I think one of the biggest stresses in my life as a mother is my children’s sleep. I am going to guess that’s because it directly relates to my own sleep. If baby’s not sleeping, more often than not momma is not sleeping either. As any mom knows those first couple months can be brutal. Now just imagine it times two or three. When multiples get thrown in the mix, it’s even harder to cope with.
The first thing we struggled with was where would three babies sleep? We decided right away we didn’t want the new babies in with our oldest son because he was going to be getting to the point where he might be sleeping through the night (about 9 months old). So we decided to have them in a separate room. No more office/guest bedroom for us. With twins there are a lot of questions. Do we need two cribs right away? Should we use a double bassinet first? Can they be together? We decided for us we would use a double bassinet for a few months then put them into one crib until they were waking each other up, and then we would separate them into two cribs. Eventually, when our twins were sleeping through the night then all three cribs could be in the same room.
Once the twins were born we realized that all the planning in the world was not going to prepare us for night time with three infants. Our twins were very colicky and had some reflux issues. So the lovely double bassinet rarely got used. Instead they slept in their swings in our bedroom. I think I would usually get an hour in between feedings during the night. Finally I figured out how to nurse them lying down. I would take each one to bed and let them nurse until the other twin woke up and then switch them. I did this all night every night for about 3 months. When they were born my older son James was only 8.5 months, so he was still waking up for a bottle at night. My husband was always in charge of James.
Three months in they were starting to sleep a little better and James was sleeping through the night. We decided to move them together into their crib in their own room. I felt more confident with nursing at night and it was not as often anymore, so I felt ready to have them out of our room. At this point I was still nursing them to sleep and putting them down asleep. It would take a good hour to get them fully asleep so they could be moved. I was definitely getting tired of spending my whole evening nursing and sitting on the couch with the babies on me waiting for them to fall asleep. Then when they woke up at night they would only go back to sleep next to me and nursing. I was getting so exhausted I could hardly function.
At six months I finally let my husband talk me into sleep training them. We also separated them into their own cribs but they were right next to each other so they could still see each other and sleep next to each other. Now, we didn’t get the chance to read many parenting books so we went with the old fashioned CIO method. With all four children sleep training has been my husband’s domain. I am a softy and will cave every time so he was in charge of these things.
I would nurse the boys in the evening and my husband would take them to bed still awake but sleepy. He told them good night and walked out. I immediately put my headphones on and went to read a book. My husband checked in on them every 15 minutes to calm them down. The first couple of nights took between 45 minutes and one hour. After three days it took less and time. By the end of a week it was taking less than five minutes for the boys to fall asleep. When we did this, they went from feeding constantly at night to feeding two times a night. By about 9 months they were down to one feeding a night and sleeping through the night by a year. When the twins dropped some of their night feedings, I was able to nurse them out of our bed and just get them back to sleep. My husband and I both sleep better when the kids are not in bed with us so this was a huge step.
At a year we had to make a little adjustment as we moved all three boys into the same room. It took a little time to get our oldest used to his brothers in the room with him, but in about a week they didn’t seem to bother him anymore. We would read to the boys and let them have some milk. Then all three would get their teeth brushed and they all went down fairly easy. (Until a few months later when my twins learned how to hop from crib to crib, but that’s for another post.)
People ask me all the time if I wished we had trained them earlier, but I really think we did it at a good time and to be honest it was more about me than them. I was feeling more confident as a mother of twins. I knew that their growth and nutrition was OK. I was more comfortable with breastfeeding them and knowing they were full. All of these things made me able to let them cry a little and learn to fall asleep. If I had done it any earlier I would have been so frightened that they were still hungry or just not tired or any other number of things besides the fact that they just needed to sleep. I also get asked if it is different with twins than single babies. My answer would be a little. They may have woken each other up a bit more, but with our two other single children it seemed like it always took about a week to get a new habit in place and that was no different with the twins. It seems like a rough week but the benefits of a better night’s sleep are so wonderful it’s absolutely worth it.
ed. note: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no bumpers or anything in cribs for babies under 1 year.