Are you an exhausted twin mom looking for answers? I’ve got you mama! Not long ago I was right there with you, sleep deprived and desperate for help! Sleep training our twins is the BEST thing we ever did for our babies, our marriage and our mental well being. And guess what? With determination and consistency, it was easy and only took three days to get them both to sleep through the night! I’m here to share the method we used and tips for success as you begin sleep training your twins!
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Sleep Set Up Months 1-3 (At The In-Laws)
Before I get into the details of sleep training twins, I’d like to give you some background information on our sleep journey. When the girls were first born we lived at my in-laws in their basement. We had one giant room for the four of us; half of the room was for Jesse and I and the other half was the nursery. It was great to have such a large space for all of us and very convenient to be in the same room.
We had two cribs set up about 4 feet away from each other and between the cribs we had a nightlight and noise machine. We used a Himalayan salt lamp for a nightlight and it had a dimmer so it was perfect to keep on all the time. It was just enough light at night so I could see both babies clearly without getting out of bed, which was crucial for all of my irrational fears as a new mom. I checked their breathing and watched for their movements constantly; I was always so scared of something happening to them.
On our side of the room we had a fan to drown out excess noise (including Jesse’s snoring!) and all of our feeding supplies ready to go. We kept a cooler with ice packs and milk downstairs every night so that we didn’t have to run upstairs for each feeding. Thankfully our girls were not picky about drinking cold breast milk! I also had my breast pump and supplies at my bedside with a bin for dirty pieces. It was a pretty good set up!
Safe Sleeping Environment
Part of a good sleep setup is a safe sleeping environment. This is extremely important for your twins from day one to help decrease the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). SIDS is a scary thing and something that was on my mind constantly having two small babies to take care of. Here are some of the most important ways you can help decrease the risk:
- Back is best: always put your babies to sleep on their backs
- Put your babies to sleep on flat, firm surfaces (crib or bassinet)
- Use a swaddle for comfort until your babies can roll over
- Don’t use blankets, bumpers, pillows, etc. in their cribs as these are suffocation hazards
- Keep your nursery at a comfortable temperature 68-72 degrees F
- Offer your babies a pacifier
If you want more information on decreasing the risk of SIDS check out this website from the American Academy of Pediatrics, it has a ton of information! Follow the guidelines to keep your mind at ease; I know it helped me!
How The Girls Slept
If you read my blog “The First Two Weeks Home With Twins“, you know the girls didn’t sleep well at all in the beginning. They slept all day and were up all night. Jesse and I barely slept and were constantly taking turns with them throughout the night (Jesse tried to take turns that is). It seemed like as soon as they finally fell asleep and we got settled, they would wake up again. It was exhausting to say the least.
The first few months were definitely all about survival and there were no real sleeping strategies being used. We spent every night trying to rock the girls back to sleep after each feeding, pacing the room with them, giving them pacifiers and praying they would stay asleep more than 45 minutes. Some people are blessed with babies that are great sleepers from the start but unfortunately our babies were not.
Having little to no sleep for such a long time took a huge toll on Jesse and I physically, emotionally and mentally. We were bickering constantly, snapping at each other, dragging through the days and generally quite unhappy. Those were the hardest months we’ve ever endured.
Sleeping Rules We Broke
Like I said before, the days before sleep training twins are all about survival. I took safe sleeping environments very seriously but there were some rules that we broke. For the first few months we used two inclined baby rockers for naps and traveling. I don’t know what we would have done without them to be honest; sometimes it was the only way the girls would fall and stay asleep. However, since then these rockers have been recalled so I do not recommend using them for sleep. It’s just not worth the risk!
We also used our Twin Z pillow for naps a lot of the time but I was always close by keeping an eye on them. I kept the Twin Z on the bed or on the floor while they napped and they were always so cozy and cute in it. Sometimes when they were napping and I was sitting with them I also would cover them with a blanket, but never if I left them alone with one.
Then of course the girls also had their fair share of sleeping on mom, dad and whichever grandparent was around! They used to sleep so good on their bellies on top of people. Those were the best moments too; there’s nothing quite like having both your babies sleeping on your chest. I miss those moments so much!
Keeping Twins On A Schedule
Despite the lack of sleep on all our parts, the one thing we were able to be consistent with was keeping the girls on the same schedule for everything. When one baby woke up to eat, we woke the other up to eat. If one baby needed a change, we changed the other. When one baby went to sleep, we put the other to sleep. It was really important to keep them synchronized because when they got off schedule our nights were even worse; waking up at different times to eat was too difficult to manage and meant Jesse and I got even less sleep. To this day, the girls continue to eat, sleep and use the bathroom at the same time and as a result our lives have been a lot easier and more efficient.
Sometimes during the newborn days when I was on my own, it would take me a while to get to both babies. There could be a 10-15 minute difference in schedules, but luckily this short of time didn’t affect our overall days much. It always amazed me during these times when I’d have one baby screaming and the other sleeping peacefully. They really did sleep through each other’s cries quite well. I guess they just got used to it after awhile! Even now throughout toddlerhood they sleep through each other’s crying and whining!
Those first few months were very hard and I contribute some of our sleeping issues to how small the girls were. They were born at 36 weeks and 5 days which was just a tad premature. When we brought them home they were 4 lbs 6 oz and 4 lbs 8 oz; they were teeny tiny. Because they were small they had trouble in the hospital with low blood sugar and difficulty regulating their temperature and I think some of that carried over once we were home. It was winter in Maine, still very cold and we were in the basement which was hard to warm up. I think being cold made it difficult for them to get comfortable and stay asleep. We used fleece Halo Swaddle Sleep Sacks and made sure to put warm pajamas on underneath, but I’m not sure it was enough for our small babies!
Sleep Set Up Months 3-4 (In Our New Home)
When the girls were three months old we moved into our own house. We largely kept their sleeping set up the same, however they were now in their own room! They were rolling over so we stopped using swaddles with their arms in. We would either put them in the Halo Swaddle Sleep Sacks and keep their arms out (so that they still had the comfort and pressure of the swaddle around their torso) or in long sleeved sleep sacks. I just have to say that I love sleep sacks! They are such a great thing to have when you can’t give your babies blankets and they are SO cute! I adored seeing the girls in their sleep sacks, especially when they started crawling; it was the cutest thing ever.
In their room at our new home I got rid of the nightlight and really blacked out the room. I used black trash bags and painters tape (I was trying to avoid buying new curtains) which worked great for a long time! Their room was 100% blacked out and it was the perfect sleep environment.
I do want to mention that as they got older and were able to stand in their cribs, they started pulling on the curtains and ripping the trash bags off the windows. It was such a nightmare because no matter how I arranged the cribs they could reach a window or each other (neither of which I wanted). Not having the room blacked out was not an option so I did some research and found a great company called Blackout EZ Window Covers that solved all of my issues! They make a vinyl blackout shade that is custom fit to your window and attaches with velcro. I use them now and my girls can’t take them down or rip them and they 100% blackout the room. I highly recommend them!
Learning About Sleep Training Twins
I was aware of sleep training and had researched it lightly prior but around 3-4 months I started digging deep because we were so exhausted and desperate for help. There are a lot of different methods like Ferber (what we used), cry it out, the chair method and more. I also asked some of my mom friends what they did and their answers all varied greatly. There were so many options!
While researching sleep training methods for our twins I learned a lot about newborn sleep cycles. Newborns have short sleep cycles, roughly 45 minutes long (this was an ah-ha moment for me and made so much sense). Once they hit a certain age, anywhere from 4-6 months, they have the ability to sleep through the night (so sleeping through more than one sleep cycle). The only thing is, they have to learn how to self soothe so that they can get to that point; sleep training teaches them how to do this.
One of the hardest aspects of sleep training is dropping night feedings. Our girls were constantly waking up to be fed and it was simply out of habit; they were eating more than enough throughout the day (32 ounces each at this point). They had the ability to sleep through the night but needed help learning how. I knew sleep training was our answer so I presented everything I learned to Jesse and we made the decision to try. Jesse admits, the first night it was tough to trust the process but you’ll soon see how quickly and well it worked.
The Pediatrician’s Approval
Before we started, we wanted to discuss the idea of sleep training with the girl’s Pediatrician at their upcoming 4 month appointment. There are so many factors that go into keeping healthy babies and we wanted to make sure this was the best choice. The babies were gaining weight at a good rate so the Pediatrician thought it would be okay to drop their night feedings. She assured us that learning to self soothe was an important skill so we were both relieved and excited to start.
Sleep Training Twins
We started sleep training about a week later (they were between 4-5 months old). We ended up choosing the Ferber method which is a gentler cry it out technique with gradual checks ins. From my research it seemed like an efficient but not too harsh method!
Preparing For Sleep Training Twins
It is important to choose a length of time (at least 3 nights) where you can dedicate yourself to sleep training without any interruptions. Choose a time where you don’t have work to do, you’re not traveling anywhere, there are no guests in your house, etc. It needs to be an ordinary day with no distractions. We even told all the grandparents they couldn’t visit so the babies could focus on this new skill they would learn!
Next, choose a set bedtime for your babies. Ensure that you can stick to this time every single day. Being consistent is SO important for successful sleep training! We chose 6 PM as a bedtime for our twins; it’s what worked for us. We (mom and dad) would rather have more time in the evenings and wake up earlier than the other way around. Again, it’s what works for you and your family, just stick to it!
Transition Your Twins To Cribs
Before starting sleep training with your twins make sure their sleeping environment is how you want it to be from now on. If they are not sleeping in cribs, now is THE time to transition. You want to sleep train your babies once and keep it the same until they are toddlers and beyond! We stopped using our baby rockers completely at this time. We wanted the girls to learn to sleep flat, in their cribs without being rocked.
Get Rid Of The Pacifiers
Do your babies have pacifiers? Sleep training is a great time to phase them out. Early on, our girls cried every time their pacifiers fell out (10000 times a night) and we (mostly me) had to get up every time to put them back in. It was quite terrible! Decide if you are ready or not to get rid of them; I’ll tell you how in the following paragraphs.
The Ferber Method
Okay, here’s the good stuff! This is the method we used and we followed it exactly! If you want more information on this method check out “Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems” by Dr. Richard Ferber.
- Go through your bedtime routine (bath, bottle, books, etc.)
- Put your babies into their cribs drowsy but awake
- Leave the room
- Once your babies start crying set a timer and wait the set time interval before going in (see table below for intervals)
- Once you go in, soothe your babies (gentle pats, soothing voice) and stay no more than 2 minutes
- Leave the room
- Repeat this process if your babies cry again and follow the set time intervals
Time Intervals (In Minutes)
|First Check||Second Check||Third Check||Subsequent Checks|
Like I said before, we followed the above method to a tee. We put the babies into their cribs drowsy but awake, gave them their pacifiers and left. When we went in for our checks we did not put the pacifiers back in; once they fell out that was it for the night.
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The First Night
The first night was the most difficult (for us and the babies). It was hard to sit there and listen to them cry; it was a pretty emotional thing to go through! They cried a total of an hour before falling asleep for the night (thinking about how much they used to wake up, an hour seems like nothing). They woke up a couple of times late that night (I set my timer and waited to go in, following the intervals) and they settled relatively easily. We didn’t feed them, pick them up or put their pacifiers back in. We stuck to the method completely and it paid off; they slept longer stretches than they ever had just that first night!
The Second And Third Nights
The second and third nights we lengthened the intervals. The girls cried less than 30 minutes total the second night and less than 10 the third night! The third night the girls slept 12 hours straight. They didn’t wake up at all (neither did we) and it was MAGICAL. We seriously could not believe how fast sleep training worked for us. From that night on they have slept 11-12 hours every single night! They stopped using their pacifiers at night and we never had a night feeding again. For reference, they are 2.5 now and continue to sleep 11-12 hours. Sleep training twins CAN BE DONE and it only took us THREE NIGHTS!
Post Sleep Training
Jesse and I became much better parents after our success with sleep training. We both were getting full nights of sleep (minus my pumping every 4 hours), were rested and so much happier! This allowed us to focus on the next steps in their growth and really got us through the grogginess and grumpiness!
We could really see a difference in the girls once they were sleeping through the night. They seemed so well rested everyday and were much happier babies. They were finally getting the rest they needed for their developing bodies and brains!
So for all of you moms (and dads) barely getting through the days and nights, know that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Setup both your and your babies sleep environments. Be patient with your significant other. Pick a plan that works for your family. Most importantly, stick to it! Consistency is key. Sleep training is truly the best and longest lasting decision we made as parents for our babies and it has paid off with the very simple steps I talked about above. Finally, I love hearing stories and helping other moms that are in the same situation we were so connect with me on all of my platforms and I’ll help in any way I can.
Do you do this for naps too? Or stick to how baby usually sleeps (rocking etc)
Christina Miller says
After sleep training at night a nap schedule naturally happened for us and I gradually started putting them into their cribs. I didn’t do formal sleep training for naps though – it just kind of happened!
We did the furber method with our 5 months old twins but they keep working up from 5am to 7am every morning. After 7 am they are clearly tired and go back to sleep. Do you know if there is anything we can do about it? We would like if they woke up after 6 am.
Christina Miller says
Hi! I can sympathize, our twins were always (and still are) very early risers. My suggestion would be to make sure they are going to bed at an appropriate time, somewhere between 6-7:15 pm. If that’s good, take a look at their naps and wake windows to see if they are age appropriate – they change with each month and can affect morning wake ups!
Hello. Thank you for the information. So did you start sleep training them at 2 and a half months or at 4 months? I was a little confused when you actually started.
Christina Miller says
They were between 4-5 months old when we did sleep training.
We have two 10 week old babes. Is it too soon to sleep train? We (mostly me) are desperate!
Christina Miller says
Hi! I know the feeling. I would always check with your Pediatrician to get the official Okay! This time around with our son we started a little earlier than with our twins, but he was a bit bigger and not a premie. He was just shy of 4 months. It took a little longer because he still needed at least one night feed.
My twin granddaughters are sleeping through the night. They’ll be 5 months in August 1. Our problem is getting them to go to sleep on their own. I’ve read your post, and it makes sense, but my dil is so nervous about the crying part.
Christina Miller says
Understandably so. It is a hard process to go through – the crying is sad! My twin girls took to sleep training so well and continued to sleep through the night throughout their toddler years. My latest baby is a different story. Sleep training worked okay with him but he continued to have one very early wake up around 3-4am every night. Now at 10 months old he is finally sleeping 12 hours. Every baby is different, but it’s definitely worth a try. Good luck to her! Let me know if I can help any further.
I am eager to sleep train. I understand it all except the not feeding during the night. My 3.5 month boys love food so much lol I can’t imagine them sleeping through the night without a feeding. Did you just go cold turkey without one? Or did they still wake up for food? Also, did they ever go through a sleep regression or growth spurt after sleep training where you needed to feed at night? Thank you!!
Christina Miller says
Every baby is so different – my twin girls were able to go cold turkey without nighttime feedings and were fine. Their feeding schedules during the day naturally evened themselves out and they were drinking the appropriate amounts. My baby boy took longer to sleep train and required 1 feeding for a long time, but that was better than the 3-4 we were doing! I think 3.5 months is still early to quit nighttime feedings, I’d wait a little longer and definitely ask your Pediatrician if it’s appropriate at that time – you want to make sure they are gaining enough weight and developing well!