Twin infants, sleep and you

When asked what is most difficult about having twin infants, I am willing to bet most parents would answer “lack of sleep!”

As is most often the case, something that is hard with a single infant can seem doubly hard with twins or multiples. This couldn’t be truer when it comes to helping your infants (and you) sleep through the night.

One of the most commonly asked questions in the TwinParents.com infant forum is, “when will our infant twins start sleeping through the night?” Oh how I wish there was a good answer for this question. Unfortunately there isn’t. People will respond with answers ranging from “my sons slept through the night the very first night home from the hospital” to “our daughters are 2 years old now and still wake up during the night.” A good bet would be that your experience will fall somewhere in the middle of these two extremes.

Expectations

So at what age should your children be sleeping through the night anyway? There are as many opinions on this as there are mothers in the world and the last thing I want to do is add to them.

Every infant is different and every parent has different expectations when it comes to sleeping schedules. Your answer to the question of when your twins should start sleeping through the night will be (and should be) different from mine. The important thing is to determine what your expectations are, run them by your doctor to make sure that they are safe and healthy and then find a way to make them a reality.

The Routine

The first and most important step in making your sleep schedule expectations a reality is creating and sticking to a daily/nightly routine.

Some people will say feed your twins right before bed and others will say not to let them get used to falling asleep while feeding. Some will say put them in their cribs before they fall asleep so they get used to “falling asleep” by themselves. All of these kinds of decisions are entirely up to you and you should do whatever fits with your expectations. It is important to note here that most doctors and literature advise against letting your infant fall asleep by themselves with a bottle for safety reasons.

The exact details of your routine aren’t near as important as the fact that you have one and stick to it. Here is a nighttime routine sent in by a TwinParents.com member (this is just an example, you should make your own routine to fit your expectations).

  • 6:00pm – Turn lights down low, turn TV volume down and try to create a “mellow” mood in the house.
  • 6:45pm – Change diapers and feed the girls their last bottle of the day.
  • 7:15pm – Usually the girls will fall asleep at the end of their bottles; if not we rock them to sleep then put them in their cribs.

Infants, like us are creatures of habit and in time they will begin to become accustomed to the nighttime routine.

Waking up in the middle of the night

For most parents, getting their infants to fall asleep is only half the battle. Or is it more like one quarter the battle? Getting the twins to fall asleep is one thing, but how do we help them to stay asleep?

First let’s take a look at some of the reasons babies wake up at night (in no particular order):

  • They are hungry
  • They don’t feel good (sickness, teething, diaper rash, allergy, etc)
  • Developmental advances (waking more often after learning something new like crawling or pulling up)
  • They want more time with mommy or daddy

Sometimes trying to figure out which one of these reasons is causing your little ones to wake up is kind of like playing detective. If you can determine the cause and address it, then you have a much better shot at making it through the night. Always check with your doctor if you believe your child to be sick or have any concerns about his/her health or wellbeing.

The most important thing to remember is that someone else’s sleep schedule or definition for what “sleeping through the night” means is not important. What is important is that everyone in your household is getting the most sleep possible, while maintaining to care for and meet the needs of your babies.