Nothing can prepare you for having kids. And doubly can nothing prepare you for having twins.
I remember the first time it hit me that I wouldn’t actually be sleeping for a while. It was our first night home from the hospital and we had just laid the twins down in the crib in our room. I laid down, thinking I would get a few hours of sleep when…
Wailing. From one of them. I couldn’t really tell you which one at this point. I picked her up and did all the usual mommy tricks: I tried to nurse her, I tried to change her, I sang a song. She eventually fell asleep and I quietly, gently, laid her down. Then the other twin got going.
And this went on all. Night. Long. We tried everything, the rocking chair, the Rock-n-Play (this was right before they were in the news as part of a major recall), my husband rocking them, music. There were lots of tears. Some of them even from the twins.
In hindsight, they were probably hungry and cluster feeding, but I didn’t know at the time that I wasn’t producing enough milk to fully feed both babies. I quickly became obsessed with trying to figure out how to get them (and me) a longer stretch of sleep. My husband, mom, and mother-in-law all took shifts. We bought a used Baby Brezza Formula Pro to supplement nursing. There were days when I slept maybe 3 or 4 hours total.
It wasn’t until I combined two different books to come up with our own approach that I really began to feel like there was light at the end of the tunnel.
The first book was one that I had read prior to delivering the twins. The first was Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Twins by Marc Weissbluth. My biggest take-away during the sleep deprived fog was do everything to both twins at the same time. Is one taking a nap? Put the other down as well. Did one wake up? Wake up the other as well (that whole adage of “never wake a sleeping baby” doesn’t apply to twins). The goal of this strategy is to get both babies on the same schedule. Change one, change both. Feed one, feed both. You get the idea.
The second book that was a lifeline was Robert Bucknam and Garry Ezzo’s On Becoming Babywise: Giving your Infant the Gift of Nighttime Sleep. This book contained practical information and example schedules, which is exactly what I needed to help me get a handle on how to structure the twins’ day. They suggest feeding the baby (this is not specifically written for twins) right after waking when they have the most energy and can take in the most nutrients. This is followed with awake/play time, then nap time again. This cycle repeats and as they get older, the number of cycles reduces.
Between these two approaches, I began to feel more in control. I knew how to get both girls on the same schedule, I knew when to feed them and lay them down, and I knew why sleep was so vital to their development.
This was not a perfect, smooth path forward by any means. Tandem feedings were their own learning curve, whether it was nursing them at the same time or figuring out how to bottle feed one while trying to nurse the other. There were many, many days when they would not sleep unless I was holding them both. I would sit in our rocking chair, my arms propped up by at least two boppies, wide awake and terrified I would fall asleep and smother/squash/drop them both.
But we stuck with it, becoming “those” parents who followed the schedule above all else. It was our lifeline and our hope. That first night that I was able to sleep six hours straight felt like a miracle. Soon that stretched into eight hours, then ten, and eventually they were sleeping almost twelve hours a night.
Getting them on a good sleep schedule was what allowed me to eventually go back to my job in the fall as a middle school teacher. It also allowed my husband and I to reconnect and took a significant amount of stress out of our lives. Today the twins are great sleepers. We still have our occasional middle-of-the-night wakings and nap time rebellions, but those are the exception and not the norm.
But also remember that sleeping and schedules are important, but the schedule is there to help you and not rule your lives. This is simply what helped us during those first turbulent months to adjust to the new normal of two amazing, wonderful twin girls in our lives. Above all, you know your kids and what they (and you!) need and know that this, too, shall pass.