All moms-to-be face the possibility that their babies may be born preterm, but moms of multiples have an even higher chance of having an early delivery. According to the American Pregnancy Association, twins have a 60% chance of being born before 37 weeks gestation. One of the big questions parents are left with when their babies are born early, is what should a realistic expectation for common milestones be? When should I expect my babies to roll, grasp objects, crawl, etc.? And sleep is no different! Since many twins are born premature, how do you ensure that they have an age-appropriate schedule? This is the question we are answering today.
Sleep patterns are very closely linked to how mature a baby’s brain is. And this can become tricky with premature babies, because the earlier your baby is born, the more adjustments you need to make in terms of brain maturation. One very important thing to keep in mind is that your preemie twins will likely sleep like newborns considerably longer than a full-term baby would. But not to worry! Most babies born early will be caught up in growth chart terms by age 2, and with overall development by the time they reach kindergarten.
So, what does this mean for you in terms of planning and scheduling, when your twins have newborn sleep patterns longer than the average newborn? For example, it will be important to remember that when your twins turn 4 months old, you might not see the same changes that other parents do. Instead, you might see them when your baby’s adjusted age is closer to 4 months old. To find your twins’ adjusted age, you will want to take the number of weeks they were born premature and subtract from their actual age. For example, if your baby is 24 weeks old (6 months old), but born 8 weeks early, her adjusted age is 16 weeks old, or 4 months.
Keep in mind that it will depend on your babies’ where they may fall exactly between their actual age and adjusted age, and on their unique premature development. However, since most babies do experience catch-up growth and development, the older your twins get, the closer they will be to needing a schedule that more resembles their actual age, rather than their adjusted age.
When planning schedules for young twins, 6-7 months and younger, it will be best to err on the side of caution and choose a schedule that more closely resembles their adjusted age. As young babies’ can only stay awake for short periods of time, it is important to avoid overtiredness and be sure not to keep your twins up too long before naps and bedtime. So watch out for your twins’ tired signs, like yawning and being less active, to plan their sleep times. Be aware that fussiness and rubbing eyes typically means they’re already overtired, do it is best to aim for naps and bedtime before they get to this point.
As they get older, babies start increasing the time they can stay awake before sleeping again. So, once your twins are 9 to 12 months, depending on how early they were born, they may be ready for a schedule that is more appropriate for their actual age, than their adjusted age. As they mature, it can also be helpful to have a more “by the clock schedule.” Especially with twins when there is double the juggling to do! You can create your own schedule here.
Life with twins is a wild adventure, and it can be overwhelming with double the fun sometimes. If your twins were preterm, keep in mind their brain development when planning sleeping schedules and milestones like “sleeping through the night.” But it’s also important to remember that every baby is unique and before you know it, your twins will be all caught up with their full-term peers.
About The Author
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.