I remember the most fearful moment of my twin pregnancy very vividly.
My husband and I were sitting in our Twiniversity classroom, notebook and pen in hand intently listening and taking vigorous notes. (Twiniversity is a baby prep class geared toward expectant twin parents.) The instructor was going over a typical eating and sleeping schedule for newborn twins and very clearly explained, “Your babies will need to eat every two to three hours. They’ll spend about 30 minutes eating (if they’re healthy and good eaters, otherwise it might take longer), then you’ll need to burp them, change them, re-swaddle them, and get them back to sleep.”
She went on to explain that most twin babies are smaller in weight, so even if your baby is willing to sleep, you’ll need to set an alarm for feedings to make sure they’re getting ample calories in every few hours. With each word that rolled off her tongue, the fear inside me grew deeper.
Finally, my husband turned to me with a look of terror in his eyes: “So, if they’re eating every two hours or so, that means by the time we get them back to sleep, we have to wake up ONE hour later and do it all over again!”
He’s good at math, and he had this crazy equation figured out correctly. We were both pretty overwhelmed by this realization. I knew sleep would be limited, but until this moment, I didn’t realize how limited.
The good news is that within a few weeks of their birth, the two hour stretches turned into three, and within a few months, the four and five hour stretches turned into full 12 hour nights of sleep.
I was not crazy about a lot of things in these early days, but keeping my twins on the same schedule is something I was not about to mess around with. I figured out quickly that if they were not on the same schedule, I’d be with a baby at all hours of the day, leaving me zero minutes to sleep, shower, or eat – you know, the basics for survival.
Through a lot of advice from twin mamas who had walked this road before me and a little bit of trial and error, we nailed the twin schedule. Here’s how to do it:
Tandem Feeding Is Key
It doesn’t matter if you’re breastfeeding or bottle feeding (or maybe a little bit of both).
Juggling (literally) two babies won’t be easy at first, but work towards a system that allows you to feed both babies at the same time. If you have a partner or alternate caregiver helping you with feeding, this part is fairly straightforward – one baby for each adult for double-duty feeding. If you’re flying solo, things get a bit trickier. Breastfeeding twin mamas should look into having a twin breastfeeding pillow on hand.
Personally, I bottle fed and used the Twin-Z pillow. It’s a magic little contraption that allowed me to comfortably lay my children on the floor in front of me and feed them at the same time. With a little time and a lot of practice (remember that part where they eat every few hours?), you’ll be a double feeding pro.
If you can’t master or simply don’t prefer feeding your babies at the same time, try to feed them back to back, keeping their feedings as close together as possible.
The Rule “Never Wake a Sleeping Baby” Does Not Apply
You won’t be able to feed your babies at the same time if one of them is sleeping and one of them isn’t.
Luckily, the more you feed them at the same time, the more you’ll find they begin to get drowsy at the same time. Unfortunately, they are not programmed to wake up at the same time, so you’ll likely wind up with one baby awake while the other is still snoozing.
Most singleton parents will advise that a sleeping baby should never be woken up, but that’s a rule you’re going to have to break over and over again. As soon as one baby is awake, use your best tactics to get your second twin on the same page so you can implement rule #1.
Teach Independent Sleeping Habits
If you want your twins to sleep at the same time, teaching them to fall asleep independently is so important. Start by providing a routine that signals bedtime. This can mean bath time, feeding, a song or story, sleep sacks, a sound machine — whatever works for your family. Keep it simple and keep it consistent, so your babies will know when it’s time to sleep.
Slowly work to a place where your babies can be put down awake and fall asleep without your help. This means placing them in their cribs from the start when they’re drowsy, but still awake. The last thing you want is both twins to need you (and only you) to be able to sleep.
The earlier you can start implementing this one, the better.
Consistency Is Key
Just like with one baby, with twins, every day looks different.
If you’re working to get your twins on the same schedule, it might take a few weeks to get there but don’t give up. Just like in adults, habits can take a while to form in our little ones. And, they are forever changing as they grow.
The more often you feed your babies together and keep them on the same sleep schedule, the more natural it will become for them to want to eat and sleep at the same times.
Roll With the Punches
Twins are insanely hard to begin with.
The last thing you need is the added pressure of a perfectly synced schedule for your babies. There will be days where one baby naps and the other is simply not tired. There will be days where one baby eats an entire feeding and the other has just a few sips.
Be gentle with your expectations of your babies and yourself. A happy baby and mama are more important than any schedule. Remind yourself that tomorrow is a new day, and you can try to go back to regularly scheduled programming then.
Parenting twin babies is complicated, to say the least. But, the old adage holds true – it really is double the love.