Let’s be real: sleep training is challenging enough when there is only one kid, but when you double (or triple or quadruple!) the number of children participating, things can get real hairy, real quick. We aren’t going to sugar coat it – sleep training multiples, especially when they share a room, can seem like an impossible mission. But fear not! It may take longer than if you were to sleep train a single kid, but it is definitely…
The great thing about sleep training multiples is that many standard, single-kid sleep training rules apply, so if you’ve sleep trained other kids, you’re already halfway there! That said, here are some tricks specifically for multiples to help you and your babies start sleeping through the night as quickly as possible.
Trick #1: Separate for Naptime
There are a lot of reasons why kids get to share rooms during their growing up years. Limited space, sibling bonding, whatever the reason for your family, sharing rooms can be a blessing and a curse. Parents of multiples often put all the babies in the same room because, hey, if you’re going to get up with one, you might as well get up with all at the same time.
Having everyone in the same room can work well during those first newborn months, but when you get closer to sleep training time, room-sharing can cause some problems. When you decide to start the process, you should separate your babies as best you can – at least during naptime. That means temporarily clearing some space for a Pack n’ Play in the living room, guest room, or your closet until naptimes are under control. Making good sleep at naptime a priority over bedtime sets bedtime up for success. Having a good nap during the day prepares your babies to be ready for sleep without letting them get overtired. It also gives them practice falling asleep independently because naptime sleep tends to be lighter.
Trick #2: Treat Them as Individuals
Identical or fraternal, boy/boy, girl/girl, boy/girl – it doesn’t matter. Your babies are their own people, no matter how similar their genes are. Before you start trying to train your babies to sleep alone, you have to set appropriate expectations. The fact of the matter is that every kid sleep trains differently, and what works for one kid may not work for the other, so you’ll likely have to adjust your approach several times. It can certainly feel like they should sleep train at the same rate using the same method, but unfortunately, that is rarely the case.
Even though you need to honor each child’s uniqueness, one trick for success is to schedule your sleep training around the lighter sleeper. One of your babies will inevitably be more finicky about sleep, so setting wakings, naptimes, and bedtimes around her can make things a little easier for you in the long run. The lighter sleeper gets to sleep when she wants (to an extent), and the chances are good that the heavier sleeper will go along for the ride without too much fussing.
Trick #3: Incorporate Some Gadgetry
When you’re tired, everything can feel that much more challenging, and there is no harm in using a few gadgets here and there to encourage sleep. Here are a few helpful tools to get you started:
- White noise machine: White noise machines help drown out the rustlings of Baby A, which can help Baby B stay asleep longer. White noise is also a very calming sound for babies, which can help them learn to self-soothe.
- Room darkeners: One component of a sleep-friendly environment is to keep the room as dark as possible, so investing in some room darkening window cling or heavy curtains can be very helpful.
- Sleep pods: A sleep pod is like a little tent that fits over a Pack n’ Play. It blocks out the extra light and is a good solution for houses that are short on space because it allows you to set up a temporary sleeping spot anywhere in the house.
- Sleep tracking apps: Logging your kids’ sleep patterns will prove invaluable while you navigate this journey. Sleep tracking apps help you record naps, bedtimes, nighttime wakings, and morning wakings to help you see each child’s big picture of sleep. Throw in a pediatric sleep coach who is an expert at interpreting that kind of data, and you are sitting pretty.
Trick #4: Be Ready to Adjust
Multiples often arrive a few weeks ahead of schedule, so knowing when to start the sleep training process can be hard. Sometimes, especially if your babies were very premature, you may have to wait to start sleep training until they reach an adjusted age. Most full-term babies can start sleep training around four months, but if your babies were two months premature, you might have to wait until they are six months or more. You should always check with your pediatrician before starting any kind of sleep training so that everyone is on the same page.
Trick #5: Have a Routine
A good routine is a key element to sleep training, whether you’re working with one, two, or fifteen babies at once. Here are a few ideas to incorporate into your routine:
- If your heavier sleeper (Baby B) sleeps longer than your lighter sleeper (Baby A), only let Baby B sleep 15 extra minutes after Baby A wakes up
- Get a good dose of sunshine first thing in the morning
- Have a consistent bedtime routine that lasts no longer than 30 minutes
Getting one baby to sleep through the night can be a challenge, and the prospect of getting two (or more!) babies to sleep well can feel like a nightmare. Even though it may take a little longer to sleep train multiples, it is definitely possible. Start by trying the above tips, and if you have any other questions, our certified child sleep consultants are standing by!