Where to start with getting your twins to sleep?
I have worked with many twin families, and I find working with them both rewarding and fascinating. I am a mum of three so I understand the juggle of managing more than one child’s bedtime, nap time, or general needs, however the juggle of twins is one that I appreciate can only be understood by those who have walked in their (sleepy) shoes.
However, what I do know is sleep! And from successfully working with many families, including both twins and multiples, I know that there are several specific factors to consider when helping twins to sleep well.
1) What age do you use for twin sleep if they are premature?
Always use your twins corrected age for sleep, until at least 6months (corrected), or your medical practitioner tells your otherwise. Sleep is developmental so it is important to be realistic in terms of your baby’s capability when looking at their sleep.
2) Where should your twins sleep?
Wherever you want them to! Most twins will room share with their parent(s) until at least 6 months of age. After this time most families will opt to have their twins room share. This is most common. If it is possible, I would suggest putting some space between the cots so that you can be between the twins, should you need to support them, or easily tend to one without disturbing the other too much.
3) Is one twin more sensitive than the other?
It is quite common when I start with a twin family that they will tell me “One of our twins sleeps well but the other doesn’t”. If the twin that is finding it harder to settle is taking longer to go to sleep or waking more frequently, be it overnight or at bedtime then I would typically identify them as the sensitive sleeper. In that case, we would look to work to their schedule in the hope that the less sensitive twin will be more adaptable. If you are struggling to identify if one is more sensitive when it comes to sleep than the other (because let's face it the juggle is real!), I would recommend keeping a sleep log for 4-7 days and you should be able to identify a pattern more easily from that.
4) Are your twins synchronised?
The first thing we need to do once the sensitive sleeper has been identified is to ensure that the twins are synchronised in their sleeping patterns. This can take some time, so be patient. Identify your sensitive sleeper and start there. Then you want to ensure that your twins, as mush as possible, are sleeping and waking at the same time. This will require waking one twin (I know!), to keep them on the same schedule. What if one twin wakes after 30 minutes? Then I would encourage you to try for 30 minutes to get that twin back to sleep. If they do not go back to sleep, then lift them, wake the other twin and continue with your day. As one twin will have had less sleep (30 minutes), they may need to go down 15/30 minutes earlier than the twin who had more sleep. However, I would always try and put them both down at the same time and just keep in mind that that the twin with more sleep may just take a little longer to drift off, in most cases they are the less sensitive sleeper and hopefully may be more adaptable to this.
5) Should you use white noise for twins?
Yes, yes, and YES! White noise can be the key factor in helping twins to go to sleep and stay asleep amidst the noises of one another. However, ensure you are using it correctly. White noise needs to be about fifty decibels (download a decibel reader app on your phone and place it in each cot to check the reading) and it needs to be a consistent sound that is played for the entire sleep period without stopping. The purpose of white noise is to function as a buffer to any unwanted noise or sounds. As you are using white noise to buffer the sounds between your twins, I would recommend placing it on the floor between the two cots.
6) Should you wake both twins to feed overnight?
This can be very subjective and depends on a number of factors. Are they breast fed? Are there any weight concerns? Are there any medical factors to be considered? Are they feeding well during the day? If all of these are ticked and your GP or health nurse has agreed that they are able to go through the night without a feed, then after 6 months (corrected age), I would only feed them if they were waking. If one twin wakes and the other does not, then I would let the other sleep to see how long a stretch they can do. Yes, this may result in two separate overnight wakes and feeds for the parent(s) which can be tough. However, it may also result in one twin being able to sleep through the night without needing a feed and the other may be soon to follow!
However, if after 7-10 days you are feeding and settling one only to be woken an hour later to feed the other twin then I would revert to lifting to feed them both at the same time and try again in another few weeks.
7) Should you separate your twins for naps?
I do recommend separating twins for naps SOMETIMES. If one twin is finding it difficult to settle or to lengthen their naps and requires a lot more support to achieve the nap then that can be disruptive to the other twin that is napping well and can also create a lot of stress for parent(s) who are trying to settle one baby while keeping another baby in the same room asleep (remember white noise is your best friend!). So, in this case, if possible, I would separate for naps and bring them back together for overnight sleep. When both are napping well, I would resume the naps together again.
After that, twins are amazing to work with, and it always fascinates me how well they sleep in the presence of one another once given the chance. Sometimes we are so afraid of our “sensitive sleeper” waking the other twin that we can underestimate their ability to go back to sleep if given a chance and some support!