Monday, August 2, 2010


I've been asked a number of times, how do I get all of my kids to sleep so well? The answer is not so simple, but I do have a method to my madness and would like to share some of my secrets and strategies. Note: I am not an expert, but I am Mom to four young children (two sets of twins), and ALL of them sleep well. My tips are separated by age (babies & toddlers) and I recommend you start early and stick with it, as babies do best when they have a good sleep routine.

Ryan & Morgan Swaddled Up

Here are some general tips and tricks for getting babies to sleep. My younger set of twins are 4 months old, and I follow these guidelines.  One thing to note, I have my babies nap downstairs in a pack n play for some naps and upstairs for others. I also co-sleep my babies (they sleep with each other, not us). I will most likely move them to their own crib when they're 6-months old (did that with the older twins) and start to bother each other during sleep.

Our typical sleep schedules & tips:
  • Months 0-3: Bedtime routine is being established, keep a journal to make note of sleeping patterns (both day and night) for baby, feed on demand. We usually would do a feeding at 7:30pm, put them down to sleep, wake and feed at 10:30pm, put them down to sleep, babies would wake on their own every 3-5 hours (feed and put back to sleep) - wake up for morning at 7am.  Let them nap as needed throughout the day, with at least 3 good naps.
  • Months 4+: Bedtime routine is established and followed. Our nights are similar to this: 7:30pm last feeding for night; put to sleep for night around 8:00pm; babies wake for feeding between 5:00am-7:00am. If they wake up before 6:00am, they get put back to sleep (sometimes they lay in their crib awake, but I do not get them "up" for the day until 7:00 am). Establish nap schedule, we have 1 morning nap, 1 afternoon nap and 1 early evening nap. My older twins had 2 morning naps and 2 afternoon naps - use the first few months to see what your baby's natural sleep pattern is and try to establish your naps around this.
  • NoteMy younger set of twins will not "nap" unless they are actually put down to sleep, so they get swaddled and put down. My older set of twins were perpetual nappers, if it hit naptime and they weren't in their crib/pack n' play, they fell asleep where ever they were. Feel your baby out and figure out what works best for them.
  • Sleep in crib/pack n play only: have your baby sleep in their own room and invest in a good video monitor. You can see and hear them, and they can get used to sleeping alone. You'll get a good night's sleep and so will they.
  • Swaddle, swaddle, swaddle: start early and make it tight! All four of my babies were in the NICU, and one thing I noticed is that all of the babies are swaddled up nice and tight (unless they are unable to do so due to medical reasons). My babies cry, scream, fight the swaddle, but after about 1 minute they are so relaxed! If one of the babies has too much "excitement" or is "overwhelmed" by our world, I just swaddle him/her up (I call it a Tate Taco)! Swaddle your baby to sleep for naps and bedtime - it will help them sleep longer. (Note: stop full swaddling once they can roll over, you can still do a body swaddle with arms free after that or move to a sleep blanket).
  • Go to sleep awake: this sounds weird, but it isn't - put your baby down awake, but drowsy. They will learn to fall asleep in their crib on their own and you will not be stuck rocking to sleep for years to come.
  • Don't feed to sleep: don't have your baby depend on a bottle to put him/her to sleep. Feed them while they are awake and put down drowsy, you will not be stuck having your baby only sleep when they have a bottle.
  • Cry it out: let them cry a little; if they're tired they will fall asleep. I'll help them out by holding their pacifier, gently rubbing their heads/backs and shushing them. Let them cry a little when they wake up (don't rush to get them), let them wake up on their own (think how you feel when you wake up, you need a little time to adjust and crying is the way babies do it). Babies can't express how they feel by talking, only by crying and sometimes they just need a good cry. As a mom to 4 kids under 2 we have lots of crying and I most likely let my kids cry more than the typical parent. Guess what? My kids are fine!
  • Shush, shush, shush: babies love this sound, it calms them (think of what it would sound like in your womb) - I usually have a fan or the a/c on to have this noise on and also circulate air.
  • If your baby is 12 lbs. & over - they can sleep 5+ hours: If they wake up, don't automatically give them the boob or a bottle...try to shush them back to sleep and let them self-comfort with a pacifier, finger or just cry a few minutes. All four of our babies were sleeping 5+ hours by 3-months. It took the older set a little while to really sleep longer than 5 hours, but they were quite a bit smaller than our younger set - size does matter! By 4-months, my younger set were sleeping 8:00pm - 5:00am (or longer).

Tips Specifically for Multiples
  • Do everything at the same time for your babies. It takes some time to get used to this type of multitasking, but it will give you a few extra hours of sleep and is well worth it! I always feed the babies together (whether I have help or not), change their diapers one after the other and always put them down to sleep together. 
  • If you're still having to do a night time feeding, make your husband/partner get up and help you. We have a very good routine - the Big T8 changes their diapers, warms the bottles and brings them to me. If you're breastfeeding, your husband can do this. If you're bottle feeding, he can do this and feed one of them. You are taking care of your babies all day long, you deserve (and need) a little break at night - he'll get through it!

Robin & Emma

Here are some tips to help your toddlers be good nappers and have a good night's sleep. My older set of twins are 21 months old, and I followed the above to get them to here. I really stick to our sleep routines and they girls still take 2 naps/day and sleep 11+ hours at night.  Stick with it and it will work!

Our typical sleep schedules & tips: 
  • Bedtime Routine: We sing a song when it's time to sleep (nap or night) - the girls know this song and automatically go to the gate to go upstairs. I started this when they were babies and always do it, and now it's automatic (a routine). We also do baths every other night after dinner, but before bed. The girls will watch some TV (Sprout's the "Goodnight Show") to relax and will also read some books downstairs. They have a little "pillow pet" and blanky and a bunch of books in their crib...anything they want/need to be comfortable and keep them "entertained" (if need be). My husband typically puts them to bed at night.
  • Bedtime: The Big Tots have the same bedtime every night, 7:00 pm. You're the parent, you set the rules...stick with a time that works for you. If the Big T8 is not home by 7:00 pm, he misses out on bedtime for them. If the girls are not tired, they read in their cribs, cry it out or just relax. If they cry, I let them's bedtime.
  • Naps: The Big Tots take two naps everyday - whether they're tired or not. If we are out and need to skip one, we do, but make it up with a longer nap or earlier bedtime. Morning nap is between 9:30 am & 10:00 am and they stay in their cribs for at least 1-hour (if they sleep longer, that's great). Afternoon nap is between 1:30 pm & 2:00 pm, and again they stay in their cribs for at least 1-hour. Sometimes one of them will refuse to nap and will just stay in the crib awake (they realize now that they're not coming out & I'm not coming up). Sometimes they cry and I let it go (it's hard, but you can do it).
  • Morning:  I do not get them up & out of their cribs until at least 7:00 am. They typically wake up around then, but at times they are up earlier (or later if I'm lucky). They have books to read and can play in their cribs. Even when we have those real early mornings, I just bring them some milk and tell them to lay down and go back to sleep.
  •'s night-night time: I use this line whenever they wake up early or want to come down before their naps are ready. They know what it means and we're consistent about using it. Find a phrase that works for your toddler and use it all the time. My girls now say "night-night time" whenever they're tired and shush each other.
 Tips Specifically for Multiples
  • Together or Apart: once my girls hit 18-months they became really great friends and hate to be apart (they started calling each other "sissy", giving lots of hugs and showing concern for each other). This not liking to be apart rears it's head during bed/nap time. At first I fought it, making them stay in they're own cribs, but then I gave in...watching them try to climb into the other's crib and refusing to sleep got to me. My girls now sleep together about 75% of the time. I always ask if they want to sleep together (typically it's Robin in Emma's crib) and if they both say "yes", then they get to sleep together. This has had an impact on their sleeping, but they're getting through it...Robin would keep Emma awake and then Emma refused to sleep in the same room (she slept in a pack & play in the Babies' room) they allow each other sleep and really enjoy each other's company. Do what you feel comfortable doing - we're going to transition them to beds around 2-years old and will get bunk beds, with them sleeping together on the bottom bunk.
  • When one sleeps & the other doesn't: for some reason this happens a lot in our house. We make them stay in the room and scream and usually the other one will sleep away. Twins have a weird thing that they can't wake each other up, but if I tiptoe into the room, I wake them up. Also, my younger twins will wake up the older ones and not each other (and vice versa)...weird.

  •  Harvey Karp's "The Happiest Baby on the Block" - - this was recommended to me when I was pregnant with my first set of twins and is just great! The "5 S's" will just reiterate what you already know (swaddling, side/stomach position, shushing, swinging & sucking). I 100% stand by Dr. Karp's methods, as they have helped me have 4 Happy Babies!
  • Woombie - this sleep swaddle is super tight and zips right up. Another mother of twins recommended it to me with my first set and I've used them for all 4 babies.
  • Itzbeen baby timer - let's you keep track of feedings, naps, diaper changes, etc. - highly recommended for those of you with multiples.
End Note: I admit that there are nights that I give in and just scoop one of the older girls up and bring them into bed with us (usually when someone's sick or of the girls' has a nightmare)...if we can't get them back to sleep after a "reasonable" amount of time they get a few hours with me (then I move them back after they're asleep). For the babies, I have a rocker and a bed in their room and spent many hours there while "sleep training" them - it's not easy, but it pays off (and quicker than you'd think)!

1 comment:

  1. My hat is off to you Super Mamma-two sets of twins, and sleep training to boot! Good luck in your pursuit of peaceful nights-I am sure you will be successful in providing quiet for all at night.

    Carla Rose-Mom to Ben and Daniel-7 year old twins