The time has come! I'm telling you alllllll about sleep revolving around my twin girls. I asked you all via Instagram to send me your questions regarding sleep and boy do you have questions! So I am going way back. I mean back to when they were babies and when we first sleep trained them at 4 months old. Here are some things I'll cover in this post! (You may need a glass of wine....this is a VERY LONG post!)
-Where and when the girls slept at different ages
-What they slept with at different ages
-How we got them on a good nap schedule
-Going down from 3 to 2 to 1 nap
-How to maintain good sleep habits
-Dealing with two babies in the same room
Now let me first say that with twins, time is seriously a blur. It's going to be pretty challenging to remember what we did exactly that long ago. I know it's really not that long ago, but it seems once a new stage comes along I forget everything about the previous stage. I'll look at the times I posted certain pictures and watch old videos to get a better sense for the timeline! I hope you all find this super helpful. Keep in mind this is what's worked for us, and I'm fully aware that every parent and child is very different! But this is for those who are wanting a little guidance in the sleep department. Our girls are really good sleepers and I owe a lot of that to sleep training early on.
First, let me tell you about the girls current sleep schedule then we can backtrack.
Wake up: 6:30-7:00
Nap 1:00-3:00/4:00 (This has been changing a lot lately. Sometimes they sleep for three hours but lately it's gone back to two. If I put them down around one, they seem to sleep longer than when they go to sleep around 12/12:30.)
For their naps they no longer wear a sleep blanket, just at night for added warmth. For naps and night, they get three binkies in case they loose one and have to find another in the dark. I keep a medium blanket in their crib to make it a little more cozy. I also give them a soft bear and blankie which they can't go to sleep without. It's cute because Violet loves her blankie and June loves her bear. I have used a sound machine from the beginning and play the white noise setting. We even take it when traveling. I don't use any black out shades, just close the ones we have. I think this helps them get adjusted to sleeping no matter how dark or bright it is outside.
We always put them down to sleep fully awake. We zip them up in their blankets and they fall asleep within 10 minutes. They rarely cry. If they do it's for a few minutes and then they are out for the night! Most nights they don't make a peep all night long. Sometimes they will cry a little but then fall back asleep shortly after. I think it's probably a nightmare or they are looking for a binkie. I have a monitor on them so I can check on them without having to go in their room. I'll watch them for a little bit to make sure they are okay and usually they will soothe themselves back to sleep. That's my biggest sleep tip, don't run into their room the second they cry. To key is to teach them to soothe themselves to sleep so they don't have to rely on you.
Okay so starting from when they were just born. We first kept them in our room and they both shared this bassinet. And then for naps during the day they'd sleep in their rock n plays. I quickly learned that they slept much better in the rock n plays so I moved those into our bedroom and the bassinet out to the living room. I kinda liked them sleeping next to each other for naps. I thought it would make them feel safe and bond with each other. But since this bassinet is made for one baby, the two of them grew out of it super fast because I only had one.
We started swaddling them because we watched a movie called Happiest Baby on the Block and it changed everything! They started to sleep much better and longer when swaddled. The video has a lot of other tips that are great too. They also were sleeping a ton at this stage and would usually sleep the same amount. They still have pretty much identical sleep patterns. If you have fraternal twins, I know it can be a lot harder to sync them up. We also were giving them WubbaNubs when they'd sleep. They stayed in place with the little animal attached and also gave them something soft to hold. The giraffe was my favorite because it was the easiest to prop up.
We also shared a lot of these sweet moments. Getting one on one time with twins is hard so try to cherish little naps like this! We actually moved our girls in to their own room after a month. We weren't getting any sleep because they'd make little noises all night long. After we did that we all seemed to sleep better. We just moved their rock n plays into their room, which is just down the hall. I don't even need the sound turned on our monitor because I can hear them.
Those first few months involved a lot of crying and we needed something to keep them happy during the day so we found these Fisher Price swings which they absolutely loved. (Sadly they were recalled!! So I hate even mentioning them to you but I have to because the girls spent sooooo much time in them. But I'm sure there are others like this that work great as well! These ones bounced up and down, moved side to side, vibrated and made sounds!!)
When the girls were this young we didn't really have a schedule. They slept a lot and I'm pretty sure I was nursing every 2-3 hours...I think! I can't totally remember, but I do remember I was ALWAYS nursing. Something that did help them sleep better and longer was swaddling. I swear by swaddling! The ones I liked the most were from Nordstrom. They were a flannel material which kept the girls really warm and with every wash they got better! They aren't in store anymore, but maybe they'll be back when fall comes back around. I also like Little Unicorn swaddles. They have the cutest patterns ever. I still use them all the time for different things. Also as far as night feedings went, I was nursing around 12, 3 and then 7 when they got up for the day. Unless they were in growth spurts and then it was more frequent.
Eventually we moved them into their rooms for naps because I was needing more of a schedule and I also didn't want to have to tip toe around all day long. So we just had them nap and sleep at night in their rock n plays. The ones I had just vibrated they didn't have the rock function but the girls loved them. Looking back on all these pictures shows how things change constantly with babies. I think it's all about trying new things to see what works for you and baby. I really think babies do well with structure. Obviously you have to be flexible but I think when they know what to expect it makes life easier on them.
Around two months I put them in their crib with the DockATot. I wanted them to start getting used to sleeping flat on their backs without the vibrate from the rock n plays and the DockATot helped to make them feel snug. Also I thought it would help them be able to turn their heads to the side more. In the rock n play they can't move much. They couldn't roll around at this point so that's why there is stuff in the crib! Let's not freak out! We were using the Love to Dream swaddles which zip up and keep your baby snug but still have some give. This one has little arm pouches that allows your baby to keep their arms up which is the natural way for them to sleep. (For our next baby, I'll use these from the beginning! Highly recommend!) Eventually I started to use the Love to Dream swaddles that zipped around the arms letting them free. They could also suck their thumb this way if they wanted too. It just gave them a little more freedom.
Then they weren't sleeping great in their DockATots so I began putting them on their tummy during naps and all of a sudden they were amazing sleepers. I'd keep them in the living room so I could watch them and make sure they were okay. They slept sooo good on their tummies. They were around 3-4 months here and taking three naps a day.
4 months: Sleep Training Time!
While it was nice for them to get those naps on their tummy, I also couldn't watch them nap every day so I needed to change something. Also they needed their pacifier to fall asleep which was really annoying because if it fell out, I had to put it back in. This is also when they started waking up a lot at night to nurse (more than usual). I came to a breaking point and that was when someone recommended I use the Sleep Sense Program. Well it was amazing. I could not recommend it more! I just used the e-book and that's all I needed. The girls were around 4 months when we started and it was because they were now big enough to not need to be fed at night anymore. The program talks about it more in detail as to when you know that your baby is old enough to start sleeping through the night without feeding. We also started using sleep sacks again. These below are the Love to Dream 50/50 swaddles.
(The photo above was on vacation! They usually would sleep with these in their own crib.)
Sleep Training Tips:
So here are some things that I took away from sleep training. If you want to see my video on it, watch HERE. Let me just say that our girls have been sleeping all night long from 4 months old. I went from a complete zombie, to getting more sleep than I ever had before. It was life changing. Some babies don't need it, but mine definitely did. They started to wake up almost every hour around 4 months and it wasn't because they were hungry it was just out of comfort. They were used to waking up to eat so it became a habit. I knew they weren't hungry because I'd get up to feed them and they'd instantly fall back asleep. When this is happening with two babies, you go insane quick. So I knew I had to do something to change the pattern, and thank goodness I had that recommendation of the Sleep Sense program because I needed to follow one plan. I had read so many different methods and was so confused. This gave me a total outline of everything I needed to know.
-I like to call the method we used 'The Crying Countdown'. When one would wake up you take a look at your phone and let them cry for 2 minutes. That was my starting point. (p.s. 2 minutes of crying seems like an eternity, which is why you must look at your phone for the actually time!) If they didn't calm down after 2 minutes I'd go into their room and soothe them. *I would not pick them up. I would just rub their back and say shhhh it's okay shhh. Something like that until they started to calm down and leave the room! Then if they start crying again you look at your clock and wait 4 minutes. You basically add 2 minutes each time.
-But here's the thing, if while you are looking at your clock, they start to calm down, meaning they aren't crying as hard or you hear them stop for a little but then start up again....thennn you start counting again. That is what you want! That is them learning to self soothe. So every time they'd calm down I'd start back from the beginning. It's really really hard because you are just looking at your phone while listening to your baby cry. But just know that you are actually helping them. You are helping them learn to be better sleepers which is so healthy for them! They will sleep deeper which is so good for their brain development. The program talks more in depth about how beneficial this is for your baby. But it's so important for your baby to get quality sleep for both their emotional and physical development. I learned so much from reading the program it's insane.
-So the first few days are ROUGH. So so hard, I found myself leaning against their door wanting to go in so badly. But you have to remain strong, because if you don't then none of it will work. I think the whole countdown process usually took about 10 minutes total before they were fully asleep. Only one time did the process take close to 30 minutes. I had to go back and re-read certain things to make sure I was doing it right because I felt like it wasn't working at first. But then all of a sudden I started to notice a huge change. My girls were falling asleep much faster and when they would wake up, it wouldn't be for long.
-Another thing I noticed was how much happier they were when they were awake. I could tell they were getting more quality sleep than before. In the program it talks about sleep cycles and how when babies enter a new sleep cycle they wake up and start to cry. It says that they will eventually learn that it is normal and then stop waking up when going into a deeper sleep. Learning little things like this helped to make more sense out of sleep training and showed me why it works. In the beginning of the program is says that this WILL work for your child, and if it doesn't then you are doing something wrong. When I read that, I was like okay I'm doing everything you say!!
-Another main point is to always put your baby down when drowsy but not asleep. Make sure they are falling asleep in their crib. We would always make sure they drank their bottles before putting them into their crib and when they were really little I made sure they were awake when feeding. Even when I was nursing I always tried to keep them awake when feeding. I started supplementing with formula around this time so they got a little bottle before bed. Once I was done breastfeeding, same thing, they got their full bottle of milk before bed. But I always kept them awake the whole time when eating.
-It also talks about soothers and how you want your babies to have things that they can use on their own and not have to rely on you for. Pacifiers for example. We took away the WubbaNub's since they weren't able to put them back in their mouth's when they'd fall out. And I didn't want to have to keep going in to put them back in for them. (That was one of the main reasons for starting sleep training!) That was super hard for me, but I took them out of their cribs completely during sleep. I didn't give them pacifiers in their cribs again until they could grab them all by themselves. My girls actually started to suck their thumbs around this time. It was a comfort thing for them and helped them fall back asleep. The thumb sucking didn't last too long, but was super cute at the time! (We still let them have binkies when they were awake.) Also I stopped feeding my girls before naps. I started feeding once they woke up. So they didn't associate eating with sleep.
-We started using the zip-up blankets because they acted like a comfort blanket for the girls but were still safe in the crib. Now we use them more for warmth, but the girls associate them with sleep. When we zip them up at night they kind of calm down and sometimes will laugh they are so excited! I stopped using them during naps around one year. I know that's kinda late but they slept so good and I didn't want to break that. One day I just decided it was time to not use them for naps and it took them a few days to get used to it but then they completely adjusted.
-Even though the initial sleep training will only take a few days to a week to do, you still have to incorporate those same tactics as times goes on. With growth spurts, teething and new developments, sleep is always changing. I found myself on occation having to go back to that '10 minute countdown'. But not often. A week of sleep training really worked for us and now we can't believe how well they sleep. It's also really nice if someone is babysitting them because we know they will fall right to sleep. Remember: More sleep for your babies equals happier babies, which also means you will be getting more sleep and in turn be a happier and better mom! It's a complete WIN WIN.
-I think you need to find a week where not much is going on so you can be at home during nap time. Try to avoid them falling asleep in the car too. I'd always make sure I was home in time for their naps. Life revolved around naps for a while!
Nursing while Sleep Training:
-In the beginning of sleep training I'd only feed them once at night. Keep in mind they had been waking up almost every hour around 4 months.
-I wouldn't feed them until after 12:00 and then no later than 3:00. So if they woke up at 10:00, I'd do the cry method. If they woke up at 1:00, I'd feed them. If they woke up at 4:00, I would do the cry method. Sometimes both girls would get up to feed, other times only one would. This took some time. They eventually started to get used to not needing to eat at night. I just didn't want to cut out nursing completely at night which is why I still feed them once if they wanted at night. After a few weeks I cut that one feeding out.
-I do think that sleep training affected my milk supply. Around 4 months is when my milk started going down, and that's also when they started sleeping through the night. You could always still wake up to pump, but I was so sleep deprived at the time I really needed to sleep. It may be different with one baby too. I'm wondering how my milk will be when it is just one child. My milk didn't completely go away until they were 6 months old. But I did start supplementing with formula around 4 months. I think that also was something that made them much happier babies!! They needed more food!
Sleep Training with TWINS:
The program talks a little about this, but here's what I've learned.
-One of your twins will be the better sleeper and they will get used to the other ones cry. I know that sounds crazy but it's true. June has always been the better sleeper and Violet likes to challenge us! I always say that when June gets older she'll be able to sleep through anything. Here's an example to show you how different they are. Usually every morning when they wake up we always hear Violet and only Violet (same goes for naps). She'll either yell or cry and be standing up throwing her binkies out of her crib. Whenever I go in to get her, more than half the time, June is just sitting there awake. She'll be squeezing her bear and blankie just staring at Violet. She's probably thinking 'can you please pipe it down over there??'.
-So give it some time at first, but eventually they get used to each other. They did share a womb together, and honestly I don't think my girls even hear each other. It's like white noise to them.
-When one wakes up only give the other about 10-20 minutes extra of sleep time. That way they are still in sync. If you let the other sleep an hour longer than they will never be asleep at the same time. I would just gage it, sometimes I knew one needed more sleep if she took longer to fall asleep, so I'd give her a little more time. I know waking up a sleeping baby is a big no no to some, but if you have twins and want to keep your sanity AND have some alone time, you have to keep them on the same schedule. Now my girls always wake up within 5 minutes of each other. It's totally bizarre.
Once they were rolling around I took the dock a tots out of the crib. A lot of people asked how we did this transition. All I can say is once you decide to change something for their sleep, commit to it. And just know that it will take some time for your child to adjust, but they need to know that this is the new way of sleeping for them. If you change your mind and go back to what they were doing before it will confuse your child. Again the Sleep Sense program does a great job at explaining this! It's all about teaching your baby adapt to changing circumstances.
Once the girls started standing up, they were taking longer to fall asleep for naps. At first I'd go in 1-3 times and lay them down. I'd say goodnight, time to sleep! And then I started going in less so they'd understand that I wouldn't come in to their room every time they stood up. They would talk to each other a little sometimes. Some days it would take 30 minutes for them to finally fall asleep, but they eventually would. I just always had to resist the urge to go in their room. They started to learn that they needed to lay down to take their nap and about a week later they were falling asleep much faster. I added these mesh bumpers so their arms and legs wouldn't keep poking out of the bars. The mesh is a great option because even if they are sleeping up against it, there is still air flow. Now we have thicker bumpers which they absolutely love. They are so soft and I swear they help soothe them to sleep. I waited until they were about a year to use it just in case. The zip up they now use is a fleece one and super soft and warm. But they were using those muslin zip ups from HALO for a long time too.
Going from 3 to 2 to 1 nap:
-Once your babies start either refusing their first or second nap it's usually around the time when you need to drop a nap. I'm pretty sure they dropped their third nap around 7/8 months. Around 12 months Violet started fighting her second nap. She would not let up so I eventually would take her with me and try to get her to sleep with me. This usually never ends well because they are so used to sleeping in their cribs. Once they are with us it's awake time. So we'd lay there listening to music or watching a show but would just try to rest. I wanted her to at least relax for a while. So once I realized she was not going to sleep (sometimes she would nap, but others she wouldn't) I started to put them down later and later for their first nap. Instead of going down around 10, I'd push to 10:30 then 11:00. I still laid them down for a second nap at first to see if they'd cat nap, but pretty soon they wouldn't. One day I just cut it out completely and never looked back! At first they weren't napping that long so I'd put them to bed earlier if they were really cranky. Sometimes it was as early as 6:30. This was just to help them get the rest they needed and eventually they'll adjust.
-Like I shared in the beginning of this post, they are now down around 7:30/8:00 and waking up around 6:30/7:00. For naps I'm trying to put them down closer to 1:00 and they will sleep better than if I put them down at 12:00. They usually get cranky at 12:00 but I try to fight through it and get them distracted with some toys and they'll usually be fine for another 30 min to an hour.
-Just know that when you first drop a nap they may not sleep as long, but it should eventually even out.
-Bring everything with you that you'd normally have at home. We bring sleep sacks, sound machine, binkies, blankets and animals that they use at home.
-Know that they may not sleep as well but try not to stress TOO much about it.
-Try to keep them on the same schedule they are on at home.
Looking back on this post it seems like we tried a million sleep things. I think that those first few months are always going to be a little chaotic. But all I know for sure is that sleep training was magic. While they may not be amazing sleepers every single day, they are for the most part. Just know that babies are going through so many developmental stages and that is going to affect sleep. If you are aware of that then it helps to not stress you out as much when they are having a rough few days. But if you stay consistent with them, it will really start to show.
I hope that this post was helpful to you. I cannot believe how long it is but I really wanted to cover EVERYTHING for you guys. Please leave me a comment if you did find this useful and I'll continue to do more posts on things I've learned with my girls. I'm always trying to help you out in some way and if I can get you a little more sleep than I have succeeded! Thanks so much for reading!