As a twin mom I am constantly asked, “How do you do it?” My answer? “I live and die by the schedule!” Setting a feeding and sleeping schedule for twins is really non-negotiable. YOU need breaks! The only way to get those breaks is to make them happen. Make a plan, gather your tools for success, and with time and (a LOT) of patience you will get those breaks and start to feel like a normal person again.
Believe me, I’ve been there! When your twins are so little you want nothing more in the world but to let them just live by their own internal clock and instincts. But the reality is rough. You are caring for two babies at once. You do not have the luxuries that singleton parents do. It is really hard to cope with that idea! You want to be able to let your kid keep sleeping even if they didn’t wake to eat. You want them to be able to feed on-demand, when they are hungry, like all other babies get to do!
Sorry, friend. Having twins is an incredible experience… and this is one of the drawbacks. But I survived it and so will you! And to those of you who raised your twins without a schedule, I bow down to you. Seriously, I am nowhere near as patient as you and I truly “don’t know how you did it”! But if you are as exhausted and impatient as I am, here are my expert tips for getting your twins on a feeding and sleeping schedule:
Buy a thick spiral notebook (I’m talking 3-subject!) When a baby wakes, change them, feed them and then write it down. Record their name, the time the feeding started, amount eaten, and if they pooped and/or peed. After a day or so you will see a pattern emerge in the journal. This will help you establish how often they are eating and what kind of pattern you can set. It’s also easier to remember everything that’s going on when you are in a sleep-deprived haze. Especially if you have others coming in to help and they shoo you away to take a nap or shower – they can look at the journal and know exactly where you are in the schedule without having to bother you. Ask your pediatrician how much and how often they should be eating. Your pediatrician will LOVE this “poop journal” too – bring it to doctor visits so they can look it over and see how well your babies are eating.
When one eats, the other eats.
If Baby #2 isn’t up by now, go wake them and repeat the same steps. I know, wake up a sleeping child? Isn’t that against the laws of nature? Do it. Keep them on the same routine. You will thank me later!
Wake them up.
If both babies are still sleeping and it’s time to eat, wake them both up. This was our rule for daytime feedings. At night we let them keep sleeping so we could get some sleep too. Then we would start the schedule over again at 7 am.
Use your props.
Professionals need their tools to do their job. Your job is to get these babies to eat and sleep in the same routine and you need to use your own tools to do this! My favorite props were swaddling sleep sacks (with extra-snug Velcro), noise machines, blackout curtains, pacifiers, and humidifiers. These items will make the room nice and dark, create a soothing environment for sleep, and help keep you on that schedule. Set the stage for success and use your props to get you through!
When the babies are very little they will probably have an easier time napping in the same room (or even the same crib!) But as they get older this might change and you’ll need to adjust the sleeping arrangements. When my twins turned 8 months old they started waking each other up from naps and it caused them to not get the quality sleep they needed. We were forced to separate them for naps. Our house only has two bedrooms so we kept the lighter sleeper in his own crib and the deeper sleeper was moved to a pack n’ play in our master bedroom. It worked! They still sleep like this at 13 months and while it would be nice for them to nap in the same room, I am in no hurry to do this! Now they each get 2 solid hours of naps a day and are much more happy and alert when awake.
As your twins grow the schedule will change. What worked one week might not work the next. Try to be patient and realize there will be many setbacks even after your schedule is set. Expect to have to readjust your schedule as your kids go through different phases and as they grow. Similarly, once your twins are sleeping through the night expect that nighttime sleep will regress now and then, due to illness, teething, growth spurts, or sometimes for no reason at all! My boys were sleep-trained at 6 months old, but even now at 13 months they often wake up once or twice a night. I thought sleep training would be a magic wand – that was a big eye-opener! Of course, there are so many more nuances to getting a schedule down – nuances that will be unique to your children and your situation. Be consistent with whatever is working in the moment and follow your instinct – always! You will get a routine down and when you do it will all be worth it.
Julie Burt Nichols is an infertility and IVF advocate and a full-time working mother to twin boys, Desmond and Alec, born on Halloween. She shares the adventure of twin life with her adorable husband, Michael, and her sassy Shepherd mix rescue dog, Willa.
Are you a new twin parent? Check out Natalie Diaz’s new book “What To Do When You’re Having Two: The Twin Survival Guide From Pregnancy Through the First Year”, available in stores now!
The rate of twin births has risen 79 percent over the last three decades, and continues to increase. A mom of fraternal twins and a national guru on having two, Natalie Diaz launched Twiniversity, a supportive website with advice from the twin-trenches.
What to Do When You’re Having Two is the definitive how-to guide to parenting twins, covering how to make a Birth Plan checklist, sticking to one sleep schedule, managing double-duty breastfeeding, stocking up on all the necessary gear, building one-on-one relationships with each child, and more.
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