When our boys were little bitty and we were so tired we literally thought we could not go on, I separately asked two of my friends with twins when their babies started sleeping through the night. They both had almost verbatim answers, “Well, I’m probably not the person you want to ask. I think our twins just weren’t good sleepers. I’m sure your boys will sleep through the night before ours did.”
This was a bit disconcerting to hear from both of them, but I hoped they were right and they just had kiddos that weren’t prone to sleeping. At about three months, we decided we wanted to do some sleep training. We knew this was earlier than many people choose to sleep train, but we felt like it was the right time. I read Mrs. Bee’s post about the best time to sleep train and I pored over Mrs. High Heel’s posts about early sleep training. We had two goals: (1) we wanted to be able to put the boys down awake and have them put themselves to sleep, and (2) we wanted them to get at least one long stretch of sleep. We decided we weren’t going to feed them until at least 2:00 a.m. We knew they could go this long because they both had done this a couple of times, and we got the thumbs up from our pediatrician that they were big enough to sleep through the night if they were so inclined.
We decided to do cry-it-out with checks. We planned to go in after 5 minutes, another 10 minutes, and then 20 minutes. Our personal maximum was 45 minutes of fussing (not full on crying). We waiting until a Friday night, and then we went through the bedtime routine we had been doing since the boys were little: bath, bottle, sing Jesus Loves Me, give a kiss and say goodnight.
Night 1: It was AWFUL. Terrible. Horrible. I felt like the worst mother on the planet. They both cried off and on for about 45 minutes. We did our checks as planned, but it seemed like they would just catch a new wave of energy when we went in their room. They might have only been fussing some at the beginning of the check, but when we left, it would escalate to full on wailing. We decided the checks were not going well, but I still couldn’t give up checking on them at all. So, we decided to let them fuss for about 20 minutes and then do a check. This worked better, but in all candor, I think they would have cried less if we hadn’t gone in at all. After the initial cry fest, Finn fell asleep and slept sweetly and soundly until about 3 a.m. Elliot, on the other hand, alternatively cried for a while and slept for short periods the entire night. We were very, very tired people the next morning.
Night 2: They both cried for about 30 minutes at bedtime and then went to sleep. Elliot slept like an angel. Not wanting to miss out on the fun, however, Finn decided it was his turn to cry all night long. We held strong, continued to do our 20 minuted checks and made it through the night. Both boys ate at about 2:30 a.m. the second night.
Night 3: By Sunday night, we were so tired, and Mr. Blue had to go to work the next day. If we didn’t see significant improvement, we were considering halting our efforts and trying again when they were older. We did our bedtime routine, and they fussed for about 10 minutes before going soundly to sleep. We decided to go to bed immediately since we knew we were probably in for a long night. The crying started, and we both sat upright in bed, fumbled for our phones and saw that it was 5:30!!! I cannot express how amazing it felt to sleep from 9-5:30. GLORIOUS, people!
The boys continued to sleep from about 8:30-5 for the next three weeks. We were riding high on the sleep train. Then, we started seeing more and more wake-ups in the middle of the night and they were getting earlier and earlier. We had our 4-month appointment about a week after they started waking up more again. Our ped said it was probably just a 4-month sleep regression and encouraged us to just do a little more sleep training. The boys got sick that week. Followed by a continuous cycle of getting sick, visiting the doctor, starting to get better, a day or two of feeling good, and then the first symptoms of the next round of sickness. It was brutal, and all thoughts of sleep training were put on hold until we could get healthy again.
By 6 months, we were back to the point of feeling like we were going to die if we didn’t get some sleep. The boys had continued to be able to put themselves to sleep at bedtime, so that wasn’t an issue. We just needed to drop the night wakings, during which we had been giving them a bottle to get them back to sleep quickly. We felt confident they did not really need the feedings because we knew how many ounces a day they were getting of milk and solids.
The boys were on a blissful healthy streak, and so we decided to do some sleep training a week or so before our delayed 6-month appointment. The only new big problem to tackle was since starting solids, the boys were having frequent dirty diapers in the middle of the night. We knew the checks last time resulted in upsetting the boys more, so we decided to try more of an extinction method. We formulated our plan: Baby starts crying, and we go to a smell check to see if they have a dirty diaper, change it if they do and put them back to bed or if clean, just pat them for a couple minutes and then leave. Finn woke up earlier than normal. We did a diaper check and he was okay, so I patted him for a bit and then kissed him and left the nursery. He did not think that was acceptable mommy behavior and let me know about it. For a Very. Long. Time. Such a long time in fact, that I cannot bring myself to write it down. Suffice it to say, those people who talk about their kids not crying for more than 20 minutes are not us.
Unfortunately, I know exactly who they get their stubbornness and determination from, so I know they come by it honestly. This was a terrible night, and I finally gave up and fed Finn when we hit the length of crying that I just couldn’t go past.
At our 6-month appointment, we talked to our ped about the sleep issues. He told us he thought it was okay for them to cry (not all out wail, but cry/fuss) for up to an hour, but that he wouldn’t go longer than that. We had another round of sickness after that (seriously, someone please, please tell me that the second year of daycare is a healthier year!), but now we seem to be doing better again.
This week we’ve been tackling sleep again. Monday, Finn woke up at 1:21. Mr. Blue changed his diaper, held and patted him for a while, and then laid him down. He was an unhappy camper and cried off and on for about 50 minutes. Somewhere in all the fussing, Elliot decided his sleep environment was not as peaceful as it should be and woke up to tell Finn and us that we should really be more quiet. We checked his diaper, patted them both for a little while, and then left to the heartbreaking sound of tandem crying. Eventually, Finn fell asleep, and Elliot rallied, determined to stay up at least as long as Finn. About 3:00 both boys were finally soundly sleeping again. They both woke up at 4:30, and we fed them a bottle and put them back to bed. They slept until 6 and were up for the day.
Tuesday and Wednesday night, Elliot slept all night. Once he slept until 5:15 and once until 5:50! Finn has been trying to get some teeth to cut through, and both nights he woke at about 3:00, crying hard. I could tell that it wasn’t his typical cry when he’s just tired and needs to go back to sleep, so we did not let him cry it out. I was still determined to not revert back into our crutch of giving him a bottle, though. I suspected his teeth were bothering him, so both nights we gave him some teething tablets and one night we gave him Tylenol as well. He wasn’t happy being rocked or laying down. The only thing that was making him marginally happy was being walked around. Eventually, I laid him in the swing (which we never use anymore day or night, but thankfully have not put up yet) and he went right to sleep for the last couple hours before Elliot woke up to eat. The next night I also had to eventually resort to the swing, which knocked him out immediately again.
Last night, however, everything came together, and no one made a peep until 4:50. Finn needed a few pats on the back and fussed for a couple minutes and then went back to sleep until 5:30 when we fed them both. I’m under no illusions that every night will be like last night, but I think we’re slowly moving in the right direction. I feel pretty confident that we are well on our way to being completely night weaned, and if we stay healthy and Mr. Blue and I stick with the plan, I think the boys will be consistently sleeping through the night soon . . . probably just in time for that 9-month sleep regression that I hear rumors about!
One thing that our adventures in sleep training twins has taught me is that you have to be flexible. Sometimes one approach doesn’t work. Sometimes you need to drop the plan all together and wait until you have healthier babies. Sometimes you need to use the blasted swings taking up 5 square feet of your kitchen. I think the most important thing is to know your goals going into it and be consistent about that, i.e. even when Finn was waking up with teething pain, we didn’t fall back on our “give him a bottle, so he’ll sleep” crutch. At the end of the day, you can survive on very little sleep for a lot longer than you think you can, but it sure isn’t fun.
Sleep training twins has some unique challenges, and if we had more room, I would definitely have considered separating them while we sleep-trained so they wouldn’t wake each other up. Also, sometimes, you can tell the baby who is awake is trying to wake up/get to the other one. Finn will often be facing Elliot’s crib, talking and squawking at him, while reaching through the crib slats. We don’t have the room to separate them, so all four of us just have to deal with it and make it work.
If a new mom of twins asked me when the Baby Dudes started sleeping through the night, I’m pretty confident that my response would be, “Well, I’m probably not the person you want to ask. I think our twins just weren’t good sleepers. I’m sure your babies will sleep through the night before ours did.” :)
Did you sleep train or just tough it out? If you did sleep train, did you have to change your plans or do it more than once?