After more than 365 days of getting twins to sleep and only losing my sanity a few times, I want to share with you our journey of getting our twins to sleep through the night. I want to preface this by saying, I am sharing our family experience of getting our twins to sleep and this is in no way a proven method or what you should do. We are first-time parents of twins. As new parents, we tried to figure out the best way to get our twins to sleep while keeping our sleep philosophies in line with the Montessori principles. I’ll share all of the nitty-gritty details of our twins’ sleep journey. From the things that went well and how we were able to get our identical twins to sleep through the night to the hard moments when I was up 6 times a night.
Sleep During the Newborn Phase (Birth to 3 Months)
While At the Hospital
Without getting into too many details, we spent just over a week in the hospital. Our twins were born 3 weeks before their due date from an induction at 37 weeks. They entered the world via c-section and I had one son in the NICU and one with us in our hospital room. Sleep while we were at the hospital was something I tried to get as much of as possible.
For the first 4 nights, we utilized the nursery at the hospital for the nighttime so we could get sleep. I would have the nurses bring my son to me every 3 hours during the nighttime hours to initiate breastfeeding. However, becuase of many factors nursing was slow to start. I would work to latch him for 10 minutes or so. We gave it a good effort and then I would have the nurses take him back to the nursery and they would do a dropper feeding of donor breast milk.
There were other nights when I would take trips to the NICU to pump and attempt to feed my other son. In these moments I had either my husband or a family member stay back in our hospital room with twin A. As new twin parents you just roll with the punches and do whatever you need to keep the babies and yourself happy and fed. The extra hands were a lifesaver and I would recommend having as much help as possible in those first days.
While Pumping and Bottle Feeding At Home
Once we got home from the hospital with our newborn twins we were in for quite the rollercoaster. Both our sleeping and feeding journeys were ever-changing.
During the daytime, we tried to follow an eat, play, and sleep cycle as much as possible. They fell asleep whenever they were tired and it didn’t usually require intentionally putting them down for sleep. Sometimes they fell asleep in the baby carrier and then I could go lay them down on their floor bed. Sometimes we would just lay them down in a small portable bassinet. Other times we just held them while they slept. I also had a baby swing which we would use sometimes as well, only under supervision of course. People with twins may say you should keep the babies on the same schedule. I wasn’t able to worry too much about this early on. I say it is better to just do what the babies are doing. Let them sleep when they are asleep and feed them when they are awake.
For the first month or so I did mostly pumping and bottle-feeding pumped breast milk. I continued to keep breastfeeding familiar to both babies. My goal was to breastfeed exclusively so I exposed them to it at least once a day. Initially, they had a hard time nursing and were so sleepy that they didn’t stay awake long enough to get a full feeding. It would require being topped off with a bottle afterward. The feeding process with two babies just was unmanageable with needing to nurse for long periods. Then pump and top off with a bottle. It wasn’t sustainable. As they got a little older they improved at breastfeeding. So during those first weeks, I pumped every two hours during the day and about every 3 hours at night.
For nighttime sleep, I found it helpful to feed them simultaneously so you have the best chance of getting longer stretches of sleep. We settled into this routine when I was pumping and bottle feeding at night. We would put the babies to bed when we went to sleep, usually around 9 or 10 pm. I also found it went better when we went to bed later. There was more cluster feeding during those late evening hours.
Our bedtime routine was to change their diaper and put them in their onesie and sleep sacks. Then put their little hospital hats on, and then feed them a bottle. Then we would lay them down in our bedside twin bassinet. We used a white noise machine in our bedroom.
Middle of the Night Feedings
When one baby woke up, my husband and I would both get up. I would go and get the bottles set up and warming, if there was freshly pumped milk (within the last 4 hours) we would use that first and not need to heat up more. I would get all set up to pump. He would change their diaper and bring one baby to me. I would feed one baby a bottle while pumping, then he would wake up the second baby, change their diaper if needed, and then he would bottle feed the second baby.
Once they finished their bottles we put them right back down for bed. I don’t remember this being difficult, I think usually they would fall back asleep. Then I would transfer the freshly pumped milk into bottles for the next feeding. I would wash up any pump parts that I needed for the next time and then I’d go back to sleep.
We set up a mini fridge in our bedroom for storing breast milk for those middle-of-the-night feedings. I also set up a drying dish rack in our bathroom upstairs for quick access to bottles.
Transition to Exclusive BreastFeeding
It was around one month old that I transitioned to exclusively breastfeeding both day and nighttime feedings. I was motivated to do this because of the lack of sleep that my husband and I were getting. Not to mention the amount of bottles and pump parts we were washing every day. In those early weeks, it worked out well to pump and bottle feed. When the time came I was pleased with how to transition to breastfeeding went. I first transitioned to breastfeeding in the daytime and then would pump and do bottle feedings at night. As I got more comfortable breastfeeding I was ready to try it at night.
When a baby woke up in the night, I would get up and get situated in the chair in our bedroom. My husband would grab the baby from the bassinet and change their diaper at the changing table on top of our dresser. Then he would hand me the baby to nurse and go back to bed. I would feed that baby and lay them back down in their bassinet when they were finished. Sometimes I pumped on one side while the baby nursed on the other. I didn’t do it much, but I wish I had woken the other baby up to have them nurse right after I finished feeding one baby. I think that would have helped to maximize longer stretches in the night.
During those first few months, the length of daytime naps varies. They would have a short nap and then some longer naps. The most important thing is that they get enough daytime and nighttime sleep. A great way thing to do is to look up age-appropriate wake windows and daytime sleep needs and be aware of sleep cues. I also used the app Huckleberry to keep track of things like the length of nursing sessions or bottles as well as sleep and diapers. It was really helpful becuase it is a lot to keep straight in your mind.
Night Time Sleep Progression
Transition to a Floor Bed
We used the bedside twin bassinet for probably 2 or 3 months. Then the boys started to wake each other up at times so we transitioned to using two crib mattresses on the floor in our bedroom. We had been using the floor bed in their Montessori nursery for nap time. It seemed natural to have them start using a floor bed for nighttime sleep as well. We never had separate cribs, and we didn’t use cribs at all. If you are curious about that, check out this blog post about how we use a floor bed with twins. I would typically nurse them to sleep and then lay them down on their floor bed in our room.
As they got bigger, probably around 2 months old or so, I was able to begin sideline nursing them in the middle of the night. This helped tremendously. Whenever a baby woke up I would pick them up off of their floor bed and bring them into bed with me. I would nurse them and they would eat and fall back asleep. I would transfer them back to their floor bed after they were finished or when the other baby woke up. We did this combination co-sleeping method which worked well for our family. However, I liked having the floor beds to put them back to bed on once they were done eating. Be aware of the safe sleep guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics. If you are curious about safe co-sleeping and the safe sleep seven check out this post from La Leche Leauge.
Transition to the Nursery
Around 5 months we started to use the Montessori nursery as the main sleep space. I wanted to keep their sleep routine as familiar as possible because they were starting to put themselves to sleep around 4 months for naptime. It seemed natural to have them put themselves to sleep for bedtime too. The biggest difference from this transition was needing to leave my room to get them when they woke up in the night.
Initially, we transitioned them to two beds in their Montessori nursery. One was on a twin mattress and the other was on a crib-sized mattress. With the baby who was on the twin mattress, I would come in and side-line nurse him back to sleep. When the other twin woke up I would pick him up, and nurse him in the chair in their room. Then I would lay him back down and return to my bed. They both woke up about 2-3 times a night until they were about 8 months old. It would be ideal to have either a larger floor bed, like a full or queen. Or having two twin mattresses would work well.
Sleep Training Twins
At 8 months old I was feeling ready to start sleep training the twins. They continued to get up 2 to 3 times a night, would nurse for a very short time, and fall back asleep. They were eating more solid food at this point and it seemed like they weren’t waking up due to hunger but just because. My sleep training philosphy was to stop associating nursing and food with sleep. Instead, I initiated dream feeds at 10 pm and 3 am to start. I would go in before I went to bed and set an alarm for 3 am to go in and feed them. Slowly I shortened the length of time feeding.
After about 1 week I dropped the 10 pm feeding session and then probably within another week I dropped the 3 am session. The first night they did wake up at other times and after a few nights of sleep training the number of wakings and the time it took them to fall back asleep shortened. I followed many of the suggestions from the Taking Cara Babies course. Within a week or so they would sleep through the night which was great for the whole family.
One thing I was most worried about with the sleep training process was the twins waking one another up if they were crying for a few minutes. To my surprise, they didn’t tend to wake each other up because of their cries. Since we have done the sleep training, night wakings are very rare.
Sleep While Sick
When one of our boys was sick, we offered as much comfort as needed and didn’t worry about him waking up. The wake-ups didn’t continue once he was feeling better.
My Thoughts on Sleep and Montessori (We Use a Floor Bed)
What is a Montessori Floor Bed?
We use a Montessori floor bed with our twin babies. Simply put a Montessori floor bed is a mattress on the floor. I have a few blog posts sharing more about how to use a Montessori floor bed and how to prepare and baby-proof a Montessori nursery. It has been wonderful to be able to offer our boys freedom of movement and develop healthy sleep habits through the use of a Montessori floor bed.
We Can Prepare. We Can’t Control.
Navigating sleep for a single baby can be challenging and it is no piece of cake with two babies. Until about 5 months when a nap schedule started to get more set, I did not worry about keeping them on the same schedule. When I was home alone with them in the daytime it was nice to have some one-on-one time with each baby. I had moments where I didn’t have to worry about caring for two babies at one time. I prepared the environment for sleep and I would encourage sleep by putting them down when I observed that they were showing signs of being tired and getting to the end of their wake window.
Early on as a twin mom, I recognized that I couldn’t control when my babies slept. I can just prepare things and work towards helping them get to sleep. In the end, they have to be the ones to fall asleep, even when we are offering support. Recognizing this made sense to me that I wouldn’t be able to try to control two people’s sleep. Especially when they are just trying to figure out the difference between day and night. There were definitely times when we would get them to sleep at the same time but then one would wake up after 30 minutes and one would sleep for 2 hours and then my whole “schedule” was just completely thrown out the window. So I tried to have very low expectations of when they would sleep.
Ability to Develop Healthy Sleep Habits
Sleep is a very personal thing and I think you need to do what you feel comfortable with as well as what you can manage. For me, it wasn’t feasible to hold babies for their naps all of the time. At a certain point, I also had a feeling that the amount of nighttime wakings wasn’t due to there being a great need for anything, they just needed to fall back asleep. We helped them work on the skill of getting back to sleep when they had woken up in the night. We used a timed check-in approach.
For us, it seemed necessary to sleep-train twins. There have been weeks of sleep regression throughout our journey. Mostly this has shown up with early morning wake-up (before 6 am) as well as taking longer to fall asleep. I use a lot of observation and play with wake windows as well as the environment (light, routine, etc.) There is so much growth and development in those early years that, normally, their sleep patterns vary as they are growing and changing. However, the skill of putting themselves to bed is a skill I am grateful they have learned and can use.
A few things I think that have helped are having a consistent bedtime routine, allowing our boys freedom of movement with their Montessori floor bed, and trusting that they will sleep when they are tired if we have done our part to prepare the environment. I was glad that we could have one space for both babies to sleep and not need to have separate spaces.
If you have questions about twins and sleep, let me know in the comments section below.