This one is for all the other sleep deprived moms out there. Some of what I’m going to talk about definitely applies to only one baby, but my experience is with baby twins. A ton of people (naively, in my opinion) will say “Oh, I want to have twins so, bad!” And I smile. Twins are great. I love mine so much. But I’m going to level with you and say that twins are not two for the price of one. They are two for the full, not discounted at all, price plus some hidden extra fees you weren’t counting on. I’m going to reiterate that they’re so worth it… buuuuttttt…I felt like I was going crazy for the first 18 months of their lives. So onto my tips! I’ll do a follow up post for older baby twins and one for toddlers/preschoolers too. We had a wild ride with sleep, so I’m not an expert but I can tell you what did and did not work for us over the last three years. When I say “infant twins” I have babies under six months in mind.
1.) Reframe. This one is for anyone with a baby. I get the desperation you feel when you don’t sleep. Neither of my twins were especially good sleepers. Even if you have a “good sleeper”, babies just wake frequently. It’s part of being a baby! There is some thought in scholarship right now that babies need to wake frequently as a biological protective factor against SIDS. Babies, especially babies under six months, need to wake frequently and need to eat frequently. It’s totally normal and isn’t related to anything you are or aren’t doing. Releasing yourself of the responsibility of making your baby sleep might help you feel a little less crazy.
2.) Embrace room sharing. The AAP recommends room sharing with mom for at least the first six months of life, preferably to a year old. This is a protective factor against SIDS, but it also makes your life a little easier. If your babies are right there in your room with you, you don’t have to go to a different room to do the whole wake up/go back to sleep routine. If you’re bottle feeding, I would prepare the nights worth of bottles and have them right there in your room. If you’re doing formula– keep the can of formula right there and mix it up when you wake up. If you’re exclusively pumping, have your pump all set up and a cooler bag ready for the milk. Start feeding your babies cold or room temperature milk or formula– it doesn’t have to be warm! If it must be warm, put the bottle warmer in your room too. It’s all about minimizing the spaces in your home you have to traverse. If it’s all there, takes less time.
3.) Wake the sleeping twin. There’s a time and place for “never wake a sleeping baby”…but that is not the case with twins. If one wakes up, I can almost guarantee the sleeping twin is going to wake up two minutes after you’ve just started drifting back to sleep. Feed them both at the same time and put them both back to bed.
4.) Get a good swaddler. I am the miracle blanket’s biggest fan. They’re my favorite swaddle blanket because it’s easy to use. There are no zippers or velcro or any of that business– just some cotton flaps and they are amazing. They keep baby’s arms in and they’re pretty difficult to break out of. They’re magic. Now, for brand new babies my only caution is this: swaddles put your baby in “off” mode and so your baby may not wake up to eat even if he or she needs to. If your baby is struggling to gain weight or has not reached birth weight yet, wake the baby after one four hour stretch at night and then every three hours after that. Once baby is at birth weight and weight gain has been established, feel free to let baby wake naturally. The twins had a lot of struggles gaining weight so I was waking them every three hours for months and months and months, but if you don’t have this problem… roll with it.
5.) Do what you can to get more sleep. Sleep when the baby sleeps is the dumbest advice I got as a new mom. That only works when both of your babies sleep and sleep at the same time. So that being said, if by some miracle both of your babies take a nap at the same time… you should take a nap too. Don’t do housework, don’t clean, don’t do anything except maybe take a shower. Sleep too. If you have a partner, work it out where you can sleep in one day. Your partner can take the babies and if you’re breastfeeding bring them to you to feed, then take them again while you go back to sleep. Keep doing that until you feel rested even if you keep going back to sleep all stinking day.
6.) Babies need to take naps. It was so true that “sleep begets sleep” for my twins, even when they were teeny babies. When they’re brand new, they kind of just sleep whenever. But by 8-10 weeks they naturally fell into some sleep wake patterns. Usually they would take a nap about 1.5 to 2 hours after each wake up. A typical schedule would be wake at 6am, nap at 8am and wake at 9, second nap at 10:30 or 11 until 12-1 or so, third nap at 3:30 to 4:30 (ish) and then bed by 7 or 7:30. It feels like they sleep all day– and they do. They were down to two naps by 5-6 months, which felt a little more do able for me. If they just would not go down in their beds, I did my fair share of holding them to sleep, or wearing them, or even putting them in swings. Do whatever gets your baby to sleep the best. Baby wearing was key for us for a long time.
7.) The name of the game is survival. My biggest tip for the tiny baby days is to be kind to yourself and not worry about anything other than taking care of your babies. Let your partner or friends do the rest of keeping the house in order. Let things slide. Don’t exhaust yourself trying to do everything yourself. Don’t feel guilt for not keeping your house as clean as you would like it to be.