Twin Sleep: How to manage multiples and sleep

Being a new parent is a world of challenges, but being a new parent to multiples is a world of its own. You have double (or triple) the diapers, bottles, and clothing. You have two new tiny humans to look after and provide for, and the stress and exhaustion can be debilitating.

When my sister had my twin nieces and returned to work a few months after, I spent a week helping her out. By myself. And as exhausted and checked out as I was when she came home from work, I got to leave. I didn’t have an overnight continuous shift like parents do.

I’d get to my sister’s house around 5 a.m. and climb into her bed while she was getting ready, hoping that I could get a little more sleep. Without fail, though, one of the girls would wake up just as I was drifting off to sleep.

I’d feed her, change her, and then right when she was falling back to sleep and the wonderful thought of going back to sleep danced in my head, the other would wake up.

That routine never ended. I never got to nap.

This experience with my nieces is why I know that parents of multiples are true superheroes.

I wish I had known then what I know now, because then maybe I wouldn’t have been so dang exhausted when I was caring for the girls. But lucky for you, I can now share some my knowledge as you prepare for time with multiples, and hopefully you won’t be as tired.

Note: While these tips can apply to any number of multiples, I often use the term “twins” as that’s where my experience comes from. Feel free to apply these tips to your unique situation.

Should twins bed share?

When my nieces were first born, my sister would have them in one bassinet – afterall, they did share a womb. I do think there is some benefit to having twins sleep together, as they are very used to the other one.

However, this setup doesn’t work for every family, as usually, one twin emerges to be a more restless sleeper, and caregivers may decide it’s best to separate the twins into beds of their own.

If that’s you, you may decide to offer naps together in one crib and separate for overnight sleep.

By the time your babes are three months old, it’s probably a good idea to move them to their own cribs, especially if you notice that one twin disturbs the other. However, sharing a room is a great idea, and typically, twins are so used to the other’s noises and cries that they aren’t as disturbed by them as we may think.

If the twins are in their own cribs, you can place a sound machine in between the cribs to act as a buffer. Even using a standing fan right between the cribs is a great idea.

If you have other kids or the house is noisy after the twins go to sleep, you can double up  on the sound machines and put one right by the door to prevent any outside noise from seeping in.

At some point, you’ll notice who the “worse” sleeper is, and you can put their crib closest to the door so that you can easily get them out if they wake up and cry.

Feeds and Sleep for Twins

In the beginning months, it may seem like it’s just a matter of survival mode: feed the babies when they’re hungry and try to sleep when possible. At some point, you may find that you fall into a routine for feeding and sleeping, but if not, you can consider some of the following suggestions.

  • If one twin wakes up in the middle of the night to eat but the other doesn’t, it’s okay to let the sleeping twin stay sleeping. If you find that after you put one twin down the other one wakes an hour or so later, you may decide to just feed the other twin after the first one eats.
  • I know it may be easiest to just let the babies sleep when they want, but it will do you a world of good if you can match up their schedules a bit. Waking both babies up at the same time in the morning can be a huge help. And throughout the day, what you do for one, you do for all. One twin is sleepy and gets a nap? So does the other one. One twin wakes up after an hour, so does the other one. Now, if one of your twins just won’t sleep at all, I’m not saying you must keep the other one awake. 
  • You can stagger wakes by 15 minutes if it will help with feeds. For example, twin A wakes up and eats, and then we wake up twin B so that we can manage both babies.

How do twins differ in sleep habits?

When it comes to your multiples, you’re going to notice how unique each baby is – even from a young age, you’ll be able to tell differences in temperament, behavior, likes and dislikes. And this only grows as they age.

When it comes to sleep, your children will have their own unique struggles and accomplishments. One twin may sleep through the night easily, while the other is up all hours. One may easily fall asleep on their own, while the other needs more support.

Fraternal twins are as different from each other as singleton children: they can have largely varying sleeping and eating patterns, and you may find it more challenging to keep up with their daily schedule unless you help them adjust to a schedule that works for both children.

Identical twins, however, are more internally synched with one another and it’s generally easier to work out their schedules because they have nearly identical rhythms.

Knowing this can be so helpful as your children grow, because although we want to do the same thing for each of them, it’s sometimes not beneficial or possible to do so. Keeping this in mind, it’s important that you do what’s best for each child in each situation.

Life as a parent is hard, yet joyous, and I believe that parents of multiples have that joy multiplied. If you’re struggling with your child’s sleep, I encourage you to check out the free resources I have that can help transform your little one’s sleep.

Because everyone knows…when babies sleep well, mama sleeps well, too.

Sweet dreams, yall.

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I’m Katie

certified pediatric sleep consultant

Fueled by equal parts caffeine and passion, I spend my days helping exhausted mamas get their babies the sleep they need. 

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