• Sally Unterberger

Sleep Tips for Parents of Twins and Multiples

Welcome to my first blog post

I have finally decided to take the plunge and add a blog to my site. Being a twin mum myself and understanding the complexity of putting a routine in place and sleep training twins together I thought there was no more fitting subject for my first ever blog post than the topic of twins and multiples. Teaching a single baby to sleep well can be hard work, so with multiples I’d say the sooner you can get them into a good routine and learning healthy sleep habits the better! I wish I had known all that I know now when my own twins were born because it was quite a different story with my two!! Teaching your babies to self-settle independently at bedtime and naps is the biggest key to teaching them to sleep for extended periods at night and take good naps. It’s very important not to overstimulate young babies, and also to get them down for a nap within the appropriate ‘wake window’ for their age group. By ‘wake window’ I mean the length of time that a baby is awake for between sleeps and with a younger baby it makes more sense to look at these periods of awake time rather than the number of naps that they are taking during the day. With age their stamina will improve and while working with these ‘wake windows’ the 3 nap routine and then the 2 nap routine will start to emerge naturally. I have put an approximate guide to the age appropriate wake windows and naps at the bottom of this post. When newborn twins first arrive, they are accustomed to the close confines of the womb and sharing that space with their co-twin. As a result, many newborn multiples are comforted by the act of swaddling. Being wrapped up like a "burrito" can give them a sense of security that helps them fall asleep and make them sleep more soundly as it can prevent the babies' natural startle reflex from waking them up. Research suggests that swaddling may also reduces the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). However, after a month or two, your babies will outgrow the comforting effects and swaddling should be removed altogether once they begin wriggling out around 8-10 weeks. When the time comes I would suggest leaving one arm out for the first few days, then the other, and then remove the swaddle altogether. Every child has slightly different sleep needs and this is of course true for twins and multiples so one baby may not want to sleep at quite the same time as the other, or for quite as long. As parents of multiples, though, those moments where you get to rest or do your chores when the baby is asleep are obviously going to be far more beneficial if they are asleep at the same time and a little bit of gentle pushing in the right direction can help you achieve this. When working with twins I would usually suggest putting both babies down for naps at the same time, and if one wakes then I recommend waking the other within 30 minutes to attempt to get them on the same kind of schedule. I’d do this both at naps and the morning wake time. I think it is fair to say that with two babies or more, both parents are going to have their hands pretty full and it’s not uncommon to end up in a situation where either both parents are exhausted and overwhelmed by the lack of sleep, or one parent is sleeping soundly, and the other is simmering with resentment. My suggestion would be for a tag team approach. With a little bit of communication and planning, you can set up a structure so that each parent gets a restorative shot of sleep. Maybe one parent can be on duty from 9:00 p.m. until 2:00 a.m. Then the other parent takes over from 2:00 a.m. until the morning. Take into consideration your family's lifestyle, habits, and preferences, and work out an approach that meets both parents' needs. When my twins were first born my husband began a very demanding new job so during the week I was on duty and every weekend he would take over and handle the night wakes by himself. This meant I could get some restorative sleep and be able to cope with the week ahead knowing that this would not last forever. When and if the time comes for a more structured approach to sleep training your little ones, it can sometimes be the preferred option to separate twins whilst teaching them their new sleep skills and have each parent focusing on one baby each. This can make the process a little easier and then you can move them back together once they have started to learn independent sleep skills. My other biggest tip with new twins or multiples is to accept ANY and ALL offers of help and don’t underestimate your own need for sleep – Having a helping hand can literally be a sanity saver and its worth remembering that striving to be a 'Super-mum' on your own will likely just make you exhausted and not a better parent! x

Appropriate Wake Windows and Naps per Age:

0-3 months - 4 or 5 naps per day Newborn:  Wake window 45 mins 1 month:  Wake Window 1 hr 2 months: Wake Window 1 hr 15 mins 3 months Wake Window 1 hr 30 mins 3-6 months - 3 Naps per day 4 months Wake Window 1 hr 45 mins 5 months Wake Window 2 hrs 6 months Wake Window 2 hrs 15 mins 7-14 months - 2 Naps per day >14 months - 1 Nap per day

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