What's the worst thing about having baby twins? Most bleary-eyed parents would agree that it is the lack of sleep. Any newborn is likely to keep odd hours, but balancing the demands of two newborns means that sleep is a scarce commodity for parents of twins. Use these ten tips to get more sleep when you have baby twins. Getting them to sleep means you'll get more sleep too.
Photo reprinted with permission of Lee-Ann and Paul.
Newborns are accustomed to the close confines of the womb, and sharing that space with their co-twin. Many multiples are comforted by the act of swaddling. Being wrapped up "burrito style" may give them a sense of safety and security that helps them fall asleep and ensures a sounder sleep. The confines of swaddling also prevents the babies' natural startle reflex from waking them up. It also reduces the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome)
. Watch this video with swaddling tips
to find out exactly how to swaddle your baby twins. Swaddling works best with newborns; after a month or two, your babies will outgrow the comforting effects.
In the womb, there was no distinction between night and day. Now it's up to you to help them adjust so that they'll learn that nighttime is for sleeping and daytime is for waking and playing (well, and napping, too!) Create an appropriate environment in their nursery or sleeping area. Keep things dark and quiet. If you need lights, make them soft and low; a dimmer switch works great for this. Reduce noise, or use background "white" noise like a fan or quiet music. (A fan is also an easy way to reduce the risk of SIDS.
Use a soft, soothing voice during nighttime feedings and other interactions to give your babies the message that nighttime is the right time for sleep.
Tag TeamWith two babies, both parents will have their hands full. Soon enough, you've got a situation. Either both parents are exhausted and overwhelmed by the lack of sleep, or one parent is sleeping soundly, and the other is simmering with resentment. It's time for a tag team approach. With a little bit of communication and planning, you can set up a structured schedule so that each parent gets a restorative shot of sleep. Maybe Mom's on duty from 9:00 PM until 2:00 AM. Then Dad takes over from 2:00 am until the morning. Take into consideration your family's lifestyle, habits and preferences, and work out an approach that meets both parents' needs.
Help! I need somebody! Don't underestimate your need for sleep -- being a supermom (or dad) just makes you exhausted, not a better parent. Whether you bring in some reinforcements to get you through the tough times, or make regular use of helpers, having help on hand can literally be a sanity saver. If you can afford it, hire a night nurse. Most charge by the hour (expect to pay $20 - $50 a hour!), but with two babies, you're getting double for your money. If you can't afford it regularly, considering having a weekly or monthly respite. Or call on grandma, aunts, sisters or neighbors to pull a night shift. That shot of sleep will do wonders for your well-being and make for a much happier family.
Catnap (AKA Sleep When the Babies Sleep)
Photo reprinted with permission of Jae.
Some of the best advice I got when my twins were newborns was to sleep when the babies slept. The wisdom of that advice become most apparent after I ran myself into the ground trying to be "productive" during their daytime naps. Once I gave up trying to do chores and write thank you notes, and started snoozing on the sofa, I felt a bit more rested and more in control of things. When you have newborn twins, you have permission to let things go. Let someone else do the dishes, run the errands or clean the bathrooms. Or, put it off until next week. For the first few weeks of your twins' lives, your main priority is to feed and nurture them. And catch a few winks when you can.
Streamline the ProcessEmploy your best strategic planning skills to maximize your sleep time. A little bit of preparation and planning will pay off in extra snatches of snooze. If bottle feeding, prepare bottles and formula in advance so that they're ready to go when babies wake to feed in the night. Keep diapers and supplies right nearby so that you can change babies and get them back to bed faster. Consider having the babies sleep in a bassinet (or bassinets) in your room so that you don't have to travel far in the middle of the night. Do whatever it takes to streamline the process and get your babies -- and yourself -- back to bed as quickly as possible.
Parents of twins often receive conflicting advice about when to feed their babies. Feeding on demand, that is presenting the breast or bottle when a baby signals that he is hungry, can result in chaos. One's eating, one's sleeping, and then they switch. It is sometimes more effective to use a more scheduled approach and coordinate your babies' schedules by feeding them both at the same time and putting them to bed together. This works especially well with monozygotic (identical) twins, or babies that are approximately the same weight, who often have similar metabolisms and are more likely to be hungry at the same time. Of course, keep your babies' individual needs in mind. Talk to your pediatrician
to develop an appropriate approach.
Bedtime RitualsAs your infants grow and develop, they'll start to sleep -- and stay awake -- for longer stretches of time. To help develop healthy sleep habits, you can start to develop bedtime rituals. A consistent pattern of activity signals the approach of bedtime, giving the babies a clue that it's time to sleep. These rituals will become a cherished part of the day for both you and the babies, and can be an excellent opportunity for sharing some one-on-one time and bonding. Perhaps start the routine with a bath, a soothing activity that physically relaxes your babies. It's never too early to introduce your babies to books, by reading to them. Or spend a few moments cuddling in the rocking chair before settling them into their cribs.
Monitor and Learn the Cues
Many parents of twins carry over a lot of worry and anxiety about their babies, especially if they were faced with pregnancy complications or recuperating from a premature birth. It's natural to be cautious and concerned over their condition, but many parents lose sleep because they are too in tune with every cry and snuffle as their babies sleep. Use a baby monitor
to keep an eye or ear on your sleeping sweethearts, but don't jump at every noise. With time, you'll learn to interpret your babies' cries and respond only to those that require your attention. Certainly, you should never ignore or neglect a child who needs you in the night, but you'll get more rest if you learn to transition back to sleep as your baby settles back down.
This "Two" Shall Pass
Photo reprinted with permission of Allen.
When the sleeplessness and utter exhaustion seem too much to bear, remember this: it's temporary. Your babies WILL learn to sleep through the night. You WILL again sleep through the night. These precious few months of twinfancy are but a moment in time, not a life sentence. Repeat the multiples mantra, "This TWO shall pass... this two shall pass ... this two shall pass." Take care of yourself during these tough times and give yourself some credit. You've got two babies to care for, and you're managing it quite well. Tomorrow is another day and maybe, just maybe, you'll get some sleep then.
What worked for your twins? Share your strategies for helping get baby twins to sleep - and to stay asleep.