Gentle Sleep Coaching for Twins from The Sleep Lady
Every parent is amazing, but twin parents? Well, you’re super heroes in my book. New parents are often tired, sleep deprived, and if you have twins? Imagine that exhaustion times two. You get one baby to sleep just in time for the other to wake up. gentle sleep coaching
I find that when I work with twins, their parents are way past tired and have moved on to near-zombie status. That’s where some gentle sleep coaching can really make all the difference. Just like sleep coaching a single baby, sleep coaching twins can help restore order, and sleep, for everyone.
Remember To Respect Your Child’s Individuality
Just because your babies (or children) are twins does not mean that they will have the exact same personality. I have found that often there is one twin that loves to sleep and one that has a harder time, or is possibly more sensitive.
Though this is not always the case, likely each of your babies has their own quirks when it comes to sleep and later to sleep coaching. I remind you of this not to scare you, but so you will respect that they may each take their own time learning how to fall asleep without your help. gentle sleep coaching
Account for Adjusted Age
While we’re talking about your twins’ individual quirks, I’d like to remind you that your babies may have an “adjusted age”. This is just a fancy way of saying that although your twins may be 16 weeks old, if they were born at 38 weeks (which is considered full term for twins), they’re actually 2 weeks “younger.” This may mean that, depending on how early they were born, your twins may not be ready for sleep coaching as soon as singletons. Be sure to get the green light from your pediatrician. gentle sleep coaching
If your twins were born earlier, you have to subtract even more time. And that’s okay! You want to sleep coach your twins when they are ready developmentally so that you have a successful and positive experience.
You likely know which twin is going to be your lighter sleeper, or may struggle with sleep coaching. And then you add in the other twin — the one who sleeps through anything.
When you take into account both of your twins’ personalities, it may not surprise you to hear that sleep coaching twins may take longer than sleep coaching one baby. gentle sleep coaching
They are two different people, after all. When you’re sleep coaching, I always recommend that you address bedtime and overnights first. And though this same recommendation is true for twins, you’ll need to attend to not one, but two children’s needs…at the same time.
Don’t be surprised when it takes longer for a true calm to fall over your nights. It’s coming — but you may have to be a bit more patient than parents who are only coaching one child.
You Need A Sleep Log
If you don’t keep one already, you need to start. A sleep log is highly recommended when you have one child and want to sleep coach. When you have two? It’s mandatory. gentle sleep coaching
In your sleep log, keep track of the following:
•Wake up times
•How your babies fell asleep
•Changes in your babies’ moods
Having a sleep log will allow you to make educated decisions about how to best approach sleep coaching with your twins. I suggest that you have at least 7 days of sleep logs completed before you begin sleep coaching so that you can look for patterns, as well as similarities between your babies. gentle sleep coaching
Think Long Term
There are really only two ways to sleep coach twins: together or separate.
Many parents are worried that their twins will wake each other crying. While this is true in the short term, it is possible for your babies to learn to tune each other out. That being said, sleep coaching generally goes a bit smoother with each twin in a separate room. This is especially true for naps, but it is certainly not a deal breaker. gentle sleep coaching
Often when working with parents of multiples I recommend they sleep coach at night in the same room and separate the children for naps, even if that means using a pack-n-play in a different room. You can have the easier sleeper nap in the pack-n-play and then return to the crib in the shared room once both are napping better. Some parents will keep their twins napping separately until they stop napping altogether.
Do yourself a favor and prepare your twins’ bedroom(s) for sleep. This means that you need to think about room darkening shades and white noise.
Use Your Flexible Schedule
For twin parents, keeping a flexible schedule is perhaps the most important thing you can do to help teach your babies how to sleep. When you keep a flexible schedule, you can help to ensure that your twins don’t become overtired, and you can start to get ahead of sleep.
With twins you aren’t just watching one child for sleepy cues, you’re watching two. I’m sure you’ve already figured that out, but this is where your sleep logs can come in handy. You can use them to find patterns, and watch each child for their individual sleep cues. gentle sleep coaching
Excerpt from “From Good Night, Sleep Tight” by Kim West:
One trick is to make sure they are awake in the morning within about a half hour of each other. Then coordinate morning naps.
For instance, if one twin gets up naturally at 7:00 a.m. and the other gets up at 8:00, wake the sleepyhead at 7:00, too—or maybe let him sleep until 7:30 while you feed the earlier riser. Then they will both be ready to go down for their nap at around 9:00 or 9:30.
Similarly, if one tends to take a longer morning nap, start waking him up earlier, so they remain in sync for the afternoon nap. And that afternoon nap is his catch-up opportunity—the one who needs more sleep can take a longer afternoon snooze, and you will still have a long enough gap between the nap and bedtime so that you can put them down together.
You might have to tweak their schedules periodically because at different times, their sleep needs might diverge a bit more, depending on when each child goes through growth spurts or hits developmental milestones.
Decide On A Sleep Coaching Method
There are really only three different types of sleep coaching.
- Extinction – Weissbluth
- Graduated extinction – Ferber
- Fading – Sleep Lady Shuffle
Obviously, I’m partial to The Shuffle, which involves a high degree of parent involvement and encouragement. I prefer to use a method where the children are not left to cry alone. gentle sleep coaching
Because there are two babies, and only one of you (at least the one of you reading this), sleep coaching is a great time to divide and conquer. To begin, each parent can sit next to a crib or bed, then as the chair moves, only one parent needs to stay in the room. This can help both the twins with the adjustment, as well as give you peace of mind.
But remember, only you know your children. You know which sleep coaching method they will best respond to, so choose accordingly. And once you choose a method, be sure to follow thru with it consistently.
KIM WEST is a mother of two teenage girls and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has been a practicing child and family therapist for more than twenty years. Known as The Sleep Lady® by her clients, over the past seventeen years she has helped tens of thousands of tired parents all over the world get a good night’s sleep without letting their children cry it out alone.
Kim has appeared on the Dr. Phil, Today Show, NBC Nightly News, Good Morning America, TLC’s Bringing Home Baby and CNN, and has been written about in a number of publications including The Wall Street Journal, Associated Press, Baby Talk, Parenting, The Baltimore Sun, USA Today, The Telegraph, The Irish Independent and the Washington Post.
Kim is the author of three books: “GOOD NIGHT, SLEEP TIGHT: The Sleep Lady’s Gentle Guide to Helping Your Child Go to Sleep, Stay Asleep and Wake Up Happy”, the “Good Night, Sleep Tight Workbook” and “52 Sleep Secrets for Babies”.
Dedicated to providing tired parents with excellent sleep advice and coaching, she started training Gentle Sleep Coaches® all over the world in 2010.
For more information about The Sleep Lady, Kim West and Sleep Coaching please check out her website here.