Surviving Twins: How to get sleep the first 12 weeks

November 08, 2016

 How to get sleep the first 12 weeks of newborn twins

Understanding the sleep/feed routine for newborn twins

For about the first 8 weeks all my newborn twins did was eat and sleep. They could hardly stay awake 15 minutes after a feeding. In those days, I complained about sleep deprivation all the time. So one might wonder how it is possible to be so tired when all they do is sleep. Let me explain the routine to provide that insight. These tired babies each took about 50 minutes to eat, burp and change their diaper. The problem was they were on back-to-back schedules, not feeding at the same time. Since their immature stomachs are so small during the newborn stage, they need to eat every 2.5-3 hours. For me alone to feed 2 babies, it could take up to 1.5-2 hours. That only left me with about 1 hour of downtime before the next feeding began. For that 1 hour, I could choose between sleeping, eating, showering, or brushing my teeth...and every once in a while cleaning up the house. It's important to understand that full-term babies don't usually begin to sleep longer stretches until around 10-12 weeks at the earliest. Lucky for me--written with sarcasm--my twins were born 6 weeks premature so we were in for a longer stretch before our twins would make it through the night.

What is often forgotten that makes it worse

Mother Nature has a cruel way of causing a woman to not sleep during her pregnancy. I was hospitalized for preterm labor, which resulted in a lot of pain and little sleep for the last 8 weeks of my pregnancy. What more, sleep is always recommended after any major surgery to help the body recover, yet a mother of twins has the most difficult time achieving this necessary sleep. My body needed some time to recover from muscle atrophy that occurred during bed rest AND from my c-section surgery. The first 12 weeks of the twins life was actually 20 weeks of sleep deprivation. For this, I truly believe that sleep deprivation on top of physical limitations is a form of torture! This was by far the hardest thing I have ever done in my life...but I managed to survive and it was worth it.

Dad sleeping with twins Mom sleeping with twins

Here are 5 survival tips so you can sleep the first 12 weeks

I cannot stress enough that if even one minute of your time can be saved, do it! Your ability to sleep--eat or do anything else for yourself--will be hard to come by during the newborn stage. Being a happy, proactive parent is hard when you run low on energy. Don't wait until you are burnt out to address it, stay ahead of the game! Here are five tips to help you save time so you can get some much-needed shut-eye when you can.

1) Freezer Meals: You will have very little time or energy to make yourself a decent meal once the twins are home. If you have the space--even if it's outside--buy a deep freezer. We did not have space in our house but we bought a $200 stand-up freezer off craigslit and put it in our open-air carport. After life normalized, we sold the freezer for around what we paid. Prior to baby coming, recruit as many helpers as possible to make a 30-day stockpile of freezer meals. Double recipes to save time and reduce your shopping bill. There are some great ideas on Pinterest, and you should read up best practices for preserving food for freezing. You can see some of my recommendations here. The next time someone says, "What can I do to help?" You can ask them to make you a freezer meal!

2) Stock up on non-perishable essentials: Taking care of newborn twins is no walk in the park so you may not trust others to watch your twins while you run to the store. Prior to the babies coming, stock up on a 6 month supply of non-perishable items. What are the grab-and-go pantry items you can be creative with in limited time? Mix a bunch of beans to make crockpot chili pasta noodles boil in minutes, etc. Also, don't just think kitchen pantry items but toilet accessories too. Toothbrushes, toothpaste, makeup, razors, toilet paper, paper products, etc.

3) Amazon Family Subscription: Having diapers, wipes, pantry items, etc mailed to your home saves you the trip to the store. Prime members save 20% on diapers subscriptions plus additional family-centric discounts and recommendations, compliments of Amazon Family. Amazon Family is free for all Prime members. Simply create a child profile during signup to begin.

4) Use Paper Plates: I hate, hate being wasteful. I hate adding to landfills. However, I got to a breaking point where I just couldn't keep up with the workload and the twins around-the-clock needs. I had no help so paper products became a resource for me. There are a number of biodegradable plates and utensils that are more cost effective than hiring a housekeeper to wash the dishes! Plus, most of the options are on Amazon.

5) Hire Help at Least Once a Week: Make a weekly To Do list, prioritize the tasks and post it to the frig. These tasks are usually so easy that you can employ a high schooler, college student or any willing body at a reasonable hourly rate that won't break the bank. Remember that this is a temporary cost for sanity saving purposes. You can't buy sleep but you can buy help to get sleep! The laundry was the biggest task for me each week. I was puked on multiple times a day and so were the sheets, blankets, baby clothes, breastfeeding pillow, etc. If you have pets, you need someone to vacuum (or you get a night-cleaning robot). Your helper can wash bottles or prepare fresh make-ahead lunches ready for you in the frig. Your house will be filled with baby donations, baby products and daily clutter so employ your helper to sort, wash and put things away.