Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Sleep Training Twins: Ferber Method

Hello my fellow and future twin parents! My name is Jennica and I'm a new stay-at-home mom to my 5-month-old boy/girl twins, Jack and Clare. 

I offered to share my experience with sleep training on Twin Talk since I figured I couldn't be the only mamma of multiples who is interested obsessed with getting more sleep. Because let's be honest, everyone needs sleep. (I'm thinking Everyone Poops needs a sequel written...)

Every new parent will tell you (and non-parents as well) that once your little bundle of joy arrives, you will never sleep.

You will, in reality, get very minimal sleep, but somehow it still feels like you're getting literally ZERO hours at night.
And after 4.5 months of running on fumes, my husband David and I (and our pediatrician, of course) decided it was time for our twins Jack and Clare to learn how to fall asleep on their own. No rocking (which we would do every night), no pacifiers (which they used every night), no back patting, no swings, no falling asleep on mom or dad. Basically no outside help getting to dreamland, because frankly we were just exhausted from being on sleep watch, making sure they got enough sleep and stayed asleep. On top of it, it seemed like no matter how hard we tried, Jack and Clare weren't sleeping long stretches at night. 

So off to Ferber-land we went! I already knew we would try the Ferber method before reading the book (which, if you are going to use the "cry-it-out" method [or the better name, the "progressive waiting" method] READ.THE.BOOK. It repels all and any fears you may have about allowing your baby to fall asleep all on their own. It won't make it easier to hear him/her cry, but nothing will. does. Wine helps a little.)

I knew we would use Ferber because Jack and Clare both have fallen asleep on their own before. Not consistently and not at bedtime, but they have. Which convinced me that they were capable of it, so David and I as parents had to put our big girl panties on (yep, David too) and create the environment for them to sleep on their own. If we kept giving them all of the extras, how could they ever learn to fall asleep without them?

Ferber works off of "progressive waiting| -- basically you put your kid to bed, and go in to check on them at timed intervals. The check-ins I think are mostly for the benefit of the parents so that you can unfurl your body from the tight ball you've curled up into. But you aren't supposed to pick them up--you really just stay 1-2 minutes, tell them you love them, you know they can do it, maybe give a couple pats and then leave again. Even if they don't even slow down crying. Even if their crying got worse. But Ferber also says going in and assuring your little that you're still there reminds them that they aren't abandoned and are still in a safe place (again...whatever you want to tell yourself to run up and try to comfort your babe...) No matter how long it takes for them to go to sleep (our pediatrician said with her son, he cried for up to 3 hours) do not pick them up to rock or bring into your bed. If you resort back to the techniques you are trying to quit them of, all of that crying will have truly been for nothing. It may sound extreme, but babies can learn and they learn fast! 

A few things that I think are necessary when sleep training your babes
1. Your partner, whoever that may be. You both need to be on the same page, so you can both stay strong when one of you inevitably wants to run up and cuddle the cute out of the twins. Make sure you both will be home at bedtime for the week. Doing this alone would be extra tough.
2. A non-video monitor. This is my opinion, but just hearing your two babies cry is hard enough. Seeing them in distress would be torture. If you've got a video monitor, run out and get a cheap radio one at least for the first few days.
3. Activity. A board game, cooking, painting your nails...whatever you want to keep your hands busy so they don't remember that they aren't holding a crying baby.

Here's our journey :)

Day 13 min (1st wait), 5 min, 10 min, 10 min (subsequent waits)
We didn't use Ferber for the naps today, instead used them to enjoy the last (at least for the next week) rocking, holding, and patting to sleep. The book recommends to do your normal bedtime routine, which for us is heading upstairs to change into pjs, nurse, a bedtime book, and some last minute cuddles on mom and dad's bed (no bath, as we found it tends to wake them up more). After the routine, put the baby down at or AFTER the normal time they fall asleep. You basically do not want to put your baby down before they are sleepy, because they'll cry about not being sleepy. 

We put them down in their separate cribs at 7:15pm (I should also note that up until this night, they had been sleeping in our room.) AAAAAAaaand the crying commenced! We went in at 3 mins, patted their backs/belly, said "I love you" and "You can do this" and left. They were DEFINITELY still crying. Our visit didn't seem to calm or help them at all. 
Cue the wine and the board game!!

After about 30 mins of crying, Jack finally fell asleep. No peep from him! Clare didn't fall asleep for about an hour, but it wasn't an hour of solid crying. She'd stop (assumedly be asleep) but then wake herself up again and cry again (she rolls around a TON so I don't think that helped). At that point, we'd start the 10 min timer but she would stop before the 10 mins were up, so we wouldn't go check on her. 

Not a bad start! Wasn't easy, but I was prepared for the worst. Like drink all the wine move onto tequila worst.
*Note: I will say that Clare was EXTRA hungry during the night. They usually eat 1-2 times in the middle of the night, and it's always Jack who wakes first. But this night Clare woke up STARVING after only 3 hour stretches. She was trying to eat her hands, and crazy-nursed for a full 8 mins. All that crying and rolling around in her crib made her uber hungry.

Day 2 | 5 min (1st wait), 10 min, 12 min, 12 min (subsequent waits)
Today their naps were all in their cribs upstairs. They've consistently been needing naps after 1-1.5 hours of being awake, but have been taking them down in our living room since we'd rock and pat them to sleep. Today, once we started seeing them slow down during playtime or yawning, we scooped them up, brought them upstairs, read them a book, kissed them and said have a good nap! They went down for their naps after about 5-10 mins of some squeaking (not full blown crying, but not falling quietly to sleep either). BUT Jack did not want his evening nap, and so he stayed up for 4 hours before bedtime and Clare took VERY short naps (i.e. 30 mins max). By the time bedtime rolled around, they were very tired. 

We put them in their cribs at 6:45 since they were oh-so-ready for sleep, went downstairs, started the timer for 10 mins and started making dinner. Which was much better than playing a game, since I could chop and cook things and keep my hands busy. 

Jack fell asleep after about 15 mins of hard crying and Clare fell asleep after 45 total mins of crying. Again, she fell asleep around the same time Jack did (or at least calmed down for a bit) but then woke herself up a bit. I blame myself for her having a harder time because for the last couple of weeks she's fallen asleep at night in a swing, which wouldn't always be on, but if she started fussing I'd switch it on. Jack has always fallen asleep in the co-sleeper. When he's really tired, he typically doesn't even liked to be held/rocked by us.

I should also note that after the 2nd wait time (10 mins) we didn't go back up even though Clare was still crying. Clare would cry, then stop for a bit, then get going again. And we knew if we went in, we'd just stimulate her more. 

Day 3 | 10 min (1st wait), 12 min, 15 min, 15 min (subsequent waits)
Today wasn't any different than Day 2, other than their naps. Both of them took EPIC naps all day. I'm talking 1.5-2 hour naps. Clare even fell asleep on our walk, which she never does. It must have caught up with them because they were sleeeeepy babies. Ferber's book says to not let naps make up for any lost night sleep, but they haven't lost any night sleep really...they would still wake up at their normal 7-7:30am time so I figured they just needed it. They went to sleep that night like usual...Jack cried for 10 mins and Clare cried (off and on) for about an hour. 

Day 412 min (1st wait), 15 min, 17 min, 17 min (subsequent waits)
Today was back to not wanting naps, and actually they both missed their afternoon nap all together, except for a little catnap they had in the car around 5pm. So when bedtime rolled around I was preparing myself for another night of having to listen to our babies cry. Let me tell you, it does not get any easier as the days go on. I was definitely doubting myself at this point. The only saving grace (aside from David, who throughout all of it remained steadfast in our decision--yay teamwork!) was that they were sleeping SO MUCH BETTER through the night. The past two days they would only wake up ONCE to eat around 3am or 4am, fall right back asleep once I put them back (I'd usually have to pat/rock them back to sleep after nursing/burping) and wouldn't wake up again until morning. So I knew that at least they were getting great nights of sleep.

Ok, so bedtime rolls around, I give them a massage with coconut oil and eucalyptus (I've done this the past two nights as well...) Already this bedtime I notice Clare is babbling like she does in the morning when she's just waking up (i.e. her happiest) and not rolling around like a maniac. They are both very calm and mellow (Jack is always pretty calm and mellow haha). But I'm thinking that in a minute they're going to unleash their fury on us for not rocking them to sleep. 
We kiss them goodnight, put them down and leave. We go downstairs and I hear some squeaking (not full on crying yet, so I don't start my timer). It's 7:12. At 7:18 I hear Jack stop. At 7:25 I hear Clare stop. I pray and pray that she's asleep and LO AND BEHOLD SHE IS! They both fell asleep in less than TEN MINUTES!! 

I cried tears of joy and wanted to scoop them up right then to kiss and snuggle them because I was just so proud. My sweet littles drifted off to sleep on their own :) 

This was definitely the best night so far, but we'll see how it goes till Day 7 (the "end" of the program)

Day 5 | 15 min (1st wait), 17 min, 20 min, 20 min (subsequent waits)
This was the first day I was without David for support. Their naps were still sporadic, especially in the afternoon...they'd seem tired (rubbing eyes, yawning, not playing as much) but when I'd put them down, they'd just cry and cry until the nap was "over" (Ferber says that if 30 mins have gone by without sleep, end the nap). BUT bedtime was awesome. We went upstairs and I let them play with me on our bed and just wind down. We did bedtime routine and I put them down at 6:50. Clare fell asleep almost instantly...there was 5 mins of intermitted crying but nothing to warrant the start of a timer. AMAZING! Jack took a bit longer, about 20 mins of squeaking...again not full blown crying so not enough to start a timer. I didn't even need the giant glass of wine I poured for myself (although, lets be honest...I drank it anyway) or my parents who I put 'on call' in case I was in for another hour of relentless crying and needed a hug. 

PHEW! In Ferber's book he says that by day 3-4 their sleep should dramatically improve, and although this is only the 2nd day where there was significant improvement, I have a feeling we're absolutely doing the right thing. GO BABIES, YOU ROCK!

**I should also note that the last two days Clare has woken up chatting in her crib, happy as a clam. And this morning Jack woke up super calm and happy too (which he never does, since he doesn't like waking up on his belly, although he prefers to fall asleep on his belly)

Day 6 | 17 min (1st wait), 20 min, 25 min, 25 min (subsequent waits)
Today was another reminder that their naps are tricky, but I think I'm spotting a pattern. Jack takes long morning naps and can stay up much later in the late afternoon. Clare likes shorter naps (45 mins) and needs an evening one. Jack maybe can just do 3? Just another reminder that twins are two different people!! I used to feel really confident with their daytime and dreaded bedtime, and now it's opposite! This night they fell asleep after maybe 2 minutes of crying. I mean, barely anything. It was more like "HEY MOM! You're leaving?! ZZZZZzzzZZZZ" I heard Jack cry after about an hour of nodding off, but I think something just spooked him because he woke up crying but fell back asleep before my first timer went off. Good job, bud!

Also, Clare woke up at 6am (boo for that!) and was crying, but I heard her cries turn into babbling, and then nothing so I left her. She woke up again at 7:30, the normal wake up time and had a crazy diaper blow out. All over her, her jammies, the sheet...meh. She still woke up smiling and happy so I didn't feel toooo bad (read: I felt horrible). But still, they fell asleep so fast, on their own and stayed that way all night. Win! Despite getting spooked and making righteous goo. 

Day 7 | 20 min (1st wait), 25 min, 30 min, 30 min (subsequent waits)
This day, the day that the program "technically" ends (although Ferber writes that even if there is just slight improvement, continue on until Day 10) was miraculous. All FOUR naps happened at the same time, for good amounts of time (i.e. 45-1 hour long) with ZERO crying. There's some babbling, some baby dinosaur sounds (Jack...) and such, but I look at that as totally normal. I don't fall asleep the minute my head hits the pillow. Usually I'm on my phone or reading a book or watching tv, etc. So they can talk and babble all they want, because boy does it sound so much better than an hour of screaming! They sleep so great through the night still, and only wake up around 4am to eat. I do give them a dream feed around 10pm as well. They are still exclusively breastfed (and in the 1st and 4th percentile for their age) so the fact that they eat at night still doesn't bother me at all. 

If you had asked me a week ago if my babies could fall asleep without being rocked, without a pacifier, without waking up in the middle of the night for comfort I would have said no friggin way. This week they have shown me to never underestimate them...they are little powerhouses and if I just have some faith in them, they can exceed my expectations :) 

Final Thoughts

I am just so infinitely proud of Jack and Clare (and let's be honest, David and myself). I have told myself again and again that sleeping is a skill and we as parents need to help our babies figure it out early for the sake and sanity of everyone. Already, I'm not daunted by doing bedtime by myself anymore--in fact I look forward to it! The babes seem happier when they're awake, and can go longer between feedings during the day. And at night, since they only wake up once to eat, I'm finally sleeping longer than 3 hour blocks at a time. 

They don't fall asleep with pacifiers anymore it's true, but we still have them/use them sporadically if they're being cranky when we're out. We definitely try to steer clear of using them to assist in falling asleep (this was thrown out the window yesterday during church when both babes wanted to babble and talk while going to sleep. So in went the pacis!) 
Clare doesn't sleep with any kind of swaddling, which she used to need every time she went down. She used to always wake up from Jack crying (she's so much more of a light sleeper) as well, but now it doesn't seem to bother her. So not only do David and I have our evenings back, our twins are falling asleep easier and staying asleep better. Can I get a hallelujah?!

That being said, we went into this training prepared to be flexible. If after a few nights (3-4) there was no improvement, we would adapt. I think we would have given the pacifiers back first, and then tried again. And we were also prepared to stop all together and try again in a few weeks. As with anything in child-rearing, do what works best for your family. I am absolutely no expert, this is just what my kids happened to respond well to. Thankfully Dr. Ferber is an expert, and is there to guide the way to better sleep!

Jack waking up--this little face just cracks me up!
How she managed to get her arm out of that onesie, I'll never know!
She's such a rough and tumble!
Just look at these happy babes!!
(Clare never smiles on was the best I could get! haha)
Jennica's Blog: We're A Bunch

If you have any questions for Jennica, CLICK HERE to email her!

1 comment:

  1. Hey Jennifer. Our fraternal twin boys are just over 4 months old, and we (meaning me convincing my wife she doesn't need to get up at 2am to let them sleep on her all night self soothing) are just reading Ferber's book. He had very little to say about twins, and I found your blog.

    Were your twins in the same room? Did you find that one crying while the other slept was a big deal?

    Cute kiddos! I'm sending this link to my wife --- pretty funny stuff too. Finishing my wine now.