Gentle Sleep Coaching Your Twins

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  • June 22, 2016
Gentle Sleep Coaching Your Twins

Gentle Sleep Coaching Your TwinsBeing a parent of twins is a job requiring full-on commitment with many challenges.  It is a role both fabulous and flabbergasting, with days filled with so many moments of wonder and excitement…but also exhaustion.  Perhaps you have figured out a feeding and sleeping schedule, or perhaps you are still working on crafting what works for you and your babies.

Sleep can be a particularly elusive concept for many parents of new babies.  It can be a monumental task to figure out how to help one baby settle and sleep, but then add another baby to the mix- and things can get a little dicey!

Gentle sleep coaching may very well be the answer to your (and your twins’) sleepless nights.  Similar to sleep coaching a singleton, sleep coaching twins can help restore a sense of normalcy and sleep for all.

Remember to Respect Each Child’s Individuality

It is amazing how different twins really are!  Make sure to remember that although they are twins, they each have their own personality, and likely some very different sleep styles.  I have often found that when it comes to twins, there is one that loves to sleep and one that just has a more difficult time settling in to sleep.  Perhaps this one is more sensitive and alert.

Although this is not always the case, it is common for each of your babies to have their own quirks related to sleep and sleep coaching.  Try to keep this in mind, so that you can respect each babies’ needs and individual timelines as they learn to fall asleep on their own.

Another thing to consider with twins is the “adjusted age,” because this is another factor that can affect the start of sleep coaching.  For example, if your twins are 16 weeks old and were born at 38 weeks (full term for twins), they’re actually 2 weeks younger (developmentally they are 14 weeks old).  This may mean that your twins may not be ready for sleep coaching as soon as single babies.

If your twins were born earlier, you may have to subtract even more time- and that’s okay.  You want to sleep coach your twins when they are ready developmentally so that you have a successful and positive experience.  Always be sure to get the green light from your pediatrician before starting any sleep coaching.

Be Realistic

You’re the expert on your twins, so you have probably figured out which twin is going to struggle more and be the lighter sleeper. Likewise, you probably know which twin is going to sleep like a rock!  It will certainly not come as much of a surprise that with these two different personalities, sleep coaching is bound to take longer with two.

I always recommend that you sleep coach for bedtime and overnights first.  You might have to be more patient and find strength you didn’t know you had, because you will be attending to not one, but two children’s needs at the same time.  The reality is that although a good night’s sleep is coming, it is  safe to assume that your twins will be waking each other up during the night. And it’s not just twins! Often two different age children who share a room will wake each other as they get used to sharing a room.

A good rule of thumb is to attend to the first child who wakes, and if he wakes the other go and attend to the other child. Sometimes parents will sit in between the beds during the first week of coaching, and that’s ok. It will get better, I promise.

You Need a Sleep Log

If you haven’t started a sleep log yet, now is the time to start.  This log is a very important tool in your sleep coaching process.  I always suggest a sleep log when you have one child you want to sleep coach.  If you have twins, it’s mandatory!  Be sure to keep track of these items in your log:

  • Feeding timesGentle Sleep Coaching Your Twins
  • Nap times and lengths
  • Wake up times
  • Night awakenings
  • How long it took your babies to go to sleep
  • What you had to do or not do to help them fall asleep
  • Changes in your babies’ moods

Having a sleep log will allow you to make educated decisions about how to best approach sleep coaching with your twins.  I suggest that you have at least 7 days of sleep logs completed before you begin sleep coaching so that you can be aware of patterns, as well as the similarities and differences between your babies.

Think Long Term

There are really only two ways to sleep coach your twins:

  • Together
  • Separate

You are probably like most other parents and worry about your babies waking each other from crying.  As I mentioned earlier this can certainly happen early on, but it is possible (and quite typical) for your twins to learn to tune each other out and sleep through their sibling’s cries.

This is where your long term plan comes in to play.  If your goal is to have the twins sleep overnight in the same room, then you should sleep coach them as such.  If you plan is to have them sleep in separate rooms, then sleep coach them in their separate spaces.  Sometimes I recommend sleep coaching twins separately for the first couple of weeks if one twin is already sleeping well.

Often when working with parents of multiples, I recommend they sleep coach at night in the same room and separate the children for naps, even if that means using a portable crib in a different room.  If you choose to follow this plan, have the “easier sleeper” nap in the portable crib and then return them to their regular crib in the shared room once both babies are napping better.  Some parents also opt to keep both twins napping separately until they stop napping altogether.

Another factor to address while you are making plans to sleep coach is to prepare your children’s bedroom(s) for optimal sleep.  Consider these recommendations:

  • Room darkening shades
  • White noise (for outside and/ or inside noise)
  • Stimulating toys removed from the crib area
  • Decorating palette soft and neutral

Use Your Flexible Schedule

As parents of twins, perhaps the most important thing you can do to teach your babies how to sleep is to keep a flexible schedule.  When you have a flexible schedule, you can help to ensure that your twins don’t become overtired.

You have the added challenge of watching not just one, but two babies for sleepy cues.  This is where your sleep logs will come in very handy.  You will see patterns and notes about how each child shows you they are ready for sleep.  From Good Night, Sleep Tight:

One trick is to make sure they are awake in the morning within about a half hour of each other.  Then coordinate morning naps.  For instance, if one twin gets up naturally at 7:00 a.m. and the other gets us at 8:00, wake the sleepyhead at 7:00 too- or maybe let him sleep until 7:30 while you feed the early riser. 

Then they will both be ready to go down for their nap at around 9:00 or 9:30.  Similarly, if one tends to take a longer morning nap, start waking him up earlier, so they remain in sync for the afternoon nap.  And that afternoon nap is his catch-up opportunity- the one who needs more sleep can take a longer afternoon snooze, and you will still have a long enough gap between the nap and bedtime so that you can put them down together. 

You might have to tweak their schedules periodically because at different times, their sleep needs might diverge a bit more, depending on when each child goes through growth spurts or hits developmental milestones.

Decide On a Sleep Coaching Method

There are basically four different types of sleep coaching: controlled crying, crying it out, fading, and “no cry”.  I prefer a method I call The Shuffle (which falls under fading), which involves a high degree of parental involvement and encouragement.  By using this method, the children are not left to cry alone.

Sleep coaching is a great time to divide and conquer- hopefully you can have your partner stay with one baby while you stay with the other.  Each parent sits next to a crib for the first few nights, then as the chair moves, only one parent needs to stay in the room.  This can help both the twins with the adjustment as well as give you peace of mind.  (Bonus, the other parent gets some much needed rest when it is not their turn to be in the chair!)

Only you know your children and only you can decide which sleep coaching method is best for your family.  Above all else, the most important thing is to remain consistent once you choose your sleep coaching method.

Keep Reading…

Inspiration taken from posts found on Twiniversity.com

Kim West
Kim is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has been a practicing child and family therapist for more than 24 years, and the creator of the original gentle, proven method to get a good night’s sleep for you and your child. She is the author of The Sleep Lady's Good Night Sleep Tight, its companion Workbook and 52 Sleep Secrets for Babies. Click here to read more about her.

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