I had a conversation with a mom this week with a pretty important question in the world of raising twins and multiples and I wanted to share a bit about what we talked about. This was her question:
“I have twin girls who share a room but sleep in their own cribs. They are six months old and they seem to take turns on who will wake up two to four times on a given night. I just do not know what to do. I feel like I cannot let them cry because one is going to wake up the other one which will make everything so much harder.”
This is a reality for many people who have multiples, or even siblings that share a room. As it is, I have also gotten this question for siblings that are in nearby separate rooms. The predominant concern is that if you let one baby cry, then the other one is going to wake up and then you’re left with a situation where everyone is awake. It can be a painful solution to recognize that is that while it may might happen to where everyone is awake in the middle of the night, it also might be what needs to happen in order to get both babies sleeping right through the night.
First Things First
But first you want to back up and have a look at how the kids go to sleep at bedtime. You want to make sure that you have a bedtime routine in place and that however your routine looks, it should be done in the same order every night and sleeping should not have started anywhere in the routine.
While it is tempting, you never want to nurse or rock the babies to sleep; the routine at bedtime should just be steps that lead up to going to bed. Once they are in their cribs, then their process for falling asleep takes place. If you have them both in the same room, you could do a bedtime strategy modeled off the approach of staying in the room for twins where you are present and you are being supportive; including you saying some key phrases and doing a little bit of comforting with touch to allow them to figure out their way to get themselves to sleep on their own. Once they have mastered those skills at bedtime, those skills will start transferring to the rest of the night, making those night wakings occur less and less often, giving everyone a good night's rest.
It Can Be Done!
By no means is there a super quick and easy solution for them to figure out what these sleep skills are and which way suits their process the best. However, for them to learn what works best for them, you have to give them opportunities to try. Do your best to remain supportive without interfering with the learning of sleep strategies. You do not want to find yourself taking over every time one starts crying for fear that their noises is going to wake up the other because then you are just sort of reinforcing this idea that the baby needs you to do something in order for them to go back to sleep. It is challenging with two children but the good news is that by six months of age, babies do have the capability to sleep through the night when all of their needs have been met and they have their independent sleep skills mastered.
If You Need Help, Don't Be Afraid to Ask For It
Knowing that babies can be successful while sharing a room with each other and learn to adapt to each other’s noises, it’s a great opportunity to capitalize on what we know is possible and put the babies on track to being independent, great sleepers. It is not always easy to move forward if you aren’t confident in your ideas to make it happen and sometimes you may need the extra support and guidance that comes along with a plan followed by support. If you find yourself feeling the same way the mom in this situation felt, feel free to sign up for a call to learn more about how I can help and how having someone in your corner can make the next step feel much easier.
Today I want to talk a little bit about playing in the crib. If you have been around the block when it comes to sleep training your baby, this might sound like something you’ve experienced. If you’re just starting out, or are looking for ideas on where to begin, this might sound like the craziest thing ever. If you’ve got a child who’s not sleeping well, the idea that they might be playing in their crib is probably a bit of a foreign concept, but it happens. If you’ve got a child who can sleep well, can sleep independently, adore their sleep space and loves to go in when it’s sleep time, you will find that there will be periods in your child’s life where they’re having a party in that crib all by themselves.
I can remember going through it with all of my littles, specifically, around nap time. I’d put them down for their nap, they’d have a party in there, for an hour or more, before they finally would fall asleep. When my families go through something like this with their baby, it’s not uncommon for these questions to come up: “What should I do? They’re in there playing and they’re supposed to be asleep. How should I respond? Should I go in to stop them? Shouldn’t I?”
Don't Stress Too Much!
My advice is to definitely not spend much time stressing about it or to devote a lot of energy to intervening. It’s often tied to a developmental phase that your child’s going through. This behavior can be especially common around the time your child turns eighteen months to two years of age. It has a lot to do with the language acquisition that they go through at that age; they’re learning so much at such a rapid pace, they need time to process these changes.
They often do it by babbling, singing, or talking, and that’s part of the process of just organizing all this new information. This is extremely normal in child development. If your child’s in there most, if not all of naptime, shouting, singing, and having a blast, yes, this does mean that they didn’t sleep. A good perspective to have is to acknowledge that it was still a break for your child. This also means that you got a break. While it would have been ideal if they fell asleep or enjoyed the long naps, it’s still a rest period enjoyed, because any gross motor movement was confined to the crib, and you were not on duty to play and interact with your child. Instead, you can just call it nap time. Go in, get your child out, and go about your day.
What You CAN Do
If your child didn’t nap that day, it is a smart move to change bedtime to a time that is a bit earlier than normal to try and compensate for loss day sleep, but try not to stress too much about this becoming a new habit. This stage in the development usually fades out within a week or two, and then they go back to napping well and settling down for bedtime more quickly. It could just be, as part of the developmental milestone, that your child needs some time to play and talk with minimal stimulation and distraction. Give it a week or two and see if it goes away on its own. If it doesn’t, then you may need to look at adjusting your child’s daytime schedule.
I find that most toddlers will happily take a nap during the day, but then at bedtime wanted to a have party until 9:00 PM at night. If you’re experiencing this and you’re headed into the third or fourth week of listening to your child partake in social hour during their nap time, it’s time to look at the nap and determine if it needs to go. Otherwise, I want you to adopt the mindset of “wait and see”. Similar to the adage that you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink; you can provide the time and opportunity for time of rest, you cannot force someone, especially a strong-minded toddler, to sleep.
Trust Your Child's Sleep Skills
You could go in there and offer sleep reminders and redirection, but if they’re not going to sleep, they simply won’t. Keep reminding yourself that you’re giving them ample opportunity to take a great nap, get to bed on time, and sleep a perfect night. With your hard work, you’ve given them all the skills they need to be an excellent sleeper, and the rest is up to them. If they want to play for an hour before they finally doze off, that is fine. If they want to play through the whole nap, that’s okay too. This stage is an important part of their development, and it won’t last forever.
If you’re suspecting that your child’s play time in their crib is more closely tied to a schedule that’s not quite meeting their needs, please don’t hesitate to reach out for a quick call to see if there are some simple adjustments to make or if it’s an indication that what you’re experiencing is a bit more involved than a typical developmental milestone. Otherwise, enjoy the breaks and don't forget to document some of the funny ways your child exercises their new voice!
I am a Pediatric Sleep Consultant who works with families to help them resolve their littles' sleep issues. As a mom of two littles herself, Katie has walked in the shoes of her clients and is passionate about helping them re-discover peaceful sleeps in their own homes.