Twins are a blessing, and while your hearts are full, your hands are often fuller. Parents of multiples need to understand how to coordinate two or more sleeping schedules & arrangements, and whether to keep babies sleeping together or apart at nighttime. What happens if they wake at different times? Should they sleep together or apart? Are twins less likely to sleep through the night? Luckily, most of the same rules that apply for a singular baby often stay true for parents with twins, triplets, quads or more. Here are the sleep basics you need to know if you are raising twins yourself.
SLEEPING ARRANGEMENTS: I love to encourage clients to allow twins or multiples to share a room (some even prefer the same crib!) at first; they were "womb mates" remember! As roommates, they will often stir, rollover, or make other small noises at night- try not to rush in right away. Many parents I've worked with fear that one will wake the other (and it's not uncommon), but giving them at least a minute or so to resettle before rescuing them may reward you in a big way- they fall back asleep, and the other remains sleeping peacefully.
EXPECTATIONS: Almost all multiples and some twins are born early, at the doctor's suggestion or for medical reasons. It's important to gauge sleep in these cases off their "adjusted age", meaning counting from the due date, not the actual birth date. Most twins have the capability to sleep 8-10 hours by 4 months old, and all night by 6 months old.
SCHEDULES: Wake the twins or multiples at the same time every morning so they can get into sync with one another's internal clock. This will help immensely down the road when daytime sleep consolidates around 6 months of age, when you're able to enact a "clock schedule." If one had a tough night, try to only allow him or her to sleep an extra 30 minutes later so you can keep fairly close to your normal schedule and routine. Same for naps- if one twin likes to take long morning naps unlike his sibling, try waking him at the same time and allowing them to catch up at the afternoon nap so you can get a much needed break! Keeping a sleep log during the first year can prove to be extremely helpful.
NAPPING: Naps can be hard on babies whom share a room with a playmate! I suggest keeping multiples together at night for sleep, but separating them at naps. It can be difficult for children to fall asleep if they have distractions. If your children are comforted by your presence, one parent can attempt to sit between the cribs while the babies fall asleep.
SLEEP COACHING: If one twin has more trouble than the other, try moving the "good" sleeper out of the room for a few days while working on any sleep habits with the other. Once some good habits have been established, the good sleeper can return to the shared room. Often times if a baby already sleeps fairly well at night, he or she will do fine in a separate room for a brief period of time. And of course, document each twin's milestone with our favorite "I Slept Through the Night for the First Time" Milestone cards available for twins/babies/toddlers- probably the cutest set out there!
In the end, all other rules apply, including:
- Ensure children are swaddled (0-6 months) for nighttime and nap times
- White noise is continuously running
- Room is completely dark
- The same sleeping environment is encouraged (meaning one place over and over, or to start, at least one nap in the desired sleep place per day)
- Understand the Wake windows by age
- Keep bedtime early
- Pause before rushing in to see if child can resettle on their own first
- Feed upon WAKING from sleep, not before (bedtime is the exception)