Many parents are aware they will have numerous sleepless nights when expecting multiples; however, many underestimate the difficulties of continuous sleep deprivation. The reality is, you will barely sleep while you have multiple infants until they are sleeping through the night. All the same, sleep is very precious, as you will be very busy during the day. On the bright side, twin and triplet babies often become the best sleepers! They are incredibly resilient and adaptable, learning to sleep through their sibling’s sounds, even on a rough night. Although having more than one newborn in the house can be extra challenging, there are many similar factors between teaching a singleton and multiples how to get the best sleep. Unfortunately, it can be hard to figure out what advice on the internet is useful, or is just a waste of time, creating even more significant problems with your children’s sleep. After numerous years of being a Sleep Coach and a Newborn Care Specialist, I would like to share with you some helpful information on how to maximize your sleep as a parent to multiples!
Don’t Set Yourself Up for Failure
The most important thing to remember is to create a routine and environment that will sustain itself longterm. What do I mean by that? Do not establish a schedule or a habit that is impossible to follow with multiple babies. Primarily, this means keeping the babies on the same schedule, having a system for feeding your babies, and start as you mean to go!
White noise is probably the most useful tool you will ever use with multiple babies! Using moderately loud white noise can block out other noises in the environment, including their siblings, and mimics the noise your babies were used to in the womb, to help them relax. My recommendation is to get one white noise machine per baby, blocking the sound from one side of the nursery to the other side, and visa versa. Putting it between their cribs is the best location, just don’t put it right next to your baby’s head. Using multiple white noise sources muffles the sound from inside and outside of the room, so your babies can sleep peacefully both during naps and at nighttime.
Keep Your Babies on the Same Schedule
The whole reason for this word of advice is to preserve your sanity. It can be incredibly challenging to have multiple babies on entirely different schedules, providing minimal time to rest or get anything done around the house (never mind having any time for yourself!). Staying on schedule is essential both for feeding and sleep. I always recommend staying within a 15-minute window at all times, even if it means waking a sleeping baby, or two! Most of the time, you will find that your babies will naturally begin to sync their schedules. If you can feed more than one baby at the same time, it will help you save a lot of time and preserve your sleep during the night. Instead of feeding each baby for 30 minutes, all of your babies can be fed and back to sleep in 30-45 minutes! When your babies are newborns, you will want to wake and feed them simultaneously, but as they get older and start sleeping better, we begin to focus on their sleep. This method provides an opportunity for your babies to learn how to sleep longer stretches on their own.
The most significant difference between a singleton baby and multiples is time. Because they are almost always born premature, multiples will take longer to hit their developmental milestones, and yes, this includes sleep. You must be willing to have the patience to see progress! Following your children’s adjusted age is vital to scheduling their sleep. The general rule of thumb is to calculate their adjusted age based on their 40 weeks of gestation (even in 38 is considered full term for multiples). Your babies may only be able to handle a short awake window as newborns, so knowing their adjusted age will help you determine how long they should be awake between naps. When your children are older, if you decide to sleep train, it is always essential to make sure they are developmentally ready, and you follow the age guidelines based on their adjusted age. It may take longer to sleep train multiples as you are working with multiple babies at one time, and they may wake each other up. Just remain consistent on whichever method you decide to use; sleep training is a journey!
All Other Sleep Advice Applies for Multiples!
Although somethings may be different or unique to having multiples, all of the other healthy sleep habits for singletons are applicable for multiple babies!
- Establish an early bedtime, ideally between 6-7 pm.
- Create a calming, nighttime ambiance — use white noise, keep the nursery super dark, use low red light if needed, and monitor the nursery’s temperature.
- Only take care of business at night and limit stimulating interaction such as eye contact and talking.
- Swaddle your newborns, especially preemies.
- Only change diapers when needed at night, ideally before feeding.
- Develop a consistent sleep routine.
- Have a nighttime strategy for when your baby wakes up but does not need to be changed or fed.
- Understand and follow your babies’ cues!
Read more about our Expert Sleep Tips!