Nothing Can be Done to Adequately Prepare
Nighttime is the worst time for any new parent, especially for parents of twins. Nothing can be done to adequately prepare for the countless nights that you will awaken to the sound of a crying baby or in our case, babies.
You will be tired and feel foggy but believe me, you will survive and I am going to help you. As a Registered Nurse, I’ve found that the following tips will ensure that everyone in your home is sleeping soundly as quickly as possible.
Day for Night
When newborns first come home from the hospital, it is not uncommon for their days and nights to be mixed up. They may sleep soundly for 3-4 hours during the day and then may awaken every 1-2 hours during the night. Let’s look at what can be done about it.
If the twins’ days and nights are mixed up, reverse them by actively playing with them during the day- exercise their limbs, play music, read books and/or sing songs to those sweet angels. Be sure to keep the lights on and pull up the shades each day.
As the day winds down, calm your home by dimming the lights, pulling the shades down, turning the music off, talking with a whisper and giving the babies a warm bath. Repeat this process daily and within 1-2 weeks, their days and nights will be correctly reversed.
To enhance the twins ability to sleep, swaddle (comfortably wrap) each baby in a receiving blanket and place side by side on their backs in the same crib. These close-fitting quarters are what they are used to from the womb.
In fact, the practice of co-bedding multiples, particularly preemies that need to stay in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at birth, is increasingly becoming a standard procedure in hospitals. Researchers have found that multiples that are co-bedded after birth appear to handle the stress of the NICU better than those who are separated do.
The Most Important Tactic
The next tactic that I am going to explain to ensure some sleep with twins is probably the most important yet the most challenging to accomplish. Awaken the second baby at the time the first baby wakes up so that they can both be fed and changed at the SAME time. Do this during the day and especially during the night.
This will eliminate the tortuous game of tag that twins like to play with their parents. One baby awakens in hunger and by the time that you feed, change and put him back down, the other baby wakes up ready to be fed and changed. This agonizing cycle will continue all day and all night in the beginning if you do not break it early and feed them both at the SAME time. Trust me on this one, you will get more sleep and more time for other things (other children, laundry) in the long run.
This will not be easy in the beginning. You will have to work hard at it and be persistent. However, this process, through repetition, will teach the babies how to get on the same feeding, changing (not all of the time but the majority of the time) and sleeping schedule. The twins will begin to know what to expect at certain times each day making the day and night itself less stressful on everyone. Once the twins are on the same schedule you will feel much better emotionally and physically. You will have a sense of control over your day that will improve your sense of well being and the entire dynamics of the household.
Before you start thinking that this will be simple to do, let me stop and say, it is not. It is hard work and requires persistence on your part. I found that my twins, Henry and Michael would each take turns waking up first. Their rhythms did not exhibit any consistency. Henry would wake up first for his feedings one day and then the next day Michael would be the first to wake up for a feeding. It was out of control! My husband John and I felt like one of the twins was being fed or changed at every minute of each day. However, after struggling for several weeks and remaining persistent with ourselves, they both fell into the same schedule successfully. We felt so much happier too -- just ask our family and friends!
Also keep in mind in the beginning, the twins may hate to sleep in their cribs and prefer something else such as their bouncy seats, car seats, or your chest. If this is the case then let them sleep where it is safe and most comfortable for them but still wake them both up at the same time to be fed and changed.
The twins may not go back to sleep easily in the beginning requiring you to rock them to sleep or walk the halls endlessly during the day and/or night. Do whatever works the first few months but continue to feed and change them both at the same time and be sure that their days and nights are not confused.
You may have to move the crib or bassinet into the bedroom for awhile -- do it if it makes things easier on you. I encourage you to find some reliable outside help for the first several months. Those extra set of hands will be needed to help you get on the right track and to allow you to get some rest. Whatever it is, do it if it will make things easier.