Saturday 12 May 2012

Helping Your Baby Twins to Sleep at Night

I was very lucky with JJ and he slept through from an early age, some would say this was purely down to luck but I am pretty sure some of it was due to me being very persistent and also consistent. I just knew I was a horrid Mummy when I lacked sleep and therefore it was worth my effort to get him to sleep through. I know many parents believe that it is wrong or cruel to do controlled crying and to start sleep training too young but my personal experience is that if you start it young (around 6 weeks) then you as the parent never get to the point where you are too tired or worn down to be able to do it will your full commitment.

Roll forward nearly 4 years and I have the twins and boy that makes things a bit different. Two babes rather than one add a whole new dimension. Some of what I had learnt with JJ stood me in good stead but there was a whole new learning curve too. One of the first decisions you have to make when thinking about how your twins will sleep is will you sleep them together or apart? This is a completely personal decision. I know many twin mummy friends whose babes slept together for months and they would cite the advantages as the babies feeling secure and warm, just like they did in the womb and they swear that their babies slept better because of it. Personally, mine slept together for a short time and then I found that they were too big to share the moses basket any longer and also that Miss E tended to wake Miss M as she had reflux and was often uncomfortable.

The sleep pattern that worked for us was the girls sharing their ‘fishbowl’ in the hospital (far easier to have one to push around). Upon arriving home we decided that the girls would share a moses basket as practically this was good for space and also the twins seemed to like to be close together. I used to love the little hands touching each other. This lasted for a whole 3 weeks as Miss M grew quickly and soon they were a bit squashed together. Unless you already have a moses basket or are given a couple of good quality ones then I feel they really are a luxury rather than necessity as babes grow out of them so quickly.

Luckily we had a couple of donated moses baskets and thus moved the girls into separate ones until they were about 8 weeks, then moving them in to share a large cot (one at each end) for about two weeks. This did not work for us at all and the babes woke each other and generally seemed unhappy. So into separate cots they went and even separate rooms at approximate age 3 months. This felt like a really big move at the time as my hormones were still raging so I started to wonder if I was keeping the one I loved more in my room. Of course that was not was the truth; practicality prevailed and we kept Miss E in our room as she required night feeds for a longer period than Miss M. Once our girls were separated we found that they both started to sleep soundly and it was the start of their good sleeping habits.

So how did I manage to get two babes to sleep well at such a young age? Here are my tips for helping younger babes to sleep (be it singletons or multipes) –

• Swaddle new-born babies, leaving one hand out by their face. A stretchy cloth wrapped tightly around babe can work wonders for them feeling secure and it stifles the startle reflex too.

• Once your babe is about three months and is more wriggly, they are probably ready to be moved into a baby sleeping bag.

• Put your babes in a darkened room for their sleeps, thus setting up clues that it is time for sleep. I had black out curtains in the girl’s room. I never made the room pitch black as I needed them to be versatile to sleep at others houses and on holiday etc. I did nearly always try to have them sleep in their bedroom though.

• Use a dummy if you have a sucky baby. Dummies can be taken away and thumbs cannot. I have successfully removed 3 dummies at age 2 years and none of mine have any interest in them now. This is very much a personal choice but for me dummies work, especially when it is 3am and you are single handily trying to feed two hungry babies.

• For us it was very rare to replace dummies in the night. My children learnt that if they woke in the night they would not have their dummy replaced and thus we avoided this common pitfall.

• If your baby starts to whine or cry a little in the night, let them for a short while. Sometimes they are just waking and complaining that they do not want to be awake. With twins it is good for them to get used to the sound of the other and not to be affected by the other ones noise.

• Set up a routine very early on with your babes. Bath, massage, feed in a dimly lit room and then down to bed. One of mine used to like me to gently pat her tummy while making a ‘shh, shh, shh’ noise. I would do this for about 5 minutes and then slow it down and eventually stop, always before she fell asleep, so they actually do fall asleep on their own and without aid. This is important as then when the child wakes in the night they learn to sooth themselves back to sleep.

• Miss M always liked me to sling a Muslin over her face, just gently and not covering her nose but it was as if she liked me blocking the visual stimulation so she could sleep, especially in the pushchair.

• If your older baby is over-tired or getting overwrought and you find they cannot sleep then I used to rock my babies practically to sleep. I can use this technique successfully on even the most screamy and cranky baby. Many friends have been astounded at this! I hold the babe with their body towards me, with one arm through the middle of their legs and patting their back with my hand of that arm and the other cuddles them close to me with their arms tucked in tight to my body. I sling a muslin lightly over their face towards my body and give them their dummy if they have one. I then rock them up and down while ssshhing pretty loudly and maybe also saying ‘there, there, there’. I stop this just as they are falling off, place them back in their cot and continue with the patting and ssshhing but more quietly.

• If (or should I say when) your babe wakes in the night reassure them in a low voice ‘Mummy is here, it is all OK’ but do not pick them up. I used to pat gently on the tummy or stroke on the face, anything that let my babies know I was there for them but would not be picking them up. There are no rewards in our house for babies waking. Of course if your baby is ill this is a different matter.

Remember that every baby and every parent is different. You need to do what feels right for you and your family. There is no definite wrong or right, what is right is what makes you all as happy as can be. It is only when you are unhappy that you need to question any of the methods and perhaps try something else.

If you are the type of person to feel compelled to read the text books then go ahead but remember to add a good dose of common sense to whatever you read. My method for helping babes sleep was mastered with time and from some tips from Gina Ford, and the Baby Whisperer Tracy Hogg.

Good luck, I hope your babes sleep peacefully for you.  Mich x

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