“What’s your bedtime routine?” my best friend asked through the waspish grumbles and owly shrieks of my daughters. My vision was fuzzy. Dingy, you know? From too little sleep and even less cheer. Perceptually compromised as I’d been, it appeared that my best friend had somehow merged her DNA with a Charlie Brown character – imprecise and wobbly on the edges – and had become acutely fluent in Teacherese. Her question translated to womp-womp-womp-womp-womp-womp as Harper slapped me in the temple and June sobbed, inconsolably, face first into the carpet. Up to this point, our bedtime routine had all the planning and execution of the dropping of a cooler at the paws of a hungry, and consequently quite angry, bear. Offer food, run, pray.
We began our bedtime routine that very night, with my best friend (a School Psychologist from Vermont, who’d taken all of the Developmental classes I’d missed in college) looking on. Baths. Bottles. Bed. And, for the first time in three weeks, silence. For four straight hours. I was in new mommy heaven. And if she hadn’t been my best friend before, she would have been bumped right to the top of the list six weeks later, when the bedtime routine still worked like a spell. Or four months later, when our girls (and we) were sleeping a full 10 to 12 hours with no night time feedings, weaned from their binkies and swaddles, and still beaming brightly as neon every morning when I responded to their waking squeals.
Mission Possible: Sleep Training Your Twins
Our bedtime routine, which developed into a modified form of Weissbluth’s Cry It Out (or CIO), has adapted to fit Harper and June’s rapidly changing needs. At nine months old, they are little bed and nap time rockstars. I lay them down and they just know that it’s time for sleeping and, most of the time, they’re ready. I usually hear a touch of grumbling. Maybe some chatter. Often there is a cry or two thrown in, just to test my resolve. But then they’re out and, whether it’s a one-hour nap or the beginning of a 10-hour night cycle, the mommy version of bath, bottle, bed — a little number I like to call “coffee, Flannery O’Conner, dozing” — may begin.
Choosing to sleep train was essential for me, mainly, but also for my husband, to maintain our sanity. Simple things like daily routines with twins is exponentially harder (forget double the work, try four times!) with multiples and mothers of singletons often don’t understand my unyielding insistence on logging those nap hours.
Once we made the decision to sleep train (thanks, again, to my baby guru and best friend), deciding how to go about it was like trying to cut a path through the jungle. Google the term “sleep training” and you come up with somewhere in the neighborhood of one hundred million results. In point three seconds. If you’re already reeling from the normal, everyday tasks, trying to understand, let alone choose, a sleep training method can seem insurmountable.
My best advice, my only advice really, when you boil it all down to bare bones, is to find a peaceful moment and just stop thinking about it. Wait until that magic instance where they’ve both managed to fall asleep at the same time and the house feels like an old west boomtown before a gunfight, and stop worrying about it. Continue to think about it, but rather than trying to figure out whether to sleep train or how to do it, just listen to your intuition.
Ugh. I know. Every mother in history who has leveled up and unlocked an achievement that you desperately covet says, when asked how she got there, “just use your intuition”, or “you know your baby best”. But that seems to hold true for me. It’s just that I have to stop trying to come up with the answer and be willing, instead, to hear it. Next, I’m going to tell you to just open your soul and allow the positive energy to flow through you or something, right? I know. It’s one of those pieces of advice that you need a decoder ring to understand. But all I can say is that I can’t tell you how many times I’ve honestly believed that this was it; I was finally going to lose my mind. And then I just decided. With no idea whether it was the right choice or the wrong one. I just chose a course of action and I’m pretty sure I’m kind of psychic because every time I’ve just made a choice like that, lo and behold, it’s been the right one. For all of us.
I’ve learned many things about babies since then, which seems inevitable really, when you consider the fact that I knew nothing about them to begin with. That you didn’t have to wait, for instance, until they could run through the hallway after a bath, like the dog, hooded towels streaming behind like terrycloth capes on the backs of superheroes in the eternal fight against Body Odor. Just maybe, you know, not rubbing their faces on the floor, or rolling over to have their bellies scratched. Maybe just running. And my best friend no longer looks (or sounds) like Charlie Brown’s teacher. So that, she might tell you, is the real victory in it all.
Stacey Geer is a freelance writer, blogger, and stay-at-home mom to twin girls. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, Mike. Stacey is currently working on a collection of brief personal essays about the perception of mothering multiples versus the reality. When she’s not writing or chasing her girls, she enjoys cooking, eating, and, of course, sleeping. Visit her blog or find her on facebook or twitter.