6 Dec
2012

How I got my Twins to Sleep

A lot of people ask me what I did to get my kids to sleep.  They come over in the evening and are amazed that at 9:30pm, it’s as if we don’t have children at all. Our house is filled with the noises of us chatting away, listening to music or sometimes the television is on, we’re preparing dinner and maybe even having a glass of wine.  The children are asleep in bed.
People tell me that I’m lucky to have such “calm” children (seriously, these people have never seen my kids play during the day when I feel like all I’ve done all day is stop them from climbing on the furniture).  Some people believe that at a certain age or weight, kids should be sleeping a straight eight hours.

At first, I didn’t know where to begin. I hadn’t read any books on being a twin mother nor did I read any books on baby sleeping – mostly because I asked for them for my baby shower but instead got other things – and spent our entire budget on stuff that we really needed.  And I’m quite happy with the outcome.  Instead, I spent quite some time on the internet researching different sleep theories – always having a lot of ideas in my head about what to do once I got to the point of sleep training.

I do have a few thoughts about baby sleep training that are my opinion and although perhaps they may be right or wrong, but this is my philosophy, my blog, my babies, etc.

 

  1. When a baby cries at night, it’s not a form of manipulation. Lots of people tried to tell me that babies cry to manipulate people.  Seriously, folks? My two day old has “not already learned how to manipulate the people around him”.  If you know who you are, you may have seen the dirty look I was giving you all the while thinking, “this person is an idiot”. And believe me, there was more than one person telling me this. First of all, they’re babies and only cry because of some kind of need or discomfort – or in fact because someone teaches them repeatedly that if they cry, they will get something (i.e. attention, hugs, whatever).  So if my babies cried before six months at night, I would get up and see what the matter was and make sure that they didn’t need anything or that they weren’t uncomfortable and attending to their needs without giving them excessive attention. After six months, the boys got a diaper change once at night during their crack of dawn feeding (because if not they would wet through their clothes) and after nine months were going the whole night without a diaper change. If they cry, I see what’s wrong. I observe and wait to see if they can calm themselves down too.
  2. We all have different ways of falling asleep. I like to crochet before I go to bed.  Some people like to read.  Others mediate or listen to music. We all have different ways we like to go to sleep, so if one of your children like to go to sleep listening to classic rock, it doesn’t mean that all of your children will drift off to slumber every time you get the Led out.  Each child is different.  Each person is unique.
  3. Babies need sleep in the day to sleep at night.  Babies and toddlers need to be tired enough to be able to relax at night. Sounds weird right? But trying to get a somewhat tired child to sleep is much easier than trying to get an overtired child to sleep.
  4. A daytime routine is essential to establish a nighttime routine.  I felt that if I wanted my babies to feel secure, I needed to do the same thing at the same hour every day.  Maybe our kids slept out of boredom at night (doubt it!) but at least they slept! In our household, when our boys were two months old, they were eating every three hours and napping three times a day for 40 minutes each nap. Each nap was around the same time every day.  By three months old, they were sleeping 7-8 hours straight at night, waking up for a feeding and then going back to sleep for another couple of hours. Every night at 7:30pm, they would get a bath, we would read to them, sing and hold and rock them and put them down with a bottle at 8:30 – 9pm.
  5. As a child grows, sometimes nighttime routines need tweaking or changing.  So what works one week for your baby, doesn’t necessarily work for the next.  Things change, babies are learning what they like and what they don’t like. But whatever techniques you do try, you need to try it and be consistent for FIVE DAYS.  Now, that sounds easy but this is where parents screw up a lot. I’ve seen it happen.  Why five?  -Because they need to feel that routine for a few days to be able to be secure and comfortable with it.
  6. Listen to your baby.  Are they crying or complaining?  When my babies were still a few months old, I learned how to understand my babies’ cries.  There was the one cry – “the complaint” when we put them down to go to sleep at night. It was like the boys were saying, “HEY! Lady and Man! Come back here! Yo! Hey! HEEEEEEEEYYYY!”. There were no tears, just sort of angry baby yells coming out of their mouths.  Sometimes they were very angry and loud, but they were complaining.  Then there is the cry – that actually didn’t happen that often as the complaints. The cry has actual tears and well, we ALL know what that looks like, right? So when they were crying we would attend to them. And when they were complaining, no.  They can complain all they want, but that isn’t getting mommy and daddy’s attention.
  7. Babies Cry. They do that. They’re babies.  Stop freaking out mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, friends, grandparents and otherpeoplewhoitjustisn’tanyofyourbusiness.
  8. Babies don’t need bottles (or a boob) to go to sleep.  This took me a while to learn, but we found that our kids would actually go down without eating. This was a lovely relief not only because both of our boys had terrible reflux but because I didn’t want to foster unhealthy habits regarding food and sleep.
  9. Naptime is a great practice for bedtime. I heard that if a baby goes to sleep a certain way at naptime, they’ll want the same thing at bedtime, and every other time they wake up in the night. So I tried to make naptimes a practice for bedtime. For me and the babies.

Alright. So keeping in mind that I used various techniques that I read about on the internet and that people mentioned to me while I was keeping a schedule during the day and what I’m going to mention here are the ones that stood out as effective.  I looked up month by month on BabyCenter to make sure that the boys were on target with the amount of hours that they were sleeping and was also making sure that I held a daytime schedule with naps at specific times during the day.  Now – you can’t make a child go to sleep, at 11am sharp, but I did make sure that it was more or less around that time.  I wouldn’t stray too far off the times though.  I also made sure that there were no naps after 5pm.  Our days were filled with a lot of playtime – before they were crawling especially, on the floor, on their tummies, doing little “exercises” and stuff.  Lots of times they were left on their little play mat just to explore the world by looking around.  I’m a firm believer that they didn’t need too much extra stimulation either.

Our nighttime routines included reading and chit chat with mommy and daddy but not much else. What we made sure not to do was try NOT to talk to them (watch yourselves with this parents!) or sing to them if they needed a feeding or diaper change at night and make everything very quick and quiet, just to do what was necessary and then get the baby back to slumber the same way they were put to bed in the first place.

There are a few things that gave me great pleasure in watching my children grow while learning to sleep.  One of those things was that at four months old, we decided to listen to their cries and complaints and realized that we could put them in the crib at night, give them a bottle each, touch their little tummies and make sure that they were calm and walk out of the room, confident that within 10 minutes or so, they would go to sleep, by themselves.  I loved when we stopped giving them their bottles at the crack of dawn.  They were weaned in four days and it was so easy.  (I’ll write about that another time).  I loved when they stopped complaining about going into the crib, and just sat there playing and chatting away until each got tired and then went off to sleep by themselves for the first time.  And I love that I can put them in their beds (we’ve been using the Montessori Floor Bed idea) and let them play until they get tired.

Well, there’s a start and my philosophy on baby sleep.  A lot of people have asked me about how I do it – and if you want to email me privately or comment here, I’ll be more than happy to elaborate about any specific techniques we used.

1 Comment

  • G!! I LOVED what you just wrote.
    Believe me, I considered bookmarking it for when I have kids of my own 🙂
    I am happy to see eveything’s good 🙂
    xoxo

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