SLEEP….it is a precious commodity, especially among twin Mums. I am sure we’ve all experienced that moment of joy when you finally get Twin A back to sleep and are crawling back under the covers, only to hear Twin B crying over the monitor. After so many weeks, you could call it close to heartbreaking. Tears were certainly shed in my household. There is a reason why sleep deprivation is a form of torture!
First and foremost, I am no expert, but I read, A LOT. I am the world’s worst "Googler." Sometimes this is a good thing, but not always. I tried EVERYTHING to get Max and Leo to sleep, and I am a big believer in what works for your child may not necessarily work for mine, so I am going to outline various techniques I tried, and hopefully at least one of them may help whoever reads this.
Max and Leo were 5lb 3oz and 5lb 10oz when they were born, so they were put on a strict three hour feed schedule. When the boys got to 10 weeks old and had gained the appropriate amount of weight, we were ready to start sleep training! Phew….we were ready! This is what we tried:
This is THE most important point I can make. I’m sure you’ve heard it before, but keep both babies on the same schedule, even if it means waking them. I also tried to keep the timings the same, so feeds at 7am, 10am, 1pm etc. They knew what to expect and when.
I desperately tried to breastfeed, desperately. Unfortunately, it didn’t come naturally to me at all. I tried in the hospital, but my milk didn’t come in until day 5, and because the boys were small, they had to have formula. After my milk came in, I tried with a top up of formula. Afterwards I would express to try and increase my supply. When on my own, feeding both boys with breast and then a top up of formula, changing nappies and then expressing would take me about 2 hours,. I would then start again an hour later. My milk never increased so this routine lasted two months. Once I switched to formula, I found life MUCH easier. I wanted to feed the boys myself so much, but I had to accept that I'd tried my very best and needed to lead a more sensible day.
Formula is heavier so we managed to move the feeds to every 3.5 hours, and then every 4. We eventually decided to buy ‘Hungry Milk’ to give them at the last feed. This did help and would sometimes buy us an extra hour of sleep a night. We deliberately only gave them the Hungry Milk once a day as we wanted them to notice the difference and not get too used to the heavier milk.
I think keeping a diary was really important. When I bought my breastfeeding pillow, I got sent a Twin Feeding Diary as a free gift - lifesaver! When the doctor would ask me specifics about Max’s milk intake or what his nappies were like, I would be able to give him the correct answer, rather than thinking back over a hazy day and trying to decide which baby did or didn’t poo! I read that babies should have a minimum of 70ml of milk per pound they weigh, and this should be divided throughout the day. With the diary, this was easy to keep track of. As the day progressed, I would total their milk consumption and if they were short I would try to get more down them during the remainder of the day. I once read that if they don’t get enough during the day, the will look for it at night. The days in which they wouldn’t take much milk were the nights that were difficult.
We kept a "feeding station" in our bedroom – kettle, bottles, formula, bibs, etc. This made the process quicker so the twins had less time to stress themselves out and therefore wake themselves up too much.
DON’T DO IT ON YOUR OWN
When my husband went back to work, I tried to do the nights on my own. I lasted four days. Don’t get me wrong, I know my husband had to go to work, but at that early stage I can safely say that a day on my own with the boys, although amazing, was physically and mentally harder than going to work. I needed some sleep too. Doing it on your own means that one baby is waiting, and very often crying, while they wait. This means a stressful night for you and the babies, and no quick and calm routine that will lead to a full night's sleep.
I tried all types of white noise, womb sounds, Ssshing and nothing seemed to work. I then found "Calm Baby" Music on iTunes. Specifically, I found "Relax: Beautiful Music With Ambient and Nature Sounds" (there are other songs available). Max and Leo LOVE this music and we put it on every night. It has become part of their night-time routine, and it plays on repeat, sometimes ALL night. We joke that it will be played at their weddings!
NAPPIES AT NIGHT
At the hospital, the nurses advised me to "change, feed, burp." The idea being that the changing of the nappy would wake them up enough so they would take their milk. This made sense as my boys were very sleepy newborns. (Although, I would have to change nappies again afterwards!) When they were a few weeks old and easier to rouse for feeds, I started to feed, burp and change. Once this started, I only changed their nappy at night if they'd had a bowel movement. This meant that the 2am feed would be quick, quiet and calm.
A controversial one with some, but we gave it a shot. The boys would be due to feed about 11pm, so we would "dream feed" them 15 minutes before they woke up. They were so well scheduled (see above), we knew when they would want feeding. We would very carefully lift them out of their Moses baskets, give them their bottles and put them back down. The idea was that they would get into the habit of not waking for feeds that they no longer really needed. We would twist the bottle and put the teet to the roof of their mouth to wake them enough that they would actually drink it.
I didn’t do this for long, I was uncomfortable with the fact that they never really burped after this feed, but I have many friends that swear by this method, and I’m sure it contributed to the overall success to the boys finally sleeping through.
Now, I tried all of the above, and I think they all made a contribution to finally getting Max and Leo to sleep, but I think this was the trick that finally broke the night feed cycle. This tip was given to me by another twin parent, and I was so grateful. When Max and Leo weighed enough that it was OK for them to go one prolonged period of the day without being fed (and have had enough during the day – see "Keep a Diary" above) , I stopped giving them their 2am feed. When they woke up to be fed, I offered them some cooled boiled water (which they never really bothered with) and then I cuddled them back to sleep.
Each time they woke, I would repeat the process. Don’t get me wrong, this was tough for about two weeks. I was up all night on occasion, but it was worth it because, at 12 weeks old, my twins slept from, 10pm to 6am. They didn’t need that 2am feed, as they'd had more than enough during the day. It was just about breaking the habit.
(See what Leo thinks to my no milk strategy below!)
GRADUALLY DOES IT
Once we had mastered 10pm-6am, we gradually moved that last feed forward. So one night it would be 9.45pm and then 9.30pm the following night, etc. At 15 weeks, they would sleep from 7pm until 7am, and I cannot describe that feeling of the first morning we realized they’d slept all the way through. I think we both cheered!
Max and Leo will be ONE on the 26th January! Where did that go?! I’ve loved every second, even the sleepless nights. I mastered the infant sleep training but I am still developing my own toddler sleep training now that they are climbing everywhere! Any advice for older babies will be gratefully received! One thing I have learned is that you can’t expect your routines to stay the same; you have to evolve with them. Our boys are starting to learn that Mummy and Daddy’s bed is better than theirs…..but I’m sure we’ll figure it out eventually.