Sleep training your twins can be a hectic job which leaves you frustrated and cranky in the morning. With this definitive guide you will learn the sleep training approaches available and choose one which will work best for you and your baby.
In this article, we will look at;
When to sleep train twins.
Myths surrounding sleep training twins.
Approaches to sleep training in detail.
Tips on successful sleep training
What is the appropriate age to sleep train?
The first 2 months are critical. This is a time for you to spend time with your babies and bond. At this stage, you get to learn your babies’ personality and their sleep behavior. Before 4 months, a baby is yet to develop a circadian sleep rhythm. 4- 6 months is the recommended time by experts to start sleep training. At this point, the baby has developed a consistent sleep- wake routine and they have started dropping their nighttime feedings (which may hinder the training), this makes it easier to sleep train them. However, you should ask for your doctor’s opinion and follow your gut while putting into consideration any underlying sleep conditions which may need to be addressed.
As a new parent of twins, you may fall prey to some of the myths circulating around. Below are such myths you should watch out for,
Postponing a baby’s sleep to later will ensure a sound sleep
This is a false approach and the resulting consequence will be a wailing and overtired baby who will actually not sleep soundly. Early bedtimes for babies always work and they get the maximum amount of recommended sleep by pediatricians. Sleep experts recommend a 7pm – 8pm bedtime for babies.
No daytime nap, more sleep
As with the myth above, putting off your babies day nap will not help your course. The baby will only be overtired, cranky and unable to sleep through the night. A daytime nap will improve the quality of a baby’s nighttime sleep.
What works for baby J will work for baby E
If J responds to a certain sleep training method, E will not necessarily respond to the same method positively. It will take a lot of hard work and consistency but you will be able to find what works for your babies and integrate it into the sleep training. Just as each twin will have different personalities, so will they adapt to different sleep training methods. One twin can learn to sleep through the other twins crying and fussiness although having them in two separate cribs will prevent disturbance to the quieter baby.
You probably have not had any sleep as your twins were screaming their lungs off last night. Here is a compiled and complete guide on sleep training approaches for twins which will guarantee you a great night sleep in the coming weeks. (It takes time)
1) Cry it out Approach
This approach has different variation with pediatric and sleep experts taking root in two extreme sides. On one hand we have experts such Richard Ferber as who advocates for the art of babies soothing themselves to sleep. Ferber recommends putting your child in their cribs while still awake, say your goodnight and leave the room. If the baby starts crying, wait a few minutes before comforting them. (Progressive waiting approach). You can pat their backs or sing to them but do not pick them up or nurse them back to sleep. When a child gets used to rocking, he won’t learn to fall asleep on his own and as a result, the child grows dependent on their parents nursing and rocking to fall asleep. Marc Weissbluth, author of Healthy sleep Habits, Happy Child states that crying may be necessary for some children to develop a healthy sleeping habit. If your baby learns to sooth himself to sleep, he can always do the same when he wakes up in the middle of the night instead of waiting to be soothed by the parents back to sleep. The short term crying side- effect will be outweighed by the numerous advantages in the long run of this approach.
By contrast, we have other Pediatrician experts such as Michel Cohen who believe that babies as young as 2 months old can be left to cry out as long as necessary before falling asleep and in the long run they shall learn how to self sooth. Robert Bucknam advocates following a strict sleep and nap schedule for babies so they can learn to sooth themselves to sleep. Of course the Cohen’s approach has drawn criticism from experts and parents who believe that this extreme approach will cause an emotional detachment between parents and twins as they grow up. Introducing a lovey and other crib toys may help the baby to calm down and eventually they learn to sleep on their own.
How to go about the Cry it Out Approach
1) put the baby in their crib while still awake.
This step should be followed consistently to allow the baby to conform to the routine and associate being in a crib with sleeping.
2) Leave the room/ stay out of their sight.
It will reduce the baby’s dependency on your presence to fall asleep. This way, if they wake up in the middle of the night, they can always go back to sleep without your presence.
3) Come back to their room after 1-2 minutes
If they are still awake, pat and reassure them of your presence but do not pick them from their crib. Leave the room again even if they are yet to sleep.
4) Follow the same routine; Check on them putting a longer time frame subsequently.
Stay out of their sight/ room for longer periods and repeat this routine until the baby falls asleep.
According to Ferber, you could leave the baby for;
– 3 minutes the first time, 5 minutes the second time and 1o minutes for subsequent times on the first night.
– 5 minutes, 10 minutes and 12 minutes subsequently on the second night while making the periods longer in the subsequent nights.
2) No tears Approach
In this approach, you provide comfort immediately when the baby cries. Elizabeth Pantley advocates for this approach as she says that the Cry it out approach can give your child a negative association with bedtime and sleep for a life time. She urges parents to develop strategies which are customized to your baby’s needs. Proponents of CIO approach on the other hand believe that CIO approach does not have any traumatic effects in later years while the no tears method will cause over dependency on parents. No tears approach is more gradual and few tears are involved, a win- win for everybody. William Seers recommends co- sleeping, rocking and nursing your babies to sleep as some of the strategies to no tears approach. This will create a positive sleep association for your baby and gradual sleep habits as the child grows.
Camping out (Fading) Approach
The fading approach is more of an in between middle ground between the Crying it Out and No tears approach. In this approach, parents are advised to reduce their roles in helping the baby to fall asleep. kim west puts it as being a babies coach rather than a crutch. By reducing their role in helping the baby fall asleep, the baby learns how to sooth himself to sleep.
In the camp out method, also known as sleep lady shuffle, you put the babies in their cribs and stay near their bed where they can see you for reassurance. In case of crying, you offer gentle pats and offer verbal reassurance to get them to sleep. Every night, you put more distance between by moving away from them and in about two weeks, it will be possible to simply put them to bed and leave the room with no fussing from your baby.
In the check-in method, you put them to bed, leave the room for short intervals and check on them briefly. You can reassure the baby with a pat or verbally to get them back to sleep.
Click here to see some parents’ success stories in sleep training twins.
Tips to help you succeed in any sleep training approach you choose for your twins
1) Ensure routine
Have a sleep schedule to establish a strong sleep – wake rhythm so that the baby learns to expect sleep at the same time each evening. Dr. Judi Mindell recommends including 3-4 activities during sleep time such as, a bath, a lullaby or pajama change to induce association to sleep with this activities.
2) Be consistent
If you choose an approach which works with your baby, be consistent each and every night until the baby learns to sleep on his own. Consistency will fetch you better results sooner than you think.
3) Plan and evaluate.
The approach you choose first may not always work. Keeping a log/ journal will help you evaluate, how the baby is responding to the chosen approach and if there is need to try out another approach. Have two separate journals for each twin to ensure that the approach is actually working.
4) Expect relapses
Relapses may occur especially during teething and common cold outbreaks. Anticipating this will reduce frustration on your part and starting the process all over will not look unachievable if you are anticipating a relapse. Learn to distinguish your babies cry to know when they need help versus when they are being fussy.
5) Trust your instincts
Study and get to know more of your babies’ personality and habits and choose the approach which will benefit them.
At the end of it all, only you can choose the approach will work best for your babies. You may find that your baby works well with a little of all the approaches discussed above. Each baby is different and some babies have good sleeping habits while others need a little help in developing them. Forming a good team with your partner and discussing all the alternative options will be less frustrating and you will have more success when you cooperate. If you have trouble training your baby, you can always seek help from a certified sleep trainer.
Have you had any sleep training Success with your twins, tell us what worked for you and how you achieved it in the comments section. We would love to hear from you.