Dad, do you want to help your partner with sleep training your multiples but have no idea where to start? Do you prefer to read little and get to the punch line quickly? Consider this post my answer for you.
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1. You will lose sleep. Do not underestimate what multiple babies can do.
My husband, an early 2003 Iraq war veteran, once stated that having our twin newborns at home was “worse than Iraq” when he experienced incoming missile fire every two hours for a period of two weeks. Each of these alarms required him to wake up, dress up in gear, rush to a bunker, wait, then go back to his bed, undress, and fall asleep until the next alarm.
2. Learn from other parents.
Ask other parents how they were able to get sleep those first few months. Bonus points if you know any parents of twins or multiples. Consider reading Dr. Marc Weissbluth’s sleep training book, Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Twins. If your wife wants you to read it, I suggest you do. Happy wife = happy life, right? (You can also just skim the book’s main points, which I cover in this post.)
3. Get help. You will probably need it.
Your wife might be superwoman, but she is going to need your help even if she doesn’t ask. Be her teammate. Be ready for those 3am feedings, and pretend to enjoy it. Try to recruit family members, friends and consider hiring a night nurse or nanny to help you all get some sleep.
4. Feed your babies at the same time.
When one baby indicates it is time to eat, wake up the other one. Feeding them at the same time will help you gain more time in between feedings for much-needed rest. Also, this will get them closer to a synchronized eating and sleeping schedule. Bonus points if you can come up with practical ways for you to feed both babies comfortably so mom can take a shower…or a nap. Hint: Infant floor seats go a long way.
5. Work on setting a consistent daytime and nighttime routine as early as possible.
Newborns will not understand the concepts of day and night. You can help prepare them for longer sleep at night using different cues and activities during the day. Daytime activities should be brighter, noisier, and more interactive. Talk to your babies during the day. Nighttime should be dimmer, quieter, and less entertaining for baby. Resist the temptation to be “fun dad” at night or just before bedtime.
6. Consistently use the sleep training techniques that work for you.
Once you identify the sleep training technique you want to use, follow it every night. Ensure you and your partner are on the same page about what that technique is. Inconsistency with your chosen sleep training method could derail all your efforts. Basically, do what your partner asks you to do until you have reason to (calmly and gently) suggest another approach.
7. Expect life to alter your sleep training efforts.
Traveling away from home, time changes, illness, teething, rolling over, and plenty of other baby milestones may threaten to derail the sleep training you have worked so hard for. Begin a new round of sleep training once the interruption passes. Once they are three or four months old, you may have to let your babies cry it out…and console mom through those unbearable evenings.
8. Keep track of your progress.
Keeping a log of your babies’ sleep schedule will allow you to get them on a more synchronized sleeping schedule starting with their daytime naps. This might mean keeping one baby awake a little longer. It is quite an accomplishment to see two very different babies finally sleep at the same time – that is one of your ultimate goals when sleep training multiples!
9. As they get older, you may need to try new things.
A white noise machine and, after they turned one year old, a special doll for each helped my twin girls rest more peacefully through the night, even when we travel away from home. Look into safe and age-appropriate ways to help your babies get sleep once you know that something other than your consistent sleep training efforts are the problem. (Separation anxiety is a legitimate threat to your sleep!)
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Good luck with your sleep training efforts. Stay calm, consistent, and show some flexibility when necessary. Be assured that twins who sleep in the same room do learn to tune each other out. If you have the luxury of separating them, you may find that approach easier. There are also some cool products out there that can help make co-sleeping a safer choice. Eventually, you and your partner will figure out what works best for you. Happy, healthy twinning!