Like most aspects of parenting multiples, night time parenting more than one can be an exercise in futility when you’re trying to get some much needed sleep. Furthermore, multiples are frequently born pre-term and may need a significant amount of care around the clock. Here are a few strategies that we’ve used to survive the first twelve months of our twins’ lives and cope with the sleep deprivation:
If you’re bottle feeding, scheduling is a lot easier to do. If you’re breastfeeding, it’s a little trickier but it is worth the effort. You will be up a lot less (relatively speaking) if you schedule your twins’ to eat at the same time. In the early months, this means that you and a helper will need to get up. Do NOT try to schedule them together by letting one cry. (When breastfeeding, always feed on demand during infancy.) If they are both not awake and ready to eat, feed one and wake the other up. Or if you can get them both nursing at the same time better! Eventually, they will follow your cues and nurse at the same time thus buying you some much needed sleep.
This is the time to have a rigid bedtime routine. Research shows that bedtime routines help settle infants. Keep your bedtime routine the same every night and do it at the same time in the evening. Doing this will allow you some alone time, and your babies will start to get the idea that at a certain time, they are to go to sleep. Bedtime routines could include a bath, reading, singing, cuddling, etc. It doesn’t really matter as long as it is consistent.
When you are offered help, ask for someone to come over while the babies are at their calmest. Take a nap and let someone take over the care of your babies when they least need you. Resist the urge to capture dust bunnies during the first few months. Someone else can come over and do that too!
The Night Time Plan
It is helpful if you and your husband have a night time plan. If you’re bottle feeding, know who’s giving what to whom and when. If you’re breast feeding, have your husband bring you babies and then he can take them as they’re finished eating and burp them and put them back to bed. My husband and I never did this with one baby. But with two babies you will both have to be up. The more you move on auto pilot and the less you have to discuss what’s going on and who’s doing what, the easier it will be to fall back asleep.
Play Musical Beds
I know many mothers of multiples who thought it would be cute to set up the nursery. So they bought two cribs and stuck them in the same room and had it all arranged just so. Yet somehow, before the twins arrive, it never occurs to anyone (this writer included) that one twin screaming may wake the other up! In fact this is often what happens. So, a great way to get more rest is to be prepared to sleep elsewhere in the house. A baby can sleep a few hours in a swing, in the car seat carrier or in a bouncy seat. Consider setting up more mobile pieces near a sleeper sofa or futon, or even the recliner if you have one. By being flexible, you’ll be able to eek out a few more hours of sleep!
The sleep deprivation that comes with twins can be incredibly difficult, but it can be managed. It is important to have realistic expectations and recognize that your babies’ night time behavior is normal. Rest as much as you possibly can, get as much help as you possibly can and remember that it won’t last forever.