Having one baby: life-changing. But, having more than one baby? Life-changing times 2 (or 3 or 8 like Octo-mom!). Just like no one could tell most of us how to fully prepare for one baby, whether multiples are planned or a big surprise, there is truly no way to fully prepare for the task ahead. No matter how many times you’ve organized their closet or think about all the organic baby food you’re going to make, some of the things that once seemed very important lose in priority to getting even a little more sleep, and making sure there are clean clothes and food in the house!
To have any hope of having time to do laundry, take a shower, or even go to the restroom some days, it’s a lot easier if your twins are on the same nap and sleep schedule. Here are 5 tips to keep your twins or multiples on the same sleep schedule:
1. Decide how flexible or rigid you want to be - When thinking about sleep and feeding schedules for your multiples, it’s important to consider how rigid they will be. With one baby, you can be somewhat flexible with schedules, but with two children (or more) on different schedules, it can feel like you are “on” 24x7 (if you don’t already feel that way!) The first thing to remember is that you need to be stricter in those early months to keep more than one baby on the same schedule. Newborns need more on-demand feeding and to have their needs met immediately, but as your babies get to be around 4-6 months old, you can usually be a little more deliberate with the schedule.
2. Babies that feed together, stay together - In the early days, if one baby is awake and it’s close to feeding time–feed everyone! Once your babies are older, though, eventually you do want to discourage more frequent night-feedings and encourage longer stretches of sleep, so don’t continue to do that forever. When your baby goes through her 4-month sleep regression, this is when we typically see night-wakings increase dramatically. If you aren’t sure, check the age-appropriate number of feedings Doing most care activities at the same time is the common-sense approach to keeping multiples on the same routine/schedule. Diaper changes, feeding, tummy time, sleep–all done in tandem.
3. Wake them at the same time every day - With singletons, you can usually allow the wake-up time for the day to vary a bit, though we still recommend starting your day within the same 30-minute window. With multiples, we recommend they wake within 15 minutes of one another and if one is a longer napper than the other, we recommend waking the other within 15 minutes during the day as well.
4. Sleep train them separately – Although we recommend doing a lot of things together, at the same time, with multiples it can be helpful to do any sleep training or coaching separately. This is particularly true when you use gentle sleep coaching techniques that require a bit more time. When you are in the situation of one adult per child, each adult can help teach one baby how to sleep, but sometimes two adults for one child is still the preference, so one adult can support the other or do some of the other chores that still need to be done.
5. Stagger the schedules if it’s easier for you – Although you may think you want your twins on an identical schedule, sometimes staggering the schedules by 15 minutes can be a little easier to handle and give you a little one-on-one time with each baby. For example, if one baby needs slightly less sleep than another baby, you can put the other baby down for a nap first, then the one baby 15 minutes later and they are more likely to wake about the same time. Staggering schedules, even if by only 15 minutes, can also be helpful if you’re the only adult in the house. It may be that the ideal situation is to have one adult per baby or child, but in reality this isn’t always possible.
Having multiples, especially in the presence of other children, or if you’re flying solo, means that the first several months are not easy. Consider that every day or every night may not be perfect, but pick yourself up the next day and try to get back on track. And, when you put them down for bed there is the hope of a good night’s sleep for everyone. Starting your babies out on the right path, and working towards establishing an individualized schedule that works for YOUR family helps pave the road to better sleep for everyone in your household. It is possible. So many families have come through these situations and so can you!
Nicole Johnson is a married mother of two wonderful boys and owner of The Baby Sleep Site. When her eldest son was born, he had a lot of sleep problems – he would wake every one or two hours, all night long! She got busy and thoroughly researched literature and scientific reports until she became an expert in sleep methods, scheduling routines, baby developmental needs, and more. She overcame her son’s sleeping issues in a way that matched her own parenting style, and knew it was her mission to help other tired parents “find their child’s sleep”. If you have your own sleep issues, Nicole and her team at The Baby Sleep Site® can help! Download the popular free guide, 5 Ways To Help Your Child Sleep Through The Night, to get started today.