All new parents experience a level of exhaustion they've likely never known before when they bring home their new baby. From the first night in the hospital it's pretty apparent that it's time to accept a new normal when it comes to sleep. Even though it's worth it and you'd do it all over again, any extra minute of sleep is one to be celebrated. But what if you have twins? Double the sweetness, double the sleep challenges.
Twin moms who've been there will tell you that you'll get through it! Just like any challenging phase in a little one's life, it won't last forever. Especially if you're willing to implement some tried and true tips for helping your newborn twins sleep.
Before we get into that, it's important to understand why sleep is so much harder to come by when you have twins.
Why Sleep is More Difficult with Twins
Since it's not recommended to formally "sleep train" your babies until they are close to four months old, parents are very much at the mercy of their baby's natural sleeping patterns. That "fourth trimester" period we discuss in this article, though filled with a lot of joy, can also be extremely tiring while your little one figures out life in the outside world.
Since each baby is unique, this means that parents of twins experience the normal sleep challenges of having a newborn...times two.
This could include:
- Different feeding times - When twins are born, one is often larger than the other twin. This can mean that the larger baby is able to go a longer time between feedings whereas the smaller baby will need to eat more often to bulk up their weight. Babies that don't eat on a similar schedule equates to you getting up much more frequently to feed them in the middle of the night.
- More frequent feedings due to lower birth weight - According to Verywell Family, the majority of twins are born earlier and weigh less than single birth babies. Babies born prematurely will need to eat much more frequently than a baby who was born full-term.
- Trying to keep one baby from waking the other - Another difficulty to note that parents of one baby may not consider is how quick parents will be to quiet one of the twins if they are fussing. Often twin parents will rush in to quiet one of the babies so that the other one doesn't wake up. This can lead to less sleep for everyone.
Here's the bottom line. If it's hard with one, it's going to be harder with two. But, we have some tips to help get your twins' sleep on track as soon as possible. Then, you, too, can remember what it's like to get a good night's sleep.
Best Tips for Helping Your Newborn Twins Sleep
1. Don't rush to your baby's side with every little noise or cry. Twin parents fear that the other baby will be woken up. But newborns are actually very used to noise. In fact, the sounds in the womb are louder than a vacuum cleaner. By allowing each twin to get used to sleeping through noise, you'll be on your way to allowing them to sleep longer stretches much sooner as well as helping them self-soothe to go back to sleep.
2. Sleep with your babies close to you. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies sleep in the same room as their parents for the first 6 months of life (but not in a co-sleeping situation). This will not only help keep your babies safe, but will also allow you to feed them and go back to sleep much more quickly. There are special bassinets designed for twins or you can put them in separate bedside bassinets or cribs.
3. Work to get your babies feeding at the same time. Since it's likely your babies will have different birth weights, you won't be able to do this right away. It's important to feed your baby when they are hungry, especially until you've gotten the go-ahead from your babies' pediatrician for them to go longer stretches. But once babies are gaining weight well and your milk supply is well established (usually within a few weeks) it will be a lot easier to get your twins feeding at the same time.
In order to make this work, you're going to have to wake one of your little ones up to feed. If you're breastfeeding you can use the football hold to feed them simultaneously. Or, you can give one a bottle while breastfeeding the other. (Then switch for the next feeding). Getting your babies eating at the same time is key for more sleep. Otherwise, you're getting up much more frequently at night to feed them separately.
4. Create a soothing sleep environment. It's hard when babies have their days and nights mixed up, but you can help both of your babies separate the two pretty early on. Even young babies can start to learn cues so they know that nighttime is meant for long stretches of sleep. This can be done by giving your babies plenty of wake time during the day and not letting naps go longer than a couple of hours. This allows for more feeds during the day, making your twins nice and full for the majority of the night ahead. A consistent nighttime routine which includes a bath, swaddling, dimmed lights, lullabies, rocking, feeding, and white noise will help your babies be ready for a great night's sleep.
5. Swaddle each of your twins. Almost all new babies love being swaddled because of the closeness it gives them from being in the womb. It's important to remember that your twins had even less space than a singleton baby, so a swaddle is a great way to get your babies comforted sooner and sleeping for longer stretches. The Dreamland Baby Weighted Blanket with Swaddle is the perfect way to help soothe your twins to help them sleep. Not only does it remind them of being in their mom's tummy, but the weight of it also mimics your touch. When your twins begin to roll over, you can transition them to the weighted blanket without the swaddle. And be sure to always put them to sleep on their backs, drowsy but awake.
More Restful Nights Ahead for You and Your Twins
It won't happen overnight but as you begin to implement these strategies and stay consistent with them, you will notice your babies (and the rest of the family) getting more and more sleep. It's also important to maintain realistic expectations of both your babies and yourself during this time. And the old adage "sleep when your baby sleeps" becomes even more important with twins. As soon as you have both of your beautiful babies asleep, you need to rest your weary eyes, too. The to-do list can wait.