Sleep Training for Twins

babies, twins, sleeping

Hi! We are Gal and Lauren, friends, and CoFounders of The Mom Juice, an empowerment network helping moms to prioritize self-care by making it more accessible in their daily lives. Over the next few months we will be sharing our different personal experiences and approaches on the same major parenting milestones.

Although sleep training is a term that may make some moms cringe, there are many different ways to go about helping your child (or children) learn how to sleep independently. Both of us decided to sleep train, but we went about it differently. In this month’s article, we will share the ins and outs of how we each sleep trained our twins through answering common questions:

Where do I begin?

Gal: We followed the technique outlined in the book Twelve Hours Sleep by Twelve Weeks Old. I read the book when I was pregnant, but it didn’t click for me until I reread it after the twins were born.

Lauren: We gave sleep training two different tries. The first time we attempted sleep training when the twins were 4 months old, we followed the Sleep Lady Shuffle method shared by Tracy Hogg in her book, Secrets of the Baby Whisperer. For our second (and successful) attempt when they were 7 months, we used the Ferber method.

When do I start?

Gal: According to the book, sleep training can begin if the baby is at least 8 weeks old, weighs at least 9lbs and eats at least 24 ounces in 24 hours. My son, Lev, fit the requirements at 8 weeks old but my daughter, Shai, did not eat enough in a day until she was 12 weeks old, so we began with him. I was exclusively pumping at the time, which made tracking their milk input easier, but it is also possible if you are exclusively breastfeeding.

Lauren: We first tried to sleep train when Alexander and Bella were 4 months old, however, it was a disaster. One of the reasons why it didn’t work was because my husband and I were not on the same page with it. Don’t get me wrong, we both wanted to achieve the end result but one of us did not think it was necessary to do any reading or mental/emotional preparation (hint: it was not me).

Which method is best for me and my family?

Gal: I believe any method that you connect with can be the best as long as you remain consistent once you make your choice!

Lauren: I totally agree with Gal. Whatever method you choose is the right method because YOU chose it. Just stick to your guns and follow it through.

How do I know if we are ready?

Gal: This is a really personal question, but my thought on this is that they are ready before you think. My kids responded really well to a schedule where they can learn what to expect in a day. I think babies crave it, just as we do! I took the lead with the process which eliminated any possible points of tension with my husband.

Lauren: This is definitely a personal question and totally different for everyone. I think the question of readiness really falls on the parent(s), not the babies. If you have a partner/spouse, have you BOTH clearly communicated your willingness and readiness?  Have you done the homework and understand the process of your chosen method? Will one of you take on the role as the “enforcer” and make sure you both adhere to the guidelines, even though there might be some tears at first (from everyone)? For us, we weren’t really ready until we could answer “yes” to all of these questions.

How long does the training last?

Gal: The whole process is split into phases, which makes it feel like a natural progression. After they got used to eating every 4 hours, night feeds were slowly eliminated, then a bedtime routine was established and finally daytime naps were set (initially two naps before they drop to one). The whole process takes about 4 weeks but can vary between children.

Lauren: It took 3 consecutive nights to really see that the Ferber method had started to “click”. Every night/nap thereafter got easier (for everyone). In total, I think it took 2-3 weeks for it to take full effect.

Do they have to cry? If so, for how long?

Gal: The crying portion is usually in the third phase when a bedtime routine is established. The 12 by 12 method calls it limited crying because you give the child 3-5 minutes of continuous crying before going back into their room. The idea is that they learn how to soothe themselves during that time, and if not, there are specific ways you’re allowed to help them. The most important component is to never take them out of their crib if you go into their room. This phase took us less than 3 days with both twins.  The hardest night was the first night, but even then, after 15 total minutes of crying each learned to self-soothe him/herself to sleep.

Lauren: With Ferber, yes, there was crying involved (for everyone…I cried hearing them cry). On the first night, there was 90 minutes of crying, but by the second night the crying time was cut in half to 45 minutes. By night three, it was only 15 minutes and so on and so on.

What sort of room/ crib situation do you recommend?

Gal: I definitely recommend having them share a room! Their bond is so special and only develops with time! At two years old my twins are still using the mini cribs they were in when they came home from the hospital. Next phase will be converting those cribs into toddler beds!

Lauren: Same room, separate cribs that were side by side. Our cribs are now converted into toddler beds. But again, I agree with Gal. Sharing a room definitely helps grow their bond! One of my favorite times of day is in the early morning when I hear them interacting together when they first wake up, before we even go into their room. These interactions developed from cries when they were infants to coos and babbling when they were babies, and now as 3.5 year-olds…they have full blown conversations. It’s the sweetest!

Will they wake each other up? What to do if so?

Gal: There were times one twin woke the other up, but only in very extreme situations. They are so accustomed to each other’s sounds right away that they can usually sleep through anything! We also used a white noise machine from the get go that we still love. On the rare occasions when one would wake the other, we continued business as usual with the method (wait 3-5 minutes…). No matter what happened, we would stay consistent and committed to the method and it always worked out!

Lauren: Surprisingly, it was only on rare occasions that one woke the other. Alexander had acid reflux as an infant and was always a lighter sleeper who went through a series of regressions, while Bella has always slept like champ through it all. Like Gal, we used a white noise machine, and found this very helpful. During those nights when Alexander would wake up (sometimes screaming), I was always so surprised that Bella didn’t even flinch!

Once I am done is that it or are there regressions?

Gal: Yes, there can be regressions for some children. My son had a few throughout the first year or so. But, we would go back to the basics, like not taking him out of the crib, and things reset. As they got older, the techniques we used did change a bit. Rather than giving him a pacifier and leaving the room, my husband or I would explain to him that it’s night time and everyone needs to sleep at night… My daughter was always the better sleeper and we had no middle of the night regressions with her (unless her brother woke her up). For a bit she tested her boundaries and tried to prolong bedtime, but the same explanations about nighttime worked with her. They understand so much more than they can communicate at a very young age, it’s amazing! Nowadays, my twins still sleep at night for 12 hours and in the afternoon they have nap time / quiet time in their cribs for around 2.5 hours.

Lauren: Same as Gal! My son experienced a few regressions, while my daughter somehow slept through it all. I’ll be honest, the regressions were a bit painful for us and it took us a while to realize that the best way to handle a regression is to, as Gal mentioned, go back to your sleep training basics. Alexander had a serious regression when he was around 2 years old where he would wake up around 2am screaming every night. We started to just cave and bring him into our bed during this time, but after a few weeks (yes, weeks), we were totally exhausted and sleep deprived. We were about to enlist a sleep consultant to help coach us through this regression, but then I posted a comment in my twin mom group on Facebook seeking advice. The wise mamas who had experienced this before suggested that we let him “cry it out.” I was so against it at first, I shared this suggestion with my husband, who was really at a breaking point due to lack of sleep, and he put his foot down saying that we needed to give it a try. Well, one night of crying it out did the trick!  From then on, everyone was back to having a good night’s sleep.

What impact have you seen on yourself, your partner and your kids?

Gal: We all need sleep but I am one of those people who NEEDS it. As a full time mom I need a lot of energy and patience, both of which were hard for me when I wasn’t sleeping. My husband and I were happier, more efficient and healthier once our kids were on a schedule and slept the night. But more importantly, Lev and Shai were calmer and happier too. My kids would only cry whenever they were hungry or tired and sure enough, it was always right on schedule. Furthermore, knowing how to distinguish what their cries meant from an early age was such a blessing.

Lauren: Sleep training was a total game changer! As I mentioned earlier, Alexander and Bella were not trained until they were 7 months old. Prior to that, we dreaded nap and bedtime because it was so much work, physically and emotionally. We were rocking them both to sleep, and as much as I cherished doing that, it was exhausting…especially when you are by yourself rocking two babies. I can’t stress enough the positive impact that sleep training made on our family, especially my relationship with David. Once the twins were sleep trained, their schedule was like clockwork and that allowed more time for ourselves and each other. I should also mention how helpful sleep training is for our childcare. Since Alexander and Bella can put themselves to sleep so easily, it makes going out for date nights stress-free! And if they happen to wake up (which I don’t think has ever happened to us on a date night?!), we are able to provide specific, simple guidelines on how to handle the situation.

Anything else I should know?

Gal: Like everything in parenting, no one knows you or your family better, so stick to your gut and politely ask naysayers to mind their own business. I felt like the schedule gave us way more freedom because we could plan outings when the kids were in the best mood and I could schedule my time around their feedings. I also don’t think I would have been able to exclusively pump and then breastfeed twins so successfully if I (and my body) didn’t have that schedule.

Lauren: 100% what Gal said! In addition, I found that sleep training was a very empowering experience. It provided me with the tools to take control of a situation that was becoming exhausting and overwhelming, and change it into something with the most positive possible outcome. As a mother, achieving this was a valuable lesson and gave me the confidence I needed to help navigate my way through future adventures in twin parenting.

We look forward to sharing more with you about our journeys and welcome any questions/comments @themomjuice!

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