When you have twins, everything you do is times two. However, each twin will be different, and a variety of things can affect sleep training.
If your twins were premature, they may be on a different developmental path than full-term babies. It’s important to be patient and to know that sleep will come eventually.
When To Start Sleep Training
It is appropriate to start sleep training at around the four to six-month mark in most situations. This is true whether training singletons or twins.
However, if your twins were premature, you may have to adjust your timing based on their health and adjusted age.
Twins born before 37 weeks shouldn’t start sleep training until their adjusted age is four to six months old. Their overall health should also be taken into account.
One twin may be ready to start training while the other needs more time due to complications or developmental delays that occurred due to premature delivery.
Does Sleep Training Cause Psychological Damage?
Sleep training, when done correctly, does not cause psychological damage to your children. In fact, studies show that it may actually benefit children as much as it does parents.
All sleep training is not the same. Sleep training does not always mean letting your child cry it out in a separate room.
While this is one technique, you can still share a room with your twins and have a bedtime routine that works for your entire family and does not involve crying it out.
Sleep training won’t negatively impact your relationship with your twins. Both twins can still form secure attachments to their parents even when sleep training is used.
Choosing the right approach for your family allows you to reap the benefits of everyone in your house getting more rest without the worry of long-term damage.
Sleep training does not mean a lack of affection. It’s just a way to help your babies learn to sleep longer and put themselves back to sleep when they awaken.
1. Establish a Feeding Schedule
An infant’s stomach is much smaller than an adults. That’s why it’s important to feed your twins at around the same time each night before they go to bed.
They will have full bellies and should be able to sleep longer without needing to wake up for breast milk or formula as quickly.
If you are introducing new foods, be careful about doing it at dinner time since it may affect your children’s stomachs. Excessive gas or cramping from a new food can keep your babies up when they need to be asleep.
However, most babies are still mostly dependent on breastmilk and formula when sleep training starts. Make sure they get enough of either one before bed.
2. Learn To Spot Sleepy Cues
Your babies can communicate with you even if they aren’t using words. Look for sleepy cues that let you know your children are ready for bed. These include yawning, eye rubbing, and tugging at the ears.
Catching early sleep cues is better than waiting until your child is overtired. Ignoring early cues can lead to a child being fussy, extremely active, or hard to calm.
Even though your children are exhausted, it will be much harder to get them to sleep once they are overtired.
3. Feed and Change Both Babies
When you see those sleepy cues and your children have already been fed, it’s time for the diaper changes. Change both babies before they go to sleep so they won’t be uncomfortable in soggy diapers.
It’s wise to check your children’s diaper one more time before bedtime. Putting a child down in a wet or soiled diaper is a sure way to have them wake up uncomfortable in a very short amount of time.
4. Establish a Time-for-Sleep Routine
You should have the same routine each night that prepares your children for sleep time. This routine should begin about 30 minutes before you want to put them down for the night.
Your sleep routine doesn’t have to be complicated. You can turn the lights down, sing your twins a song, and give them goodnight kisses.
Make sure to avoid lights from electronics and boisterous music during time-for-sleep time. Put your twins to sleep in the same place each night so they know what to expect.
Your time-to-sleep routine could also include story time, a warm bath, or a back rub.
5. Consider Using White Noise or Soothing Music
The goal of sleep training is to help your kids learn to self-soothe. If they wake up in the middle of the night, you want them to learn to put themselves back to sleep. White noise or soothing music can help make this happen.
A study showed that ⅘ of babies exposed to white noise fell asleep in a few minutes. Only ¼ of babies not listening to white noise fell asleep as quickly.
Soothing music should be soft, be calm, and not contain lyrics. It’s a great option if your twins don’t like the sound of white noise or don’t respond to it.
Just make sure to place any white noise (check out this system that’s controlled from your phone) or music several feet away from the babies and to keep the volume reasonable due to the small chance of hearing loss.
6. Lay Twins Down When They Are Drowsy
Don’t wait for your twins to fall completely asleep before you put them down. When you notice that they are getting drowsy in your arms, lay them down in their cribs so they can go to sleep on their own. This helps them learn to put themselves to sleep.
This allows your bedtime routine to include rocking, cuddling, or nursing before bed. Just make sure not to use these practices to get them fully to sleep.
7. Follow Safe Sleep Guidelines
Always practice safe sleep guidelines. These include putting your babies on their backs to sleep and keeping other items out of their cribs.
Babies should not have soft bedding, pillows, or blankets in the crib with them. Stuffed animals are also not a good idea.
Your twins also need to sleep in a crib or bassinet instead of your bed.
8. Give Them a Few Moments To Fall Asleep on Their Own
It’s tempting to hop right over to the crib when it seems your little ones are having a hard time falling asleep.
However, let them try to go to sleep on their own before you intervene. Just because they don’t fall asleep immediately doesn’t mean they are in distress.
Stand outside the door or out of your children’s sight for a bit before moving in to soothe them. You may hear them make noise or stir, but there is no need to intervene if that’s all they are doing.
9. Comfort When Needed, but Encourage Self-Soothing
It’s perfectly normal for your children to crave comfort. When it’s necessary, comfort your twins with soothing sounds or pats on the belly to reassure them.
However, try to encourage self-soothing since this is what will help them go back to sleep when they awaken.
A pacifier, white noise, and swaddling are all techniques that can help your child go back to sleep without your assistance.
While self-soothing may sound like too much to expect from a baby, it’s possible and can make nighttime easier for them. Instead of waiting on you to come to their aid, your twins learn that they can wake up and go back to sleep without needing to cry.
10. Gradually Reduce Time Spent Getting Them To Sleep
Your beginner sleep-training routine is going to feel long. You are trying to establish routines your twins will recognize without rushing them. However, as time passes you can actually reduce the time you spend on the sleep routine.
This doesn’t mean you skip steps. Consistency is extremely important when it comes to sleep training. What it means is you can shorten some of the steps to make getting to bed quicker. Instead of reading three books, try only reading two.
Another way to shorten the routine is to hold and rock your twins less before bed. Give them all the snuggles they are accustomed to, but lay them down sooner so they continue to go to sleep on their own.
Shortening the nighttime routine will give you more time to rest and your twins more time to sleep peacefully on their own.
Sleep Training for Naps
Sleep training isn’t just for nights. It’s a good idea to sleep train your twins for naps when you are working with them on bedtime training. This will ensure they don’t get mixed messages about sleep expectations.
However, you should remember that sleep training for naps is not going to be the same as sleep training for nighttime sleep. In fact, it can actually be more difficult, especially when you have two babies in the mix.
Your children will have an increase in melatonin at night that won’t be present during nap times. Plus, infants nap between two and three times a day, and it can be a challenge to get two babies to do that at the same time.
Here are a few tips to ensure nap training goes smoothly.
- Wake your twins up around the same time each morning. Don’t let one sleep in more than half an hour after the other wakes up each day.
- Put your twins in the same place to nap each day so they associate that place with sleep.
- Feed and change your babies before putting them down for naps.
- Use the same methods when nap training as you do when sleep training. Obviously you aren’t going to go through an entire bedtime routine, but make sure to put them down drowsy in a dark room with whatever helps them self-soothe.
Tips & Advice From Experienced Parents
- Respect that each twin is different. One may take to sleep training better than the other, and that’s okay.
- Be flexible. Teething, growth spurts, and a variety of other factors can cause sleep regression. Don’t give up.
- Follow your instincts. It’s great to follow a sleep-training plan, but you are the one who ultimately knows what your child needs.
Even twins have unique needs, but it is possible to sleep train them together. Establishing a sleep routine can help you and your little ones get more rest and thrive.
What Twin Moms Are Saying About Sleep Training Twins
I’m always interested in what other moms are doing and having success with. This is especially true when it comes to something as challenging as sleep training.
In a very popular community for moms of twins, here’s what some were sharing:
“We did Taking Cara Babies classes for my singleton and the twins, and it’s modified cry it out but with lots of support, check-ins, and info… I swear by it!” – Sarah B
“We do our last nap around 4, and then we eat dinner together. Bath time around 7 till about 7:30 they love to splash and play. 7:30 is our 8oz bottle play till 8 and then it’s quiet time in their beds lights off sound machine on I also got a star projector that they seem to love and they have quiet time till they fall asleep anywhere from 8:30-9pm and then they’re up around 7:30 or 8 am. Mine are eight months.” – Samantha B
“We did Kim West’s Sleep Lady Shuffle (aka the chair method) at 8 months and it worked great for us. It was a life changer!! It saved my sanity! They have been great sleepers since! They’re 21 months now.” – Debbie N
Mom of three (including identical twin boys), wife, and owner of Parents Wonder. This is my place to share my journey as a mother and the helpful insights I learn along the way.