Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Scheduling: First Few Months

Disclaimer: The parenting tips on this post are ideas and opinions of the author.  The information provided is intended to offer guidance and encouragement.  It is not professional advice.  Unless being a mom makes you a professional, in which case it is professional advice. :)

When we first brought the twins home from the hospital, a lot of people asked if we put them on a schedule. I would look them square in the eye and say, "We don't have a choice."  And I truly meant what I said.  In order for us to get any sleep, a schedule was absolutely necessary.  Otherwise, we would be up every 30-45 minutes day and night.  Try that for a week and tell me a schedule is silly.

I didn't read many books during my pregnancy but I did seek advice from several friends and almost all recommended Eat/Play/Sleep.  This cycle can help babies be more alert during playtime, differentiate day from night, and not rely on food in order to sleep.  In the beginning, the twins spent 25% of the time eating, 5% of the time playing, and 70% of the time sleeping.  We didn't wake them if they fell asleep while nursing, but when they did stay awake we used those precious moments to play (tummy time, etc.).  Jude and Sloane were large babies so the doctors did not require us to feed them a certain amount each day--we let them tell us when they were ready.  It just so happened they wanted to eat every three hours.

After hearing from others, I think we had two amiable babies.  They loved and took to a schedule quickly.  And while I'm a huge advocate of schedules, there are a few drawbacks.  For instance, my babies have always gone down for naps without a problem.  However, their bodies are so trained to the specific naptimes that if it's 30 minutes later than normal they are completely freaked out.  That is not good when church runs over or you're stuck in traffic.  "Flexible" is not a word any of us understand. 

When new parents want to know about scheduling, I think they're really asking, "How do you get your babies to sleep longer during the night?"  I'm going to offer a few tips that helped us and then I'd love to hear from you.

1.  Find a swaddle you love.  We were given so many swaddling blankets and Jude & Sloane punched their way out of all of them.  Also, swaddling during the day is no big deal.  Try swaddling two babies at 3 am--suddenly you have two left arms and you can't remember if a triangle has three sides or four.  Once we discovered the Summer Infant SwaddleMe we all slept better.  I've also heard great things about the woombie.  Velcro and zippers are your friends.

2.  Moms are going to hate me and dads are going to love me for this one:  If you are breastfeeding, get them out of your room as soon as possible.  My pediatrician explained it perfectly: You know when you walk into a house and the owners have been baking cookies all afternoon?  Suddenly you can't think about anything but cookies.  If you're nursing and are sleeping in the same room with your babies, your scent is all they can think about--sleep is no longer a priority.  Once the twins were out of our room, we ALL slept better.  (FYI: We moved them to their cribs when they were two months old.)

3.  If one baby wakes up to eat, wake the other baby as well. I always considered "Eat" to be the first in the cycle so if we were off at some point (one baby fell asleep quicker than the other, etc.), they always got back in sync when it was time to eat.  This can apply to breastfeeding or bottle-feeding.

4.  Jude & Sloane had their days and nights confused the first week home from the hospital.  This came as no surprise to us because they were constantly partying through the night when I was pregnant.  I was advised to cluster feed (nurse several times back to back) the few hours before we put them down for the night and that would help them recognize the difference (full belly = sleepy time).  Once again, same is true for bottle-feeding.

5.  In the very beginning we let them sleep on us, on the sofa, on the floor, on the kitchen counter (just kidding), but when we moved them to their cribs, that is where they slept.  Once expectations are set ("naps are always in your crib") the schedule thrives.  With twins, some sleep better right next to each other, while others are better with their own space.  Ours preferred to be close to one another when they were newborns, but it wasn't long before we noticed they slept better in their own pack-n-plays/cribs.  I truly think this is a twin-specific decision.  The only thing I know is they need to be in their own space before they are rolling over.

6.  We didn't rock our babies to sleep.  You better believe we cuddled with them throughout the day and held them when they were awake, but when it was time for bed, we put them in their cribs (or pack-n-plays for the first two months), turned out the light and let them sleep.  This allowed them to keep the same schedule.  If you rock them separately they're no longer going to bed at the same time. 

As with everything, parenting is so personal and what works for one family doesn't work for another.  The above tips are what worked for our family.  Even if you follow all of the tips I mentioned, your babies may still fight a schedule.  That is why there are five million right ways to parent.  And what makes it so special is you know your children better than anyone else in the world so what you think is best... IS BEST.   Good luck and here's to sleeping through the night!

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  1. Love Jude's fluffy hair in that first picture! And Sloane's hair was so dark!

    Great scheduling post! Couldn't have said it better myself!

  2. Loved this! We were formula babies but followed many of the same "rules" you all did. I read Healthy Sleep habits, Happy Twins and one of the things that stood out to me was the most was that babies are learning everything when they come in to the world, including how to fall asleep on their own. This doesn't mean they need to know HOW to sleep, just how to fall asleep. The grandmothers probably hated me but I was adamant that I did not want a baby to fall asleep in their arms or to be intentionally rocked to sleep. My biggest reason was I did not want them to get used to something, come to depend on it to be comfortable enough to fall asleep and it be something I could not provide them when I was by myself! They begrudgingly accepted this and I firmly believe it only helped us in the end. We had them sleep in their cribs from the beginning, have been on a schedule from the beginning and like Jude and Sloane, our babies have grown to depend on the schedule. It has it's downsides - errands have to be done in super speedy fashion, but I am at peace with it knowing that they're getting the sleep they need and we're not fighting with overtired babies. As rigid as the schedule may be, I think we're all happier knowing what's coming up and knowing when they'll be getting some rest.
    One last quick thing! Also not allowing them to fall asleep in our arms meant when they woke up in the middle of the night (as all babies do!! Many times!!) they were able to put themselves back to sleep without depending on someone to rock them back to sleep. We definitely have our crutches (dimmed lights, pacifiers, soft music playing) but I feel like those are things I can tackle at a later point in time. For now, they work for us and Zach and Tan sleep 12 hours a night and have done so since 3 months old. It's the little things, right? :)

  3. We are bringing our girls home from the NICU this weekend so this post could not have come at a better time! I'm a second time mom, but twins are a whole new ball game when it comes to scheduling (well, and everything else!) Thanks for the tips!

  4. A schedule is essential for the mental and emotional health of the WHOLE family (learned the hard way after our first, singleton, baby). With our fraternal girl-girl twins, even now at 15 months, they still eat, snack, play, and sleep in sync. Once they were 3 months, off they went into their separate cribs for nap and bedtime. They are so accustomed to this routine that they holler and scream if they're not in their shared room together for sleeptime. However, flexibility is key even in a routine. Babies turn into very independent little toddlers and life can get tricky as you transition into new routines. But adapting to their individual needs along with maintaining as much of a routine as possible is so important. One of our girls doesn't require half as much naptime as the other. So though they go down together, it is often I'm getting one out sometimes far earlier than the other. And that is ok even though it does mess with MY schedule (since I work from home 3 days a week). HA! The first 3-6 months with any number of babies is difficult (at best). We all need to cut ourselves some slack and laugh off as much as possible and remember that "this too shall pass".

  5. Amen to all of this!! Ours have had to be somewhat flexible due to being in daycare (sadly you apparently can't force daycare to follow your schedule to a 'T,' it seems :), but they generally know what to expect in terms of eating/sleeping every day and I think that has helped a ton!

  6. I agree with everything in this post! Schedule is very important but its ok to have a little wiggle room. My boys are 4 months and have been very good sleepers since they were born so getting into a good schedule hasn't been too difficult, thankfully! I agree that once one baby is up and fed to wake the other. Sometimes I think "I'll just let him sleep..." but then he is up within the hour so I might as well have woken him up! We still swaddle too because it helps them sleep better, but sometimes we only swaddle from the chest down, leaving their arms free in case they decide to roll over. I still have them in the twin bassinets (pack and play) next to my bed because I'm not ready to move them out yet! But they are very comfortable laying and falling asleep in their crib during naptime so I don't think it will be too big of an issue when I do move them. It might be soon because they are starting to outgrow their bassinets! I, too, never got them used to being rocked to sleep or nursed to sleep and I am very grateful for that because once they are ready for bed and swaddled, they know its bedtime and fall right asleep! It definitely helps during those night time feedings that they can fall back asleep easily!

  7. I went back to work 3 days a week when my twins turned 9 weeks old and could not have done this had we not been on a schedule. By that time, they were sleeping an 8 hour stretch and then another 4 hours. I had the help of a Newborn Care Specialist starting at 4 weeks old. We hired her to help by email and phone. She was fabulous and my husband and I feel that was some of the best money we've ever spent. She coached me on how to sleep train them and had me keep a log each night. I would take a picture and send it to her each morning and she would give me tips and pointers on how to do things along the way. She also helped with bottle feeding. I hemorrhaged after the babies were born and due to that and PCOS my milk never really came in. At best, I was getting 2-3oz on a good day at 3 weeks old. I was still putting them to the breast and bottle feeding them though. I absolutely dreaded feeding the babies by myself which I knew I was going to have to do after my mom left (she stayed the first 4 weeks). The Newborn Care Specialist helped me with a system which made my life so much easier!!!!

    Also, we loved the Woombie! My daughter figured out how to get her arms out of all the velcro ones. They sell Woombies that have holes for their arms out too. I weaned them off of swaddling by letting them keep one arm our for a few nights, then both, then we stopped the sleep sack all-together.