If you are the proud parent of twins, congratulations! You have my sincerest respect and empathy for the challenges you’re likely to encounter in this journey. Twin babies, especially for first-time parents, are a massive amount of work.
I firmly believe that getting your child sleeping well is a valuable investment in your entire family’s well-being. Families with multiples are no exception! It may even be MORE important when you have more than one baby.
When it comes to sleep, twins make the process a bit more complicated than it would be to teach just one baby some solid sleep skills. I’m sure you can guess the reasons for this. If one baby wakes up crying, the other one will likely be right behind them. Parents of twins are often quick to rush in and soothe a crying baby back to sleep by any means necessary, and that can lead to stronger feed/sleep associations.
I’m not here to sugar coat it. Teaching your twins their own sleep skills won’t be easy. It will take discipline and determination, but it’s absolutely achievable. And once your little ones are sleeping well, it will make life MUCH easier for you!
Take a moment to dream...
What would you do with the extra time if your babies were napping on the same schedule and sleeping through the night? This is a game changer for most families.
If you are ready for the challenge, let’s dive into the details:
Where should they sleep?
Some parents prefer to separate their twins for sleep training. Others wouldn’t even consider separating their children into two different rooms. You know what? Either will work!
If you aren’t sure where you fall here, my best advice is to train how you plan to end up. If you want your kids in separate rooms long term, separate them for sleep training. If you plan to keep them together, go ahead leave them together so they get used to sleeping through the other one’s wakings.
How can I keep them on a similar schedule?
For your own sanity, you will want them on the same schedule. The great thing about twins is that their sleep needs are going to be pretty much exactly the same, so putting them on the same nap/bedtime schedule is effective for both of them.
You’ll likely run into a situation where one baby sleeps longer than the other, and that’s fine up to a point. I set the limit at about 30 minutes. If one baby wakes up from a nap and the other one is still sleeping, wait 30 minutes and then wake up your other baby to prevent them from getting too out of sync. When nap time rolls around again, just ignore that extra 30 minutes and put them down at the same time.
Having both babies going down at the same time for bedtime and waking up at the same time in the morning is also important. Again, use the 30 minute rule. If one baby wakes at 6am, wake your second one by 6:30am so they can stay on the same schedule that day.
What if one baby is crying at night?
As I mentioned earlier, it’s very tempting for parents of twins to rush in at night to calm one baby when they wake up in order keep your other baby from waking. When training your babies to sleep, you are going to need to resist this urge.
I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t soothe your crying baby, but if you stick to your usual response of rushing in and offering a feed, a pacifier, or rock baby back to sleep, you aren’t going to make any progress when it comes to their independent sleep skills. Your baby needs time to practice falling back asleep on their own.
When they wake at night (and do not need a feed), give them some time to work on those self soothing skills before you go in and offer some comfort. Even at the risk of waking your other child. The consequences are temporary in exchange for a lifelong skill of independent sleep.
What if only one wakes for a night feed?
It is very likely that at some point, one baby will wake for a feed and the other one will still be sleeping. If your little ones are gaining weight appropriately and you don’t have specific instructions from your pediatrician to give night feeds (but you aren’t ready to cut them out completely), I would let the baby who is still sleeping sleep. You don’t need to wake them in order to get the same number of night feeds in.
If your baby is naturally sleeping through the night, they will get all the calories they need during their 12 hours of day.
Why should I teach them to sleep independently?
If you jump into sleep training with both feet, fully committed, after three or four days, you’re going to start seeing those sleep skills developing. There will be less protest and your babies will be less likely to wake the other one up (because they will be spending more time in deep sleep). They might even be sleeping through the night by then!
Don’t forget, sleep begets sleep. When we are overtired, our body produces more cortisol (which makes it HARDER to fall asleep!). When we are getting the sleep we need, it will be easier to fall asleep and stay asleep, allow your babies to get that restorative sleep they need.
My last piece of advice is to make sure you’re ready before you get started. I see a lot of parents get started when they’re not fully committed to the process only to quit a few nights in, which can be very discouraging for the parents and send all sorts of mixed signals to your little ones. It can even cause MORE crying. So don’t start if you can’t commit to it. I want you to succeed in this!
If you decide you’d like some support in the process, I would love to chat with you more. I’m more than happy to walk alongside you and make sure your babies get sleeping well!