|You're yawning, J? Well then let's get some sleep...tonight.|
It’s no wonder that sleep deprivation can be used as a form of torture. This was by far the hardest part of parenting multiples for me (and probably would have been even if I’d had a singleton). I remember mentally crying out to God for mercy! I was depressed and unable to think clearly. When your babies may need to eat every 2.5 to 3 hours, you’re trying to nurse, bottle-feed, burp and change the babies, pump, and clean it all up, and you’re really only getting an hour of uninterrupted sleep between each feeding, then it seems as though it will never pass. And when more than 5 months had gone by and I told good friends that I still had to go in and check on the boys FIFTEEN times in a night, the looks on their faces was all I needed to know something was wrong! I was desperate for help and advice when it came to getting our sons to sleep through the night.
Might I add that if you live in an apartment like we did, and you’re paranoid your crying baby/babies will wake the neighbors, stop worrying! People will understand that babies cry and life goes on. It won’t kill either your baby or your neighbors to have a few minutes of crying going on. This paranoia probably fed a lot of the habits we formed as a family early on that ended up making us all more, rather than less, sleep-deprived.
I read 3 different books on baby sleep, and pulled bits and pieces from each book to cobble together my own approach to sleep training. Below are the key points of each that were most helpful to me. (Please note, I only listed the positive points from each book, not the points I disagreed with. If you read the books you’d have to make those conclusions yourself.) It’s just what happened to work for our family. Use your own judgment and don’t feel like you and your babies need to fit into the mold of any one book’s claims and promises. But I have a lot of friends who have recently had, or are about to have, babies soon, so I thought maybe I’d put it all together and it might be helpful to someone!
“The Baby Sleep Solution,” by Suzy Giordano
o Feed your babies on a schedule, gradually emphasizing daytime nursing/eating/bottles. They’ll be hungrier if you stretch out the time between daytime feedings, eat more during the day, and thus need to eat less at night (while also gradually increasing time between nighttime feeds until they’re eliminated).
o Keep things bright, active, and engaging during the day to help them differentiate between night and day. (Get outside! Daily stroller walks, and even sitting outside on the patio with the babies, helped keep me sane. Also we did a LOT of tummy time to tire them out.)
|Hanging out on the patio!|
o Also schedule daytime activities and napping. The more structured the day is, the more their bodies come to know when to expect sleep and when to expect active periods. Try to put feeding after waking up, so children won’t associate needing to eat to fall asleep.
o Have an established bedtime routine that will cue your babies it’s time to sleep. (We loved and used the suggestions of having a favorite lullaby CD and/or a crib soother that played music or ocean sounds at bedtime.)
|Baths eventually became a favorite part of our bedtime routine.|
“Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems,” by Richard Ferber
o Teach your child to fall asleep under whatever conditions will be present if they wake up in the middle of the night. If they can fall asleep at bedtime alone, in their crib, in the dark, then if they wake in the night, they’re better equipped to self-soothe later. If, however, they need a pacifier, a bottle, or you to fall asleep at bedtime, they will also need those things in the middle of the night when they awaken. (Since ours did rely heavily on pacifiers, I had to stop the horrible habit of stumbling into their room several times a night to replace the pacifiers if they couldn’t find them.)
|D and his beloved Wubbanub. In defense of the Wubbanub, they're great once your babies get older and can grasp the stuffed animal part during the night to more easily return the pacifier to their mouths.|
o As they learn to fall asleep on their own, they will cry; go in and check on them and comfort them every few minutes, gradually allowing more time to pass between checks until they fall asleep. (We started with pausing when they cried to see if they’d fall asleep on their own first. If they cried we let 5 (excruciating) minutes go by before going in to comfort them. And then every 5 minutes until they fell asleep. The next night we would wait a couple more minutes, and so on. I’d like to clarify that, contrary to popular belief, this author DOES NOT support hours and hours of crying with no parental comfort.)
“Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child,” by Marc Weissbluth
o Sometimes an earlier bedtime, even 6 or 7 p.m., means more sleep than keeping your child up too late in an attempt to tire them out. (Ours had been going to bed at 8 for months. For some reason when we shifted it to 7, they slept more soundly and longer.)
I was very strict with all our routines and such once we finally decided to “sleep train” at 6 months. But we could have implemented some of the principles above earlier than that, I imagine. Once the boys were sleeping 12-hour nights, with two well-established naps totaling around 3 hours of daytime sleep, then we could make exceptions for things like travel, illness, etc., and the boys would more easily fall back into the routine again afterwards.
Happy sleeping! (For a few hours, hopefully!)