You may have found there’s unfortunately not many resources available on helping your babies sleep. Yes, when I say babies, I mean multiples! Whether you are a tired parent of twins, triplets, or simply have your hands full with two children under 2 years of age, you may be hard pressed trying to locate some helpful information pertaining to more zzz’s. This lack of documentation leaves parents feeling discouraged from the start, wondering if they have bitten off more than they can chew in the sleep department.
But, I have some good news: there is finally something for you! I am here to tell you that you can accomplish results with a whole houseful of tiny tots! Sure, it’s going to take a little extra work to fine tune your children’s sleep – but hey, you are used to that by now! And, best of all, it’s never too late to start making some gentle changes. Let’s take a look at my top 3 tips for parents of multiples (check out all 10 tips here in this FREE GUIDE). Whether you have twins, triplets, or two non-sleeping siblings, these sleep tactics will be the best start to setting your little ones up for success.
#1 - Use a Sleep Log/Tracker (in Fact, Two!)
It’s the middle of the Night and Twin A is calling for you, and Twin B is still asleep. Flash forward to nap-time, and Twin B is rubbing his eyes and Twin A is ravenous for more food. Wait, or was it the other way around?
It is tough work knowing whether you are coming or going sometimes with multiples, and two or more young children in general. Whether you are parenting 2 or more babies, toddlers, or children, it can be difficult to keep straight who is doing what in terms of behaviours from one day to the next. Why? Because as parents, we respond to needs as they are happening. We don’t have time to mentally note the whys and hows each time an occurrence happens; we just know we need to fix it!
While this is true, when you’re working towards sleep goals you should aim to have a baseline. Meaning, you need to understand your starting point. The best way to do this is to keep a sleep log handy. This can be a notebook that you keep in your diaper bag, or even a app on your latest smart device (I’m even a fan of the boring Notes app). Start this log pre-sleep training to get a grasp on patterns. This is going to be your key data and help you piece together your action plan. You’ll aim to gather bedtime, each wake time, the action you took at said wake time to help your child back to sleep and how long it took, and also morning wake time. If naps are missed opportunity in your house, I would be diligent with nap logs as well!
#2 - But Wait, Do Both Children Even Need Sleep Help?
By now you’ve been keeping separate sleep logs and you’ve possibly uncovered some secret truths! So often, a parent will find that one child is more sensitive and is experiencing more night time challenges than the other! Perhaps just one child may have a tough time setting for sleep periods, wake multiple times a night, and also struggle with early rising (before 6am). But, the second child may just be roped into the other child’s antics! This is what you are trying to uncover with the help of your diligent nighttime notes.
If you find that you only need to work on one child’s sleep, here is the best way to accomplish this in two steps:
1) Keep both children in the same room (current sleep environment).
2) Sleep train the challenged sleeper with a gentle method - even though their sibling is nearby
Yes, it’s that simple and also that complex. You won’t want to disturb your better of the two sleepers, therefore, you’ll leave him in his own bed or crib. You’ll find when you’re sleep training (I recommend the no-cry Sleep NEEDS Course for all ages), that you are not going to be causing any commotion. You are quiet and supportive, not talking or making a production out of anything. Your children are somewhat used to each other cries by now, and there is more of a benefit to both children being in the room if one if already off to a good start.
You can’t remove the challenged sleeper to sleep train in another room, because you need to help him be accustomed to his sleep space and this routine of sleeping well in his sleep space. And, it’s not a great idea to remove your good sleeper from the room either, because you may throw off his sleep even more than enduring his sibling’s cries. Trust me, of all the ways to do this, this is the best way.
But, what if both are very challenged sleepers, and there is only one of you? If you are feeling anxious with taking on two at once, only then do I recommend splitting them up. Keep reading!
#3 - When, How, & Why to Separate Twins/Children for Sleep
Don’t panic. This is temporary. I only suggest this to a parent who doesn’t have the emotional strength or physical bandwidth to work with two children at the same time. Hey, I still think you are a superhero, regardless. But, only you know your children’s personalities, temperaments, strengths, and challenges. And psst…you’re the only one that knows your own limitations, too! If you do have an extra set of hands at night, feel free to keep them together, and pair one caregiver with each child. Now, you can alter the pairing from one night to the next, but I wouldn’t make a switch within the same evening. So, it is possible, with help, to keep the multiples together in the same room.
However, if you don’t have the night time support to work on sleep (hey work happens, life happens), there is also a plan for this. And that plan is to separate the children and focus on one at a time. I recommend you work on one child at a time, and help the other child to sleep however you can for now (rocking/holding/breaking all the rules). With that being said, you may still may need some help to look after the second child to allow yourself time to tend to your sleep trainee. Remember, when you are working on sleep training, this child needs to be in their own sleep environment for success to unfold.
Once your child is sleeping much better and waking less or not at all through the night, I then recommend introducing your second child back into the room for round 2. Now, you will be able to focus on the second child’s sleep and it will be a bonus that this child will witness the remarkable turn of events with their sibling’s sleep.
If you have children of varying ages, my recommendation is to always start with the oldest child first. Once your oldest is sleeping more soundly, it is easier to focus on the youngest child and their unique needs from one night to the next! For more information on how to help 2 or more children sleep better and faster, download this free guide for all 10 tips. Find out my thoughts on white noise machines, scheduling, and when to tackle that pesky nap training! More sleep is on the horizon; please share what has worked for you!
Amy Douglas, founder of Baby Sleep Central, is a Sleep Consultant that understands the perils of sleep deprivation all too well. She’s been in your shoes, and after the birth of her first anti-sleeper, was inspired to find the answers. Now, she is helping other exhausted families from around the world to take back their sleep. Her philosophy ensures you feel completely supported during this collaborative process. Sleep is very complicated, but you don’t have to peel back all the layers on your own.
Amy’s educational background has always centered around maternal and child wellness; holding licensure and/or certifications as a Massage Therapist (Prenatal & Pediatric), Newborn Care Specialist, and most recently as a Maternal & Child Sleep Consultant (2014). Additionally, she is a member of the Association of Professional Sleep Consultants. Douglas has expanded her ongoing education to include Sensory Based Protocol and Behavioural Intervention to further understand the delicate and complex needs of those with ASD, SPD, and most currently, ADHD