watch your baby closely. As soon as he exhibits any signs of tiredness (fussing, losing interest in toys, looking glazed, yawning) put him right to bed, even if his previous bedtime has been 11:00 p.m. When you do this, keep your home quiet and the baby’s room dark so that it resembles his usual environment in the middle of the night. If this bedtime is substantially earlier than usual, your baby may think he’s going down for a nap and awaken after a short snooze. If he does this, respond very quickly so that he doesn’t fully awaken. Follow your usual method for helping him fall back to sleep, such as rocking or nursing; keep the room dark and quiet as you do during the middle of the night.

Here’s what Tammy, mother of seven-month-old Brooklyn had to say about changing her baby’s bedtime, “I had been waiting until 10:00 to put Brooklyn to bed because that’s when I go to sleep. But your suggestion made so much sense that last night I put her down at 8:00. I loved having the evening to spend with my husband. We haven’t spent that much time alone together in months! And the baby actually had a better night’s sleep. I’m happy that all our needs can be met in such a pleasant way.”

It may take a week or more of adjustment to settle into a new bedtime, but once you do, you’ll find that both you and your baby are happier.

Part 4: Regular Naps Improve Nighttime Sleep

According to sleep research, and motherly experience, the length and the quality of naps affect nighttime sleep. (And, conversely, nighttime sleep affects naps.)

Babies differ in their napping needs – but here’s a general guide that applies to most babies:

Age Number of Naps Hours of Naptime
4 Months 3 4-6
6 Months 2 3-4
9 Months 2 2 1/4-4
12 Months 1-2 2-3
2 Years 1 1-2
3 Years 1 1-1 1/2

When should your baby nap?
Timing of naps is important. A nap too late in the day will negatively affect nighttime sleep. Certain times of the day are better for napping because they suit your baby’s biological clock; these optimum periods balance sleep and wake time to affect nighttime sleep in the most positive way.

All babies are different, but generally, the best nap times are as follows:

  • If baby takes three naps: midmorning/early afternoon/early evening
  • If baby takes two naps: midmorning/early afternoon
  • If baby takes one nap: early afternoon

Watch your baby’s sleepy signals!
Naps should happen immediately when your baby shows signs of tiredness. If you wait too long, she becomes overtired, “wired up,” and unable to sleep.

Once you are familiar with the your baby’s nap needs you can plan a nap routine to start the wind-down process. If consistent naps are new to you look more for your baby’s signs of tiredness and scrimp on the routine until you settle into a predictable pattern. In other words, don’t begin a lengthy pre-nap routine if your baby is clearly ready to sleep! Watch for these signs of fatigue; your baby may demonstrate one or more of these:

  • decreasing activity
  • quieting down
  • losing interest in people and toys
  • rubbing eyes
  • looking “glazed”
  • fussing
  • yawning
  • laying down
  • caressing a lovey or asking for a pacifier, bottle or to nurse

 

 

Jacob at age 18 1/2 months. He's obviously got this sleeping thing down pat!
Jacob, age 18 1/2 months

 

 

Nicholas (Jacob's twin brother) at age 16 1/2 months
Nicholas, age 16 1/2 months

 

 

Timing is very, very important!
You have probably experienced this scenario: Your baby looks tired and you think, “Time for a nap.” So, you wash her hands and face, change her diaper, answer a phone call, put out the dog, and head for baby’s crib or the family bed, only to find that she’s suddenly wide awake and anxious to play!

What happened? She has moved through her window of tiredness and gotten that “second wind” that buys her another hour or two of alert time before she re-enters her tired state. This can often happen later in the day. Suddenly, your baby is (finally!) ready for a nap at dinnertime, and the plot thickens- do you put her for a late nap and thus extend bedtime, or keep her awake and deal with a tired, fussy baby? Rather than face this ordeal, respond earlier to her signs of fatigue and get her in for her nap right at that time.

Once you have watched your baby carefully for a week or so, you should be able to create a nap schedule that works with her daily periods of alertness and tiredness, thus making your nap schedule easy to adhere to.

The nap routine
Once you’ve established a nap schedule for your baby, it is very helpful if you create a simple but specific nap routine. This routine should be different from your nighttime routine, although it can have similarities that signal sleep- for example, the presence of a lovely or special sleep-inducing music. Follow your nap routine the same way every day. (Except, as I mentioned before, if your baby is showing clear signs of being tired and ready to sleep. Then abbreviate or even eliminate your routine for that day.)

For a reluctant napper, your routine might include some relaxing motion, such as rocking/relaxing in a swing/walking in a sling or stroller for twins, and some gentle lullaby music.

A nap routine doesn’t have to be long and involved to be effective. If your baby’s nap occurs about the same time every day there will be many subtle cues, such as the timing of his lunch, that tell your baby that nap time is nearing.

Better naps mean better nighttime sleep.

Part 5: Write a Family Bestseller — My Sleep Book

Once your baby is over a year old, she begins to understand more about life. She is probably able to follow simple instructions, such as, “Please put this on the shelf.” Most babies at this age enjoy reading books – especially books with pictures of real babies. You can use this love of books to help you encourage your baby to sleep through the night. You can do this by writing your baby his own book about sleep. Here’s how:

Use poster board or very heavy paper. Your book should be large – 8 ½” X 11″ or bigger. Tape the pages together with heavy tape.

Title your book All About [insert baby’s name]. It will depict the story of your baby’s life, with the focus on sleeping — and/or weaning, if you want to use this idea to help wean baby from the breast or bottle. You can also use this idea to wean baby from the pacifier, or for that matter, to help baby adjust to any major change in her life, such as introducing a new pregnancy, or dealing with divorce.

 

Cleo (back) and Kayla (front) at 11 weeks. Their current sleep patterns are down at 7 p.m., up at 10 p.m. for feeding and then sleep through the night until 4 or 5 a.m.
Cleo (back) and Kayla (front) at 11 weeks

 

 

Gather pictures of your baby right from the time of birth. Start with a shot of her as a newborn, and progress through her life, finishing up with those that feature actions and items in your bedtime routine. Pictures of baby breastfeeding, taking a bottle, using a pacifier, wearing pajamas, reading a book, lying in bed, and sleeping, are the most helpful. If possible, get a new roll of film and take photos of your baby during every step of your current bedtime routine – including several of him sleeping soundly. In one of the sleeping photos, have Mommy or Daddy in the background smiling and looking at baby.

Don’t make the book so long that your little one will lose interest, since the ending is, after all, the real goal of the book. You know your own baby and how long of a book she enjoys. The last section of the book will be your bedtime and sleep (and/or weaning) goals, outlined very clearly and specifically.

Read this book every night. (Your baby may like it so much that she wants to read it during the day, too – and that’s perfectly fine!) Talk about what you read. Help your little one do the things you talk about in the book.

As you use this homemade book, also put into action a complete sleep plan for your baby. Step-by-step, and night-by-night your baby will move closer to sleeping all night long.

Part 6: Should I Let My Baby Cry it Out?

Does it takes forever for your baby to fall asleep? Does he or she only fall asleep if you breastfeed, give a bottle or pacifier, rock, carry, swing, take a ride in the car, or perform other elaborate rituals? Does your baby wake up frequently throughout the night? Are your sleep issues further complicated because your baby won’t nap easily, or takes very short naps?

Do you ever feel like Leesa, mother of 9-month-old Kyra who said, “I am truly distressed, as the lack of sleep is starting to affect all aspects of my life. I feel as though I can’t carry on an intelligent conversation. I am extremely unorganized and don’t have the energy to even attempt reorganization. I love this child more than anything in the world, and I don’t want to make her cry, but I’m near tears myself thinking about going to bed every night. Sometimes I think, ‘What’s the point? I’ll just be up in an hour anyway.'”

As your sleep issues cast lengthening shadows over your life, you may begin to live purely for the moment. Your sleep-deprived, foggy brain may focus so intently on sleep that you can’t think beyond the next few hours of rest. You may have one – or many – people telling you that you should just let your baby cry to sleep. You are probably frustrated and confused. What you lack is perspective. To gain that perspective, ask yourself these questions:

  • Where will I be five years from now?
  • How will I look back on this time?
  • Will I be proud of how I handled my baby’s sleep routines, or will I regret my actions?
  • How will the things I do with my baby today affect the person he will become in the future?

Once you have some perspective about your baby’s current sleep issues, it is important to be realistic in determining your goals and to be honest in assessing the situation’s effect on your life. Some people can handle two night wakings easily, while others find that the effect of even one night waking is just too much to handle. The key is to evaluate whether your baby’s sleep schedule is a problem in your eyes, or just in those of the people around you.

Marc (l) is visiting Jon (r) in his crib while Jon snoozes. The twins are 10 weeks old in this picture.
Marc (l) and Jon (r) at 10 weeks

 

 

Begin today by contemplating these questions:

  • Am I content with the way things are, or am I becoming resentful, angry, or frustrated?
  • Is my baby’s nighttime routine negatively affecting my marriage, my job, or my relationships with my other children?
  • Is my baby happy, healthy, and seemingly well rested?
  • Am I happy, healthy, and well rested?
  • What is a reasonable expectation for my baby at his/her age?
  • What naptime and bedtime situation would I consider “acceptable”?
  • What naptime and bedtime situation would I consider “pure bliss”?
  • Why do I want to change my baby’s sleep patterns? Is it truly what’s best for me and my baby, or am I doing this to meet someone else’s expectations?
  • Am I willing to be patient and make a gradual, gentle change for my baby if that means no crying?

Once you answer these questions, you will have a better understanding of not only what is happening with regard to your baby’s sleep, but what approach you will feel most comfortable using to help your baby sleep better.

In addition to my two-year-old son Coleton, I have three older children, and they have afforded me the perspective I lacked the first time around. My children have taught me how very quickly babyhood passes. I struggle now to remember the difficulties of those first couple years, so fleeting are they. And I am proud that I didn’t cave in to the pressures of others around us to do what they felt was right; instead I followed my heart as I gently nurtured all of my babies. That time is long gone for us, but those memories remain. And now, all four of them sleep through the night. And so do I.

Part 7: Wonderful Sounds for Sleep

The environment that your baby enjoyed for nine long months in the womb was not one of absolute quiet. There was a constant symphony of sound — your heartbeat and fluids rushing in and out of the placenta. (Remember those sounds from when you listened to your baby’s heartbeat with the Doppler stethoscope?) Research indicates that “white noise” sounds or soft bedtime music helps many babies to relax and fall asleep more easily. This is most certainly because these sounds create an environment more familiar to your baby than a very quiet room.

Many people enjoy using soothing music as their baby’s sleep sound. If you do, choose bedtime music carefully. Some music (including jazz and much classical music) is too complex and stimulating. For music to be soothing to your baby, pick simple, repetitive, predictable music, like traditional lullabies. Tapes created especially for putting babies to sleep are great choices. Pick something that you will enjoy listening to night after night, too. (Using a tape player with an automatic repeat function is helpful for keeping the music going as long as you need it to play.)

There are widely available, and very lovely, “nature sounds” tapes that work nicely, too, as well those small sound-generating or white-noise devices and clocks you may have seen in stores. The sounds on these — raindrops, a bubbling brook or running water — often are similar to those sounds your baby heard in utero. A ticking clock or a bubbling fish tank also make wonderful white-noise options.

“I went out today and bought a small aquarium and the humming noise does seem to relax Chloe and help her to sleep. I didn’t buy any fish though. Who has time to take care of fish when you’re half asleep all day?” Tanya, mother of 13-month-old Chloe

You can find some suitable tapes and CDs made especially for babies or those made for adults to listen to when they want to relax. Whatever you choose, listen to it first and ask yourself: Does this relax me? Would it make me feel sleepy if I listened to it in bed?

 

Brady (l) and Colby (r) at age 1 month. These twins began sleeping through the night at 10 weeks.
Brady (l) and Colby (r), age 1 month
Here's Colby at age 7 months when he couldn't wait for nap time...
Colby, age 7 months

 

 

If you must put your baby to sleep in a noisy, active house full of people, keeping the tape running (auto rewind) will help mask baby-waking noises like dishes clanking, people talking, siblings giggling, TV, dogs barking, etc. This can also help transition your sleeping baby from a noisy daytime house to which he’s become accustomed subconsciously to one of absolute nighttime quiet.

Once your baby is familiar with his calming noise, or music, you can use these to help your baby fall back to sleep when he wakes up in the middle of the night. Simply sooth him by playing the music (very quietly) during the calming and falling-asleep time. If he wakes and cries, repeat this process.

If your baby gets used to his sleep time sounds you can take advantage of this and take the tape with you if you will be away from home for naptime or bedtime. The familiarity of these sounds will help your baby sleep in an unfamiliar environment.

Eventually your baby will rely on this technique less and less to fall and stay asleep. Don’t feel you must rush the process; there is no harm in your baby falling asleep to these gentle sounds. When you are ready to wean him of these you can help this process along by reducing the volume by a small amount every night until you finally don’t turn the music or sounds on at all.

Babies enjoy these peaceful sounds, and they are just one more piece in the puzzle that helps you to help your baby sleep – gently, without any crying at all.

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