Sleep Training Twins is Hard

Sleep training twins is a hard, hard thing.  You read the books and have a game plan – but the twins have their own ideas, sometimes.

Since 3 months, Madelyn has been our sleeping champ. She can sleep through the night – and has, every night except one, for the past 3 months. Ava still struggles with waking up in the middle of the night – most of the time only once, but sometimes twice.

I felt like things were going okay, but as I mentioned in an earlier post, their bedtimes were getting later and later. It wasn’t uncommon for them to go to bed until 9:30 or 10 – which is when I wanted to go to bed, too. I realized this was unfair to everyone involved: me, Bryan, and of course, the babies.

I started reading the book my pediatrician recommended, “Sleeping Through the Night” by Jodi Mindell. Essentially, she recommends a 4-step bedtime method:

  1. Set a bedtime. As I said before, I know this is something we were definitely lacking.  After reading recommendations that around 6 months, babies should be going to be between 6 and 7:30 pm and realistically thinking about our family’s evening routines – essentially, that on a good day Bryan gets home around 6:30 – I decided the girls’ bedtime should be as close to 7:15 as possible.
  2. Create a bedtime routine. We were guilty of not doing this, too. Like her other suggestions, this made sense to me: so I decided what routine would work best for us:
    1. Bath – if it’s bath day 🙂
    2. PJ’s, sleep sack and Snuza
    3. Bottle
    4. Take babies to their bedroom
    5. Book – She suggests reading the same books every night, so I have two go-to’s: the classic Goodnight Moon and I Love You This Much, which I found in the clearance bin at TJ Maxx and just absolutely adore
    6. Lullaby – I figured singing the same song every night would be another cue that it’s bedtime, and I had noticed on car rides that the twins both calm down when I sing “Baby Beluga” – so that seemed to be a natural choice
    7. Bed – And then… dun, dun, dun …. actually putting the babies down
  3. Establish a bedtime environment. This, we had nailed down a few months ago. The babies transitioned from bassinets in our room to their own cribs at around 3 months.  Hurray for a point for the new twin parents!
  4. Put baby down awake. And a third strike for us. We had been letting let the babies fall asleep during their last feeding – on the couch, nestled in their Boppy pillows, and then quietly take them into their bedroom. Neither minded too much – but I know that it wasn’t good for them long-term.

Mindell says her strategy takes about 3 nights. The first night, they’re supposed to cry for 45 minutes. The second night, for about an hour for the “extinction burst”. And then, the third night, they’re supposed to cry for 20 minutes… and then smooth sailing.

I liked the concepts of it, but I’m realizing it’s dramatically lacking in advice for twins, and for that – like so many other twin adventures, we’re stumbling through.

  • The first few nights, Madelyn went down easy.  Even though there is nothing in her crib except a hard infant mattress and rice-stuffed socks (part of the twins’ physical therapy for their torticollis and plagiocephaly – more on that later!), I could almost see her snuggling down and getting comfortable. Ava – well, Ava is our party girl and has always acted like she’s missing out on something really cool going on in the other room. You know – like her dad and I eating dinner and trying to talk to each other like grown adults.
  • The first night, they cried for 20 minutes. Twenty minutes less than the estimation, but painful nonetheless.
  • The second night – and maybe here’s where I messed up? – I did the whole training thing during nap time, since my pediatrician had recommended that one change to Mindell’s method. If they were napping in their crib (which they were since I was working from home that day), then he said the training method should be the same. The twins cried for at least an hour. Hard cries. Upset cries. Cries that made me cry. Cries that made their Nana cry. All I could think of – other than wondering if I was a terrible person not worth the revered title of “mom” – was the cartoon:
  • funny-duck-cartoon-fowl-language-comics-brian-gordon-38The next night, Daylight Savings Time ended, so we leapt at the chance to take advantage of putting the twins down at their new bedtime and were delighted when that actually worked.
  • Monday and Tuesday were the same – babies out like little lights by 7:00 on both nights.
  • And then tonight. Tonight, tonight. The night that Bryan’s out of the house for soccer. Tonight was painful. I did the whole routine and put the babies down at 7 pm. When I left their room, not a peep – both were content to be in their beds. And then a few minutes later, Ava whimpered for a few minutes but then quieted down. At 7:30, though, Maddy woke up crying, and she set off Ava. After that went on for a while, I went in to soothe them – make sure knives hadn’t fallen into their cribs, sing a few songs, and succumbed to turning on the Sleep Sheep. My presence did not soothe them: in fact, I think I made them more frustrated because I wasn’t picking them up. I sat on the floor, as close to them as possible, and sang the stupid Baby Beluga song as loud as I could. At one point, tears were falling down my face and I realized I wasn’t doing them any favors and I wasn’t doing myself any favors. So I left. And came out to the kitchen to make a cup of tea, listen to the rain and Chopin, and blog it out.

Somewhere in there – the babies fell asleep. This time, I think for good. But damn.

Sleep training twins is hard. I’m sure more posts will follow, as I know this is not the end of our sleep training journey.

Dear friends – what’s the best sleep training advice you’ve ever received? Twins or no – I’d love to hear it.

This post includes affiliate links to sanity-saving products, which means that if you purchase something I’ve recommended, I’ll receive a small compensation – at no cost to you – which will go towards our diaper fund. 

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