Q. Parenting has many good ideas on getting your baby to sleep, but I need help on getting twins to sleep! My boys are only 5 months. If I let them cry it out, they wind each other up. We have a good bedtime routine and sometimes I can get them into bed while awake, but during the night I'm up a dozen times. Help!
A. Being blessed with two babies doesn't necessarily mean you will only get half as much sleep. Actually, because you are doing double-duty during the day, you need more sleep. Here are some strategies to avoid mother-of-twins burnout.
Since they were "wombmates" for many months, your babies are used to sleeping together. Newborn specialists have long observed that twins placed together in the same incubator or bassinet while in the hospital tend to breathe better and grow faster. Co-bedding works especially well in the early months. However, when babies reach around six months of age and start moving around more at night, they may flail their limbs and wake up their sibling. Try co-bedding until they start waking one another up. Then it's time for separate sleeping arrangements.
Parents of twins tend to juggle different sleeping arrangements at different ages. For co-sleeping, a king-size bed is a must. Try putting one baby next to you and the other in a bedside co-sleeper, a crib-like bed that attaches safely to your bed. Or, if you are a single mother, try putting your babies down to sleep on their backs in your bed and sleeping between them. Co-sleeping with two babies in your bed often keeps dads awake, so Dad could sleep a couple nights a week in another room while you catch up on some lost sleep. Most nursing mothers find that co-sleeping gets them more sleep, since they are able to nurse one baby and then quickly roll over and feed the other before both wake up.
Double the nighttime parenting
While some mothers of single babies consider nighttime help from their husbands a luxury, for mothers of multiples it is a necessity. Your partner can do everything at night that you can do except breastfeed. Remember, nursing implies comforting, not only breastfeeding. Dads can "father nurse" a fussy baby back to sleep. For bottlefeeding twins, it often works for each parent to take an assigned baby for the night. Or, some parents take turns being the on-call parent, enabling you to get a full night's sleep every other night.
Try for the same sleep schedules
One of your survival mottos will be: "Do everything together." Just as you try to get your babies on a similar feeding schedule, try to get them on the same naptime and nighttime schedule. This may not be possible if your babies have different sleep temperaments. Oftentimes, one baby will take a sleep cue from the other. If one starts going to sleep at a certain time, the other one may copy. Once you get them on a similar nap schedule, avoid the temptation to "get something done during the day" while they are sleeping. It's time for you to nap, too. Mothers of twins find that co-napping with their babies gets them more sleep, as well as extra cuddle time.
Get double help during the day
As much as possible, lessen the time you spend doing non-baby-related chores. Hire help and delegate cooking, cleaning, and house-tidying to your partner, friends, or willing relatives. If there is a local Mother of Twins Club in your area, you may get some valuable energy-saving advice.
Whatever sleep strategies you use, remember another survival motto that mothers of multiples have learned to practice: "Realize that your babies need a happy, rested mother."