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my children are the reason i get up in the morning… and the reason i drink at night

A Roadmap to Naps

on March 18, 2013
This is an oversimplified version of our nap journey, and hopefully provides a quick insight on what to expect. There is no scientific proof behind this besides my own experiences (and I am not a doctor), but it seems to generally lineup with most baby books. If you are nervous about getting your twins to sleep, try to read about baby’s sleep habits before you have them. These books are far from thrilling, and an exhausted mom will probably make it through half a page before enjoying her own nap.

Stage 1: What did I get myself into? (Newborn – 6 months)

This stage has its pluses and minuses. Newborns have no concept of time, so schedules are flexible. They are super portable, comfortably sleep in their infant carriers, and aren’t bothered by loud noises and distractions. But they still want to eat every few hours throughout the night (they had a constant food supply in our bellies!). Harvey Karp, author of the Happiest Baby on the Block, calls the first three months the “fourth trimester”. For the first few weeks, you’ll feel like you’re stuck next to Bill Murray in Groundhog Day; your days start to blend together because you are constantly drifting in and out of wakefulness. You get used to functioning within a 3-4 hour window of time which usually entails changing diapers, feeding, burping, a little playtime, and a short nap. Then you do it again. Babies do spend a majority of their time sleeping, but with two, it didn’t feel that way. When they’d nap, I remember trying to prioritize my basic needs. What do I want more: sleep, a shower, or a meal?

Around three months, the stretches between nighttime feedings will hopefully be long enough for you to get a solid night’s sleep. I remember waking up refreshed on the morning of the boys’ christening after an amazing 9 hour sleep thinking, “YES! There is a God!” I then promised God I’d be at church with both boys every Sunday until they were 18. We are still working on that.

Here are a few tricks that kept us sane:

  • When one baby wakes up and is ready to eat, wake the other baby up too. The nurses in the hospital taught us to wake them slowly by first undoing their swaddle. If that doesn’t work, tickle their cute little feet. Unfortunately, in order to keep them on a similar schedule, this is the only thing that works. “Never wake a sleeping baby” doesn’t apply to twins. To learn more helpful tricks, reference the books listed under the “Sleeping” of this mom’s bedtime stories page.
  • Feedings may vary throughout the day, but always try to have their last feeding (before you go to sleep) around the same time and place in your house. We always fed them around 9pm in our bedroom. We dimmed the lights, didn’t interact with them much, and tried not to talk too loudly. Turn the TV and any other outside stimulation off and definitely put your phones on vibrate. I even changed my ringer after a few incidents (I still think iPhone’s “Old Phone” ringtone is too jarring, how did I use it for so long?).
  • For nighttime feedings, keep the lights as dim as possible. When the baby/babies wake up, change their diapers, re-swaddle (in case they fall asleep mid-feeding), give them their bottle/nurse, burp them, and put them back to bed. They might stay awake for a little while, but see what you can get before picking them back up. Try to avoid interaction at night so that they eventually start to get it. I swear, I even avoided eye contact. I just wanted sleep!
  • If you are bottle feeding, have enough bottles to get you through the night without having to wash any. This was about 8-10 for us. Make all of your bottles ahead of time so they are all ready for you in the fridge. Our master bedroom is right by the kitchen, so they were easily accessible. If you’re using powdered formula, measure out all of their bottles, keep them by your nightstand, and just add water when they are ready to eat.
  • Keep them swaddled as much as possible. One of my boys figured out how to lay on his side early on which kept me up half the night because I’d be staring at him. However, once he did this, he looked much more comfortable and slept longer. When he was able to roll over, I stopped putting his arms in the swaddle and he spent every night on his belly.
  • Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child has great tips on how to watch for signs that your baby is entering the drowsy stage (sleepy), and then laying them down before they enter the fatigue stage (overtired). It may be hard to pry your little angel away from Great Grandma to lay them down for a nap, but guess who has to deal with the cranky, overtired baby? The author, Dr. Marc Weissbluth, also recommends that newborns are only up for two hours at a time before laying down for a nap. You might get some eye-rolls from older, more experienced moms in the family, but once again, your kid-your rules.

Stage 2: The twice a day, scheduled nap (6 – 18 months)

Bruce lounging at 14 months

Bruce lounging at 14 months

Around six months, the babies started getting into a nice little routine. They began eating cereal and other solid foods three times a day, and started napping once in the morning and once in the afternoon. Before this, it was about 3-4 short naps a day that varied in time. Two longer naps gave me time to get things done and sometimes even squeeze a nap in myself. Also, it made it easier to plan our daily outings. This schedule can be demanding, but because there are two a day, you could get away with skipping one and hope to make it up on the next one or benefit from an earlier bedtime. You should be flexible enough to miss a nap here and there, but have enough structure so that your baby knows the routine.

Tips:

  • Around 6-8 months, we started limiting their pacifiers and blankies for napping and bedtime. The only time we’d give in is if we really needed them quiet, or they were sick. This helped them associate those comforting things with sleeping.
  • When the babies started eating cereal, we gave it to them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We would follow the cereal immediately with a bottle. They also had a ‘snack’ bottle in between lunch and dinner. Some people and doctors recommended staggering the bottles and cereal throughout the day, but with two babies, it felt like I was feeding them all day long. Three meals plus a snack worked for them, and it made my life easier. I also think it helped out with their nap schedules.

Stage 3: The long, glorious, afternoon nap (18 months – ?)

IMG_2704

the Bahamas nap

Here we are today. Eventually, the morning nap starts getting shorter and shorter. When you’re ready, try to skip the morning nap and put them in for their afternoon nap an hour or two earlier than you normally would. This doesn’t just happen, it took a lot of trying and resulted in some really cranky babies. So if you feel like they’re not ready, let them stay with two. Even when you get down to one nap, some days they’ll still want that morning nap. Once it becomes steady, it really is a beautiful break for you. It’s the first time in their lives that I actually could sleep when they sleep.

One nap can still be a little restrictive. Forget about afternoon plans, because missing this nap (especially since it’s the only one of the day) can really screw up their temperament. If you have something important to do, rig it so it falls when you want. If you have to be somewhere at 2pm, wake them up earlier in the morning so you can get them back in for their nap around 11am. I wouldn’t miss a major event because it fell during my kid’s nap-time, but we did show up late to Christmas Dinner so they could finish a good nap since I knew we’d be out late.

Stage 4: the Wegmans nap

Stage 4: the Wegmans shopping cart nap (last week!)


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