How to Sleep Train Twins
I know that sleep training can get a bad rep.
I’ve heard comments such as “they’re babies, not dogs!” from parents who are against sleep training.
The definition of the word training is: the action of teaching a person or animal a particular skill or type of behavior.
Therefore, ‘sleep training’ is the action of teaching a baby or child how to S-L-E-E-P.
Sleep is pretty precious, right?
I mean, when we’re in college pulling all-nighters, it isn’t precious. When you’re a toddler boycotting a nap, it isn’t precious.
When you’re a parent???
SLEEP IS VITAL.
When you’re a twin parent???? Sleep is even more vital. Sleep training twins is something I have never, ever regretted.
How you choose to sleep is a personal decision. There are many different ways of sleep training twins, and I have a post that outlines different types of sleep training <– here.
*Post contains affiliate links.
At What Age Should You Sleep Train Twins?
Age isn’t the most important factor here. I’ve heard some people say you can sleep train at 3 months old, and others say 6 months.
There is no magical month where babies are able to soothe themselves.
It varies drastically depending on the baby.
What is important to consider is their weight, their growth, and whether or not they were premature.
If they are gaining weight well and you get the OK from your pediatrician that they can go overnight without eating, then they are old enough to sleep train.
The most important thing is to consult with your pediatrician.
If you believe your baby is waking up out of hunger, and not out of habit, then, by all means, continue to feed them throughout the night.
Sleep Training Tips for Twins
I have taken bits and pieces of what I do with my babies from different books.
Here are sleep training books that I recommend:
- On Becoming Babywise: I use this the most!
- Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child: this is a WONDERFUL resource to help you understand everything about baby sleep… from sleep cycles to different methods of sleep training.
- Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems (Ferber): This is another wonderful book on sleep training and understanding the way babies sleep
Shop Sleep Training Books Here
1: Consistent Daily Wake Time for BOTH Babies
Waking not one, but both babies up at the same time every day is a crucial part in setting their circadian rhythm.
I know this can be hard because who wants to wake a sleeping baby?? Especially when you’ve been up all night with
Imagine how you would feel if one day you slept until 9 AM and the next you woke up at 5 AM.
Your body would be so confused and you would not be tired at the same time every night.
If you want your twins to be sleepy at bedtime, you need to set their wake up time!
Now. This being said, you will not ruin everything if you let them sleep for an extra few minutes one day.
Try to keep things loosely within 30 minutes. So, if your daily wake time goal is 7:00 AM, make sure that they are awake by 7:30 at the latest.
No matter what happens with your morning wake up time, make sure you are waking BOTH babies up at the same time!
Having twins on the same sleep schedule was a lifesaver for us!!
2: Eat- Wake-Sleep Schedule Based off of Wake Time
Once your twins wake up to eat, feed them, keep them awake for a little bit (see step 4 to know how long to keep them up for!), and then put them down for a nap.
Repeat this every 3 hours throughout the day.
You are trying to teach them to fall asleep on their own and not rely on nursing or taking a bottle to fall asleep.
There is nothing wrong with nursing a newborn to sleep – AT ALL. I’m not trying to mom shame anyone.
However, when your baby is a little older, it is a crucial step in getting them to sleep through the night.
If they fall asleep by nursing, when they wake up in the middle of the night, it will be the only way they know how to fall back asleep and they will continue to wake up even when they don’t need the nutrition of a night feed.
Feeding to sleep is one of those sleep habits that if you start, you will likely regret.
Trust me… my firstborn was so reliant on nursing to sleep but would wake up as soon as we put him down.
I ended up so desperate for him to take a nap that I spent months driving him around in the car during nap time and then lugging his carseat up the stairs to his nursery.
When I found out we were pregnant with twins, I vowed that they would learn to FALL asleep and STAY asleep independently.
3. Feed No Longer Than 3-Hours Apart (during the day)
Do not stretch out their day time feedings until they are sleeping through the night.
If you do that, you are essentially dropping a feeding during the day.
We want to drop nighttime feedings, before we drop daytime feedings!
Feeding twins can be a lot of work. I exclusively pumped and bottle fed our twins and they both had really bad reflux.
Feeding them was, at times, exhausting. I remember my husband asking me several times if we could stretch out their feedings during the day, because they weren’t waking up hungry.
I refused, and he was pretty thankful that I did, as they started sleeping through the night at 14 weeks (which was 6 weeks adjusted).
Shop Sleep Training Essentials Here
4. Watch for Sleepy Cues
First: Read this post on optimal baby wake time from the Babywise Mom.
Once you have an idea of how long your twins should be awake for, start watching them around that time (a bit before is ideal) for sleepy cues.
Sleep cues are usually when your baby starts rubbing their eyes or yawns.
When you see these sleepy cues, you want to bring them to their nursery to get ready for a nap or bedtime right away!
5. Nursery Set Up for Sleep Success
Speaking of the nursery, it’s essential that it is set up for sleep success.
*You want to make sure it’s not too hot or cold.
*Have a good sound machine.
*Blackout curtains or blinds
You can read more details here –> How to Create a Nursery with a Good Sleep Environment
6. Put Down Drowsy but Awake
So, you’ve noticed the sleepy cues and you’ve taken your baby to their room.
The next step is to follow a simple nap time routine (such as a swaddle and a quick cuddle) and then put them down.
You want to put them down before they become too tired, but also while they’re still awake.
I know, I know. Just a few minutes too late and you’re in for a massive meltdown! Overtired babies will fight sleep like nobody’s business.
7. Pause (set a timer!) and Don’t Feed Immediately
If they cry as soon as you put them down, pause.
DO NOT rush in right away.
Instead, see if they will settle themselves. Oftentimes, they won’t, but, you never know.
It’s a good idea to set a timer during this pause; When you hear a baby cry, 10 seconds will feel like 2-minutes.
My rule of thumb was always one minute per week old, give or take. So, I’d let my 7-week old twins cry for 5-7 minutes.
Do what you’re comfortable with. If you’re not comfortable with that, start with 1-2 minutes.
And by all means, if your baby starts screaming in distress or acting as if something is wrong, go to them. The pause is just a guide.
It is not a hard and fast rule of something you must follow, but a tool to use at your discretion.
Also, when you DO go in, don’t resort to feeding them right away
8. White Noise Machine
I mentioned this above under #5, setting your nursery up for sleep success, but incase you’re skimming and missed it, I’m putting it again.
White noise machines are crucial for twins.
If one twin is crying, a white noise machine will help to keep the other baby sleeping.
9: Choose Your Sleep Training Method and STICK WITH IT
Sometimes, you can follow all of the steps above, and your babies still won’t sleep.
This is when it is a good idea to consider sleep training.
Now, before you get all crazy on me, I want to tell you something very important: sleep training does not have to equal cry it out.
There are many, many types of sleep training.
Some of them can entail crying, but there are also gentle sleep training methods.
A very important part of choosing a sleep training method is sticking with it for at least two weeks.
The worst thing you can do is to try it for a few days, decide it isn’t working, and try a different method.
Talk about confusing your poor babes!
You are teaching your twins a valuable skill. It takes time to learn skills. It might take more than a day or two for them to learn how to fall asleep and stay asleep.
10: C-O-N-S-I-S-T-E-N-C-Y is Key
If you take away ANYTHING from this blog post, it should be consistency.
White noise machine settings.
Light/darkness in the room.
Sleep training method.
Keep things as consistent as you possibly can. You can’t run to your twins one day when they’re crying and the next day decide that you’re doing cry it out, and leave them there.
Not that there is anything wrong with doing cry it out, if that’s the method that you choose– but you have to have a plan and be consistent with it.
If you’re doing cry it out, you have to do it every day, not every other day, or when you can’t take rocking them for another minute.
11: Start With Naps
With our son, sleep training worked better for bedtime than for naps.
He was already sleeping 12 hours a night, he just was taking 1-2 hours to put to bed.
For him, the sleep training wasn’t to get him to sleep longer at night but to learn how to fall asleep independently.
However, I don’t think that this is the norm.
I suggest starting with the first nap of the day. If you start with overtired babies, it’s going to be much harder to sleep train.
12: Establish Your Plan (and a backup plan!)
So, you’ve decided to do the cry it out method.
That means that after bedtime routine, you don’t enter the room again until the morning. If it’s nap time, it means you don’t go in for the duration of the nap (anywhere from 1-2 hours).
Are you OK with that?
You HAVE to have a backup plan!
How long are willing to let the crying go on for, and if they don’t stop crying what is your plan?
One idea is to take one twin into your bedroom and sleep train them one at a time.
We sleep trained our twins in the same room, but we never let them cry for very long (simply because they didn’t need to, not because I am against cry it out; I believe cry it out works very
Your twins are ready for sleep training when they are gaining weight and both you and your pediatrician are comfortable letting them go overnight without feeding them.
A solid and consistent routine is essential before you begin any sort of sleep training.
Whatever sleep training method you choose is up to what you feel comfortable with as a parent. Not comfortable doing cry it out? Choose a different method… just stay consistent!
1. Establish a Set Morning Wake Time for BOTH Twins: Wake both babies up at the same time (within 30-minutes) every day.
2. Eat Play Sleep: After babies eat, give them a little bit of awake time.
3. Feedings No Longer Than 3-Hours Apart: You don't want to stretch their feedings to longer than 3-hours UNTIL AFTER they are sleeping through the night!
4. Identify Sleep Cues: After they eat, and then have some awake time, watch them for sleepy cues. You will get better at identifying sleepy cues, but good ones to look for are yawning and rubbing eyes.
5. Ensure Nursery is Set Up for Sleep Success: Make sure the room that your twins sleep in is nice and dark, not too hot, not too cold, and has a good white noise machine.
6. Put Down Drowsy but Awake: Bedtime or naptime routine, depending on the time of day, and then place them in their beds sleepy, but still awake.
7. Pause; Don't Rush to Feeding: If your baby cries during their sleeping time, don't rush in immediately. Once you do go in, try to settle them first without feeding them. Only feed them if you truly think they are hungry, not to settle them back to sleep.
8. White Noise Machine: A sound machine is CRUCIAL for twins. It will help to drown out crying if one of them is upset and the other twin is still sleeping.
9. Choose Your Sleep Training Method and STICK With It: Choose your preferred sleep training method. There are so many out there and it's a deeply personal choice.
10. Consistency is Key: Stick with the method you choose for several weeks before determining that it doesn't work. Consistency is key here! Bedtime should be the same time every night; naptime at the same time during the day; and the sleep training method should be consistent for both times.
11. Start With Naps: Sleep training is challenging, but it is easier with a well-rested baby. I suggest starting with the first nap of the day, before they have a chance to get overtired.
12. Establish a Backup Plan: Have a backup plan; if you're doing cry it out, how long are you comfortable letting them cry for, and what will you do if they don't stop?