With the clocks changed this past weekend and having lost that precious hour of sleep, I’ve been reminded once again of how important sleep is to me. The girls are now 10 months and 9 months old, and we are lucky that they are currently snoozing 12 hours through the night with no wake-ups.
Once sleep has returned to your life after having babies, I think it’s easy to forget how challenging and frustrating those first few months are with so little sleep. It has been about three months now that the girls have both been sleeping those 12 hours but it seems like it has been so much longer. I thought it would be fun to track the progress of our girls’ sleep through these first 10 months.
Our experience: For roughly the first two months with the girls, we were at their mercy. The baby books that I had read during my pregnancy and the advice that I received from doctors and family and friends suggested that you simply have to wake up when the babies wake up in those first few weeks. So we did.
With two babies, we would alternate babies each night; one night I would be responsible for Lilly and Mr. Starfish for Audrey, and vice-versa the next night. On the advice of many of my twin mom friends, we also decided to hire a part-time night nanny for those first few weeks; she came three nights a week and I think I actually cried (okay, sobbed) a few times out of pure happiness and relief when I realized that she was scheduled to work a night that I had forgotten.
What we did right: We relied on help from so many different people. Apart from hired help in the form of the night nanny, we had a lot of family members stay with us. When they offered to take one of the babies for nighttime feedings, we let them. This was so generous of our family members, and definitely something that I plan to pay forward when the time comes.
I also pumped so that nighttime feedings could be handled by people other than me. I have no regrets in this area. It was somewhat frustrating that even on nights “off,” I still had to wake to pump several times during the night but that’s just how the cookie crumbles for a new pumping mama.
What I would do differently: The first two months are all about survival. I survived, my husband survived, and our babies survived. I wouldn’t do anything differently.
Our experience: At our 2-month pediatrician update, we were advised to stop swaddling. We then switched to the Magic Merlin suits and got pretty good sleep out of the girls in those puffy suits. Lilly had a stronger preference for the Merlin and slept for a 7 hour stretch the first time she wore the suit and I remember being astounded and thrilled.
I noticed daytime sleep started to shift as we progressed from 2 to 3 months, with more awake time and the opportunity to introduce a loose nap schedule. As for the nights, we got down to one wake with Lilly but her sister Audrey still woke up 2-3 times during these months. For that reason, we kept the girls sleeping at night in separate rooms for fear that they would wake each other up. We gave up the night nanny, and Mr. Starfish and I continued to alternate babies each night.
What we did right: Our daytime nanny started around the 3-month mark and she took one look at the nap situation and shook her head. The girls were napping in our living room in swings and rock ‘n plays and she promptly moved all of their daytime naps to their cribs in their nursery. She also started moving them toward a nap schedule, and she put in place simple nap routines (Merlin suit, dark room, sound machine) that the girls quickly started to associate with napping. She also did not hover – when it was naptime, she would follow the routine and then she would leave the room and shut the door. To this day, visitors are always astounded that when it’s naptime, we only put the girls in their room and shut the door and they fall asleep on their own.
What I would do differently: I might not introduce the Merlin suits again (see post here). I also would try to get the girls sleeping in their cribs in the same room at night at this earlier stage. We were keeping them in separate rooms (one in the nursery, one with us in our bedroom) and this resulted in more sleep interruptions for us and maybe for them too. I also recall our night nanny at the end telling us again and again that the girls needed to sleep in their cribs in their room at night.
Our experience: Lilly hit the 4-month sleep regression pretty hard. This was a really tough stage because we had come to rely on Lilly being our “good” sleeper and suddenly she was waking up 2-3 times. Making it worse was that Audrey still was also waking up 2-3 times.
I would say that this stage of baby sleep for me was probably the worst. I hadn’t expected the regression and had gotten used to more and better sleep, and I didn’t like that being taken away from me. Meanwhile, family help and the night nanny were gone, and Mr. Starfish had started to ramp up on work travel. These were hard nights and I hit my max of 4 cups of coffee these days!
What we did right: Despite our exhaustion, we started to implement a bedtime routine in the third month. This included a song from their crib mobile, and four bedtime stories. Mr. Starfish and I alternated bedtime from the start so that the other person got a much-needed break. With two babies against one adult, this meant no holding or rocking to sleep but instead we did the routine standing between their cribs. We left the room and allowed the girls to go to sleep on their own. This remains our routine today and it works great for us.
What I would do differently: Expect the regression! I think that if I had known it would be coming, I could have set expectations better and not gotten so frustrated by this stage.
Our experience: We transitioned out of the Merlin suits around the 4-month mark and the girls started to roll onto their tummies at night around this time. While this made me nervous, I was reassured by Lilly’s physical therapist that it was normal and okay as long as we continued to put them to sleep on their backs.
Naps at this point were very scheduled and the girls took four daytime naps of about 45-90 minutes. This was somewhat frustrating because we tried our best to have the girls sleep in their cribs and this limited our time outside of the house a great deal.
When Audrey was about five months old, we stumbled upon her magic sleep solution. One night we put her in fleece footed pajamas and that night she slept 12 hours straight. Of course, we were ecstatic and when it was repeated the next night, we high-tailed it over to Carter’s and stocked up on fleece footed pajamas. Audrey has slept 12 hours through the night ever since.
What we did right: We selected loveys for the girls around this time and started to introduce the loveys at daytime naps. While they weren’t too interested in them at the beginning (and Audrey still isn’t that tied to her lovey), they helped tremendously down the line as a source of comfort. Today at 10 months, I am so, so happy that Lilly has her lovey to help her calm down at times.
What I would do differently: I don’t have too many regrets about this stage.
Our experience: These months corresponded to holiday travel for us. We tried our very best to keep the girls’ routines and sleep environments as consistent as possible. We used pack ‘n plays as their cribs. We brought their loveys, their bedtime books, and their fleece footed pajamas just like they have at home.
One problem that I had to solve was that we have black-out window coverings in the girls’ nursery and so they are used to sleeping in a very dark room. To solve for this while traveling, we actually set up their pack ‘n plays in windowless bathrooms! This worked out great when staying at my mom’s house and also on our vacation in a hotel.
Also around the six-month mark, we eliminated one of the four daytime naps and dropped down to three. I think it was also around this time that we stopped using the sound machine in their room (honestly this was not well thought-out; instead, the batteries died, no one replaced them, and the girls were still sleeping fine so we stopped using it).
What we did right: Right after Thanksgiving, Lilly was approaching her 7-month birthday but still waking up for a nighttime bottle. We knew she didn’t need the bottle, and I had vivid memories of our night nanny telling me months earlier that babies can usually sleep independently through the night by 6 months. Mr. Starfish and I were tired of this night waking even though it only took about 15 minutes. We decided to eliminate it through cry-it-out.
The first night Lilly woke up and cried for about 30-40 minutes for her bottle. I watched the clock closely and hoped she would go back to sleep independently. She did. The next night, she woke again. This time she cried for 10 minutes and then went back to sleep independently. The next night forward, she did not wake.
What I would do differently: I would have cut out Lilly’s nighttime feeding at 6 months or maybe even 5 months. It was so easy to break her of it, and we shouldn’t have waited so long.
Beyond 7 months, things have continued on for us pretty well. Both girls sleep through the night. Bedtime is 6:30 PM, with stories and songs starting at 6:15. They are woken up at 6:30 in the morning. We keep the exact same schedule on the weekends as the weekdays. Around 9 or 10 months, we cut the third nap. They currently nap in the early morning and in the early afternoon. The most recent evolution has been the nanny’s adjustment to switching the afternoon nap to more of a blocked quiet time. In the past, when one of the girls woke up, we or the nanny would go to them and get them out of their cribs. Now, instead of responding immediately when they wake, they have two hours of blocked time to nap and/or play quietly in their cribs from 1-3 in the afternoon. I have really, really liked this adjustment so far.
How does our sleep progression compare to your baby’s sleep progression? Any tips for what lies ahead, especially any coming regressions?!