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.)
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!