Everyone knows that getting enough sleep while being the parent of a newborn is no easy task (impossible for most!). Far fewer of us can imagine those difficulties times two, or three, or even four! We empathize completely and try to do whatever we can to help all families sleep better. So, today we’re sharing 10 bedtime tips for parents of multiples from Cloud b advisors and sleep experts, Natalie Diaz (mother of twins and founder of Twiniversity) and Kim West (aka “The Sleep Lady”). Here are some of their tried and true recommendations.
Advice from Twiniversity:
Routine- You‘ve probably heard this tip from other parents a million times! Why is routine so universally important? Following a predictable pattern before bedtime helps your babies know what is coming next and so they are relaxed and not surprised about bedtime. Ashlee T. says: “My #1 tip is routine, combined with knowing your babies’ signals. Adjust your expectations around how long it’s likely to take, it will all fall into place.” Yes, it will take some time to establish a routine. The key is to have quiet activities prior to bedtime. So dim the lights and turn off the TV about an hour before it’s time for bed. Try reading a story, singing a song or talk about all the good things of the day. Your voice will not only soothe your babies but it will also help you relax to think of all the reasons you have to be thankful for your sweet bundles. Why not try to include some of the following your bedtime routine as well?
White Noise- What is white noise and why do babies like it? White noise is a constant non-rhythmic sound. Think of how easily babies fall asleep in the car. Why does this work? Once a baby’s ears start to develop at 18 weeks gestation, babies hear the constant heartbeat of their mother and twin, among many other things. There is a lot of noise inside the womb. On top of that, babies who have spent some time in the NICU are prone to sleep better with white noise since the NICU is a noisy place. So skip the car ride and bring some white noise into your home to help sooth them to sleep. You can purchase white noise machines or save some money and use things from around the house like a fan (make sure it’s not blowing directly on the babies or is anywhere within baby’s reach), or a humidifier/dehumidifier machine. These can be set just outside the door to their room to be effective. Or you can even download white noise MP3 files off the internet for little or no cost.
Have a Full Belly- You know how you always want to take a nap after you eat a big meal? Babies are more prone to drift to sleep on a full tummy as well. And this will help them sleep longer before they wake up for a “midnight” snack. If your babies drink from a bottle, make sure to never let them go to bed with it; this can be damaging to their teeth and health.
Transitional Object- This could be a special blankie (nothing bigger than a small soft cloth with silk edges), stuffed animal, or even a pacifier. Find something that is comforting for your baby. This will be a good object to help them fall back to sleep after a late night feeding, diaper change or if they just wake up scared. Laura W. says “I thought using a lovey/transitional object was a hoax until I tried it. Trust me, it works!”
Consistent Sleeping Arrangement- Every family has sleeping arrangement that works for them. Some choose to co-sleep, others choose to have their twins sleep in the same crib together, other twins sleep in their own cribs or even their own rooms to help promote good sleeping. The key is to have your babies fall asleep where they will stay for the night. This will help them not be frightened if they wake up in a different room than they fell asleep in. If you have them fall asleep in their own crib or room, they will become accustom to putting themselves to sleep rather than having someone to put them to sleep every night. But again every family has their own method of sleeping that works for them.
Swaddle- Why do most infants love swaddling? Swaddling reminds babies of being inside the tight belly of their mother where they had little wiggle room, so no wonder that they love to be wrapped up snug. Make sure you use only light blankets. Make sure the room is not too warm since being wrapped up will keep your baby plenty warm.
Here are 4 more great tips from Kim West, The Sleep Lady:
Be Conscious of Wake Up Times – Try to wake your babies at the same time each morning, or allow them to wake one another to help get them on the same sleep schedule early on. If you find that one baby is consistently waking earlier, you may want to feed him, and then wake the other one. However, be sure that you are waking the babies up within 30 to 45 minutes of each other.
Consider Baby Room-sharing – Remember, your babies have been sharing your womb for nine months, and they are soothed by each other, so sharing a room isn’t a huge leap. I’ve even had some families that allowed their multiples to sleep in the same crib until they learned to roll over.
You may be concerned that the babies will wake each other during the night, if they make noise, but this is usually not the case. Often, if you find that you have one baby who is consistently waking up and crying frequently, parents feel the need to rush to the rescue because they are worried that their other baby will wake, but that can actually create more disruption. It’s quite possible that your babies will be sharing a room for a while, so getting them used to each other’s sounds is important.
That’s not to say that you cannot go in and soothe your baby who is upset, you should, and gently help them calm down so that they can go back to sleep. Remember that with multiples, you are never just dealing with one baby, so the sooner that your children get used to each other’s cries, the sooner they will be able to tune them out.
Think about this: we all eventually sleep through the train that passes our house, or our partner’s snoring (ah hem…beg them to get that checked out please.), or the neighbor’s dog who constantly barks at 3 a.m. for exactly 45 minutes. Your babies will learn to sleep through each other’s cries, too.
Now, if you have a baby who is incredibly loud and waking very frequently, this can be very disruptive for your other babies. If this is the case, I would encourage you to consider separating them until your disruptive sleeper is sleeping soundly through the night, or only waking for a night feed if needed. At that point, you can return the babies to their shared room.
Separate Naps – While I generally encourage room-sharing for multiples at night, daytime sleep is a different story. Many parents are surprised to find that most babies struggle a bit with naps. Imagine already not wanting to miss anything, and then mom puts you AND your playmate down for a nap. Instant playtime! Not exactly what mom had in mind, however. For some families, this tactic works well throughout childhood, for others, they find that they only need to separate their multiples for a few days or weeks.
Nap coaching can be a challenge with one baby, and nap coaching multiples presents a bit of a challenge, especially if your babies nap in separate rooms. If you are lucky, you may be able to get one down to sleep so that you can focus your attention on the other baby. If this isn’t the case in your house (and for most parents it isn’t), you’ll have to rotate between the babies, soothing and calming one, and then rotating to the other. You can continue this pattern, every 10 minutes or so throughout naptime (I know that you’ll be tired, but stick to it!).
Different Sleep Schedules – From Good Night, Sleep Tight: Twins can have different sleep needs, but they shouldn’t be wildly different, not more than an hour off from average. Some researchers have found that identical twins are more likely to need the same amount of sleep than fraternal twins. Either way, you may not get them on precisely the same schedule, but you do want them to be similar.
If you find that this is true of your babies, make sure that you are waking the babies within 30 minutes of each other, and then continue your day on a flexible schedule. The same holds true if you find that one of your babies is taking exceptionally long naps. You can wake him when your other baby gets up, and then allow a longer afternoon nap that won’t interfere with bedtime.
Find a Bedtime Routine That Works – With multiples, bedtimes can be a challenge. You get the diapers changes, the pajamas on, and then you try to get some snuggle time, or read a story. I’ve spoken to many parents whom have said that they try to get their children in their lap or chair, only to have one stay and the other run off. And you know what? That’s okay.
From Good Night, Sleep Tight: I usually tell parents of twins to close the door, get the pajamas on, and just read. If one gets up, keep reading, try to engage her, but don’t force it. When it’s time for lights-out, it’s into the crib whether they’ve paid attention to the story or not.
Do you have tips that have helped in your home? PLEASE share them in the comments! We know other parents will truly appreciate it!