Sleep: Creating Healthy Sleep Habits with Twins and Multiples
Part One of a Two Part Series
Getting adequate sleep with a newborn in the house (and helping the baby sleep) is a challenge for any parent, but if you are the mother or father of more than one baby, this can be especially difficult to achieve. Additionally, I tip my hat to you! I know first hand just how tricky it can be to have routine or rest in a houseful of babies the same age. Though my nieces are now 18 years old, I remember all too well the brick walls my sister and brother-in-law came up against!
Yes, you CAN get them resting well, and get some sleep yourself, I promise. It is not easy, but it is so very worth it!
Believe it or not, I actually find that twins tend to end up being my best “clients”, because right from the get-go, they have to deal with being a wee bit more patient, and more noise (including sleeping through their twin’s grunts and groans) than their singleton friends.
When I work with families of multiples, I certainly cater my support and sleep coaching to the individual baby, but many parents are surprised to learn that part of my recommendations don’t greatly differ from those that my other families with only now baby, receive.
In saying that though, there are indeed some differences, so here you will find five of my top ten tips for everyone in a home of multiple babies or toddlers, to get some rest! In the next upcoming post, I will outline the remainder of these helpful hints.
One: Use their adjusted age.
Many twins and triplets are born premature. Make sure to use their adjusted age when looking at guidelines, sleep habits, and sleep coaching or training.
While most experts will tell you that 38 weeks is considered “full term” for multiples, when looking at things like routine, feeding, awake times, amount of sleep that is optimal, and so on, it’s best to work with the corrected age. For example, if I am working with twins born at 37 weeks, and they are 5 months old, I would create a plan geared toward considering them as just over 4 months. This is important because careful consideration of ages and stages, and what is age appropriate developmentally, is a crucial part of the coaching process. For parents working on sleep hygiene who are not using a coach, it is equally as important. Do keep in mind though, that every baby is different and you should consider your child’s disposition and how you feel about their readiness to make change or implement routine.
Two: Put your babies to sleep in the same place every night.
Whether your babies have a room of their own or share a room with parents or siblings, it’s important that you put them to sleep in the same place every night (and for naps during the day as much as possible.) Putting your children to bed in a familiar place lets them know they are safe and that they are in a place where sleep is to happen.
Consistency and predictability are really important to babies and toddlers. When they know what to expect at bedtime, it makes it *much* easier for them to make the transition from waking to sleeping. For multiples, this is even more important, if the rest of the family wishes to eat, sleep, shower, or have a break. It’s not easy, especially in the early months, but you will come to be very very happy that you have them on the same sleeping and eating schedules, and they will adapt.
You can absolutely feed them at the same time – yes, really! If you are nursing you can nurse them both at once (providing you have patience and creativity) or you can store breast milk to bottle feed one while you nurse the other. If you formula feed, just get creative (perhaps sit on the couch with one on either side of you) and life will be much easier.
Once they are older (beginning between 4 and 6 months) and are capable of sleeping through on their own), then you would feed only the baby that has awoken, as they might have different sleep needs. By then, you will feel a little more rested (hopefully!) and be able to get up at different times if need be.
Four: Do your absolute best to teach them to fall asleep independently.
Again, this is challenging for all parents, but moreso with twins and triplets, because if they are fussing a great deal, they may be waking each other up. However, it is definitely not impossible and 98% of the families I work with, are successful in doing this. It would be too lengthy to explain the steps to achieving this, here, but feel free to check out the blog at eatplaysleep.ca for my recommendations on how to do so!
Five: Have reasonable and age appropriate expectations for them AND for yourselves.
This is crucial to your own sanity, as parents! When you fist give birth, your body stays in survival mode for several weeks, to ensure you have the energy to help another human make it through. So, that is the best time to try to establish your comfort zone with regard to your goals for the babies and their sleep
Stay tuned for the remainder of my top ten twin tips, in the next post!