Having one baby: life-changing. But, having more than one baby? Life-changing times 2 (or 3 or 8 like Octo-mom!). Just like no one could tell most of us how to fully prepare for one baby, whether multiples are planned or a big surprise, there is truly no way to fully prepare for the task ahead. No matter how many times you’ve organized their closet or think about all the organic baby food you’re going to make, some of the things that once seemed very important lose in priority to getting even a little more sleep, and making sure there are clean clothes and food in the house!
When thinking about sleep and feeding schedules for your multiples, it’s important to consider how rigid they will be. I never worried about an exact nap “time” with my singleton daughter, and rocked her to sleep quite often! When I brought 2 babies home, however, I learned that scheduling became my best friend! Not that every day goes as scheduled (babies can be so unpredictable, of course!), and sometimes schedules flew out the window if my baby clearly needed something–but having a schedule or routine provides a much-needed guide to the day. And, if you’re a planner, that’s so important for your own sanity and stability! 🙂 Now, remember that what works for a newborn is not going to work at 8 months, for example, and being open to change through this process can be very useful!
In the very early days, I found my days consisted of the following: nurse, pump, change diapers, wash clothes/diapers, repeat. And the cycle continued over and over! At this point, with multiples who may be premature and take small, frequent feedings, it truly is a round-the-clock job. When they do get a bit more predictable, it is helpful to feed at the same times during the night. I didn’t learn this right away, unfortunately. One son would wake, and I would feed him….thinking, “hmmm…maybe the other will sleep…:)” Usually, this wasn’t the case, of course! As soon as I’d get comfortable, the other baby would proclaim his need for a night feeding as well. What did I learn? In the early days, if one baby is awake and it’s close to feeding time–feed everyone! Once your babies are older, though, eventually you do want to discourage more frequent night-feedings and encourage longer stretches of sleep, so I didn’t continue to do that forever.
Doing most care activities at the same time is the common-sense approach to keeping multiples on the same routine/schedule. Diaper changes, feeding, tummy time, sleep–all done in tandem. There may be times that this provides the best approach to care. I have been at this point for most of my boys’ lives. They have meals together and go down for naps and bedtime together.
There are times, however, when tandem scheduling doesn’t work as well. In these cases, it can help to stagger schedules. Staggered schedules also help if you are having trouble spending one-on-one time with your babies. It can also help to stagger schedules if one baby needs more or less sleep than the other(s), as you may often find is the case (even identical siblings truly are not identical in every way). You may put him down after your baby or babies who need more sleep or get him up earlier, if he wakes early, so he doesn’t disturb the other(s). In some cases you may want to wake the other baby/babies to keep everyone on the same schedule, but sometimes that makes for cranky babies and cranky parents! All situations will have unique details and a unique schedule.
I staggered schedules, temporarily, once I stopped co-sleeping, while the boys were learning how to fall asleep on their own, around 4 months old. I needed to work with one at a time, so this helped my efforts.
Staggering schedules, even if by only 15 minutes, is also helpful if you’re the only adult in the house. During much of my boys’ infancy I was the sole care-giver as my husband was away in the military. So, whether you’re a single parent, or you find yourself doing most or all of the childcare for other reasons, staggering schedules is helpful while you’re sleep coaching, and they’re learning how to fall asleep on their own. This is easier than trying to tend to more than one crying baby, who is keeping the other(s) up. 🙂 It may be that the ideal situation is to have one adult per baby or child, but in reality this isn’t always possible. When you are in the situation of one adult per child, each adult can help teach one baby how to sleep.
Having multiples, especially in the presence of other children, or if you’re flying solo, means that the first several months are not easy. My boys were born in October, and my true attempt at humor is that I don’t remember anything from at least October through December of that year. 🙂 Nowadays, they’re in their own toddler beds. I can’t say that every night is perfect, but most nights and naps are. And, when I put them down for bed there is the hope of a good night’s sleep for everyone. Starting your babies out on the right path, and working towards establishing an individualized schedule that works for YOUR family helps pave the road to better sleep for everyone in your household. It is possible. So many families have come through these situations and so can you!
Other parts in the series:
Sibling Series Part 1: Do You Have Another Baby After a Horrible Sleeper?
Sibling Series Part 2: Juggling Different Baby and Toddler Sleep Schedules
8 thoughts on “Sibling Series, Part 3: How To Maintain Twins and Multiples Sleep and Feeding Schedules”
20 month old twins going through a sleep regression. I thought we had this sleep thing all figured out, naps and nighttime, until a couple of weeks ago. The twins share a room, of course, and one seems to go and stay to sleep pretty well…but the other one will just stand up and scream and cry. Help!
Hi @Heather, hang in there! Sleep regressions are tough with one baby, so I can only imagine the added difficulty with two!! With regressions the key is definitely staying consistent and not creating bad habits for the baby that is struggling, and of course you have to maintain a balance to make sure the other doesn’t wake up. Here are some tips for room sharing that may (hopefully) help although I’m sure you are pretty comfortable with that aspect at this point: https://www.babysleepsite.com/siblings/sibling-room-sharing-tips/
If things don’t resolve soon or the other starts waking too and you are feeling overwhelmed, let us know. We can help but I do think you would benefit the most from working with one of our expert sleep consultants that can give you specific advise. We often work with families with multiples and would love to work with you. To read more about our services you can visit here: https://www.babysleepsite.com/baby-toddler-sleep-consulting-services/
Hang in there! I hope this passes for you soon!
@ Twins And Multiples- Thanks for writing! We are so glad that our information is helpful! 🙂
@ Carrie- I understand how tired you must be from all these months of interrupted sleep. Your situation is especially hard because of your son’s history, and you do want to be sensitive to that. 🙂 You can wean him from the bottles more gently than cold turkey, but are most likely in for a few hard days or so, no matter the approach you take. You can try removing one feed at a time, so he can get used to eating less at night, and then be there to help him through without the bottle. After a couple or few days, remove one more feeding until he is no longer eating at night. Because you have already worked so hard at this, you may want to consider a sleep consultation package, where we can work with you to create a specific plan to follow, and support you through it. You can read more here: https://www.babysleepsite.com/services/
I hope things do improve soon, and good luck!
I have 4 internationally adopted children 4,3, 15 months and 13 months. My 2 youngest were in foster care together and came home together in April so they are “virtual” twins. The youngest has had huge sleep issues from the moment he was place in our arms. He has a very itchy skin condition on his feet (side effect of orphanage living) that flairs up from time to time, but there is no cure and basically no treatment, just something he will grow out of in his preschool years. Initially that kept him from sleeping for more than an hour or so at a time. The only thing that would soothe him was a bottle. Well now 7 months later he is still waking up 2-3 times a night and without a bottle he will not go back to sleep. Rocking, carrying, bouncing, pacifier, music, we’ve tried it all. He just screams and screams until he is hoarse. On top of all this he is a VERY light sleeper. We have had to move him into our room so that he doesn’t wake up his “twin” and our 3 year old (who by the way sleep through the night like logs). I am sure that at least part of his sleep problem is adoption/attachement related, but it is wearing us down. He does not self soothe (even when awake) and we can’t think of anything to replace his bottle with. Do we just have to cold turkey it, live with a few nights of screaming to break him of the bottle? Thanks in advance for any input.
This blog has provided me really important and useful information.It helps me to keep twins or multiples on the same sleep and feeding schedule.
Really thankful to this article.
Really good.keep writing
I have 22 month old twin boys. I agree–the first few months are the hardest ( I had a 3 and 5 year old when they were born…it was a totally different experience with twins). It definitely helps to try and coordinate schedules; however, I found sometimes i probably focused on this too much. My boys were short nappers until around 9 months, but I often wonder if I sabotaged one twins sleep at times, as I would wake the second twin within a reasonable amount of time to try and get them to go back down together. I started a routine and “teaching” them to put themselves to sleep early–before 4 months. Books, sleep sack on with lovey, and bed! Thankfully, they do still nap together(often 2 or 3 hours, yay!!) and share a bedtime at night. However, it is nice when one wakes up a bit earlier than the other at times so we can have a little one on one time! We still have occasional off nights/days, but overall things are much smoother, and easier now. For any mom’s of infant twins out there, I would recommend getting as much help as you can, especially so you can get a break or a nap!
I have 10 month old b/b twins. As you mentioned in your article the first few months are brutal! We started sleep coaching when the boys were about 7 months old, using somewhat of a cry it out approach. This worked beautifully until they could pull themselves up in the crib. They would stand and scream at each other for hours. So we went back to rocking. I am a stay at home mom, so I am alone with them during the day, which as you say in the article is very difficult. We have only hired a babysitter once since I am so worried that the babysitter will not be able to get them asleep on his/her own. When I am alone, I was using a staggered approach, rock and get one baby to sleep, then do the same with the next. As I was rocking the first baby to sleep the other would be in their playpen in the living room watching Yo Gabba Gabba. This staggered approach only worked for about a month and then the boy that would be watching TV as I rocked the other one, began to scream when I would leave the room. So we are now in the process of sleep coaching again. It is a long process, but we have little successes everyday. I usually rock each of them for about 5 mins. and then put them in their crib with their paci and stuffed animal and pat their bottom. Then I leave the room. I come back in the room to lay them down every 15 mins. Some days it will take over an hour for them to get to sleep for naps. They usually are not crying, but playing/chatting with each other. They usually sleep for an hour each naptime, which is twice a day. Night time has gotten much better and they are back to sleeping through the night…mostly. I believe that we had created sleep associations with the rocking and they were having trouble getting themselves back to sleep in the middle of the night. Hopefully the boys will be able to fall asleep on their own soon and I can feel confident leaving them with a babysitter at bedtime. In due time!
@Christina It sounds like it’s been an exhausting 10 months, but you’re finding your bearings! I’m sure the boys will be sleeping better in no time and more date nights are in your future! 🙂
@Meg Wow! 4 kids with the youngest being twins must be tough! It sounds like you’re a super mom! 🙂 Thank you for sharing your story with everyone!
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