If you are expecting twins, you’ve probably heard the joke you got two for the price of one. This is unfortunately untrue, especially when it comes to matters of sleep. It’s a scarce and precious commodity when dealing with two or more newborns. Here are the top seven tips to help your little ones’ daily routine and maximize sleep.
1. Work Out Night Shifts
Initially, the overnights are rough: waking up every two to three hours to get through multiple feedings, diaper changes, and shushing back to sleep leaves you very little time to sleep. In most cases, splitting the night in half best ensures you each get a few uninterrupted hours of sleep.
If you are planning to bottle feed, this works great. If you plan to exclusively breastfeed, you will need to find a time during the day for you or your partner to pump for the overnights. If tandem feeding isn’t happening, a Haakaa on the side not actively feeding will collect the milk otherwise lost while nursing. During the first few weeks, wearing milk collectors instead of breast pads in between feeds will help build a passive supply for the overnight bottles. If you are open to using some formula, utilize it when the nursing partner sleeps.
The other options are taking turns each night or both of you taking a twin you are responsible for all night. The latter option does lead to getting them off schedule overnight but can be beneficial when allowing them to sleep longer stretches. No matter what you decide, have a system to track everything. You will never remember who changed or fed who when, so a tracking app or a journal if you are old school will help you keep everything under control.
2. Keep Their Routines Staggered
Aim to stagger their routine by 10 to 20 minutes from the beginning. If you are breastfeeding but aren’t tandem feeding, you will want to offset their routines by the length of an average feeding. For example, if you are initially following the eat, play, sleep routine, the first will have a feed and burp. Then, you will put them down to play on their backs or have tummy time.
You can supervise their playtime while feeding your second twin. Afterward, you will give them playtime while you get the first twin ready for sleep. They will hopefully go to sleep, so you can get your second little one ready to sleep. And repeat.
If you are bottle feeding, you can offer feeds simultaneously with the help of a twin feeding pillow or table for two. Keeping them on a similar but slightly staggered schedule allows you to meet their needs without having one overtired or over-hungry baby screaming in the background while you’re helping the other one.
3. Treat Them As The Individuals They Are
Whether identical, fraternal, or sororal, every baby is different. One baby may take to bottles. One may not. One may prefer pacifiers, and the list goes on. Guaranteed, you will have one that’s the stronger sleeper. Pay attention and identify the sensitive sleeper. If you have one that fights going to sleep but stays asleep once you get them there, it might be easier to put them down first. If you have one that wakes easily to noise, you should put them down for the night second. With time, you will learn each one’s slight differences and be able to perfect your routine to have two healthy sleepers.
4. Establish A Bedtime Routine
Babies will fall asleep the easiest and sleep the longest, typically with bedtimes between 7 and 8 PM. You should aim to get one down by 7 PM and one by 7:30 PM to give yourself some wiggle room. If you have help during bedtime, it will make things much more manageable. If you don’t, make sure you start a routine, you can manage on your own to keep it going. It will help signal your babies’ brains that their sleep is coming.
Starting from their last nap, you will offer a feeding, either bathe or clean them up, do a quick baby massage if you have a partner to assist, dress them for sleep, do a short story or song, offer a final feeding, and put them down for the night. If you are doing this solo and breastfeeding, it can be easier to nurse one while bottle-feeding the other until you master tandem feeding.
5. Prepare Their Room
Set yourself up for success when you move them to sleep in their room. Have their room dark; if possible, it should be so dark that you can’t make out your hand in front of your face. This will help prevent early morning light from waking them. Set up their cribs on opposite sides of the room, ideally with a white noise or sound machine next to each. This will help prevent one from waking the other.
6. Have Them Nap Separately
While most twins get accustomed to each others’ noises, having them nap separately ensures they get their best daytime sleep, setting you up for better nighttime sleep. Again, you may find that one is an expert napper, always having one to two-hour naps, while the other never exceed an hour. If they’re in the same room, you or their sibling will likely wake the other one when you get them out of bed.
7. Have Support In Place
Prioritizing self-care and sleep for you and your partner will make you better parents. Take help where you can get it. If you have family members willing to take some nightshifts for you, you’ve struck gold. If they can’t but can help during the day, sneak in a nap. If they’re not the most baby-savvy, have them help with practical tasks such as laundry, washing bottles, and preparing food.
Have a loved one organize a meal train for you; while it’s nice to have during parental leave, it’s even nicer to have once leave is over, especially if it’s short or nonexistent for one partner.
If your family isn’t close and you have the funds, a newborn care specialist, night nurse, or newborn sleep coach can make a significant difference, helping you and each baby sleep through the night.
In the end, remember that while raising one baby is hard, raising more than one is exponentially more challenging. Give yourself and your babies some grace. You are all learning how to work together. You will have some bad days and nights, but parents of multiples are superheroes, and you’ve got this.