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Teaching two babies to sleep through the night may sound more complicated. But generally speaking, the same rules apply.
Set the same bedtime for both
The idea is simple: Put your babies to bed at the same time, and they're more likely to develop a synchronized sleep pattern. If you don't, one or both of them will be awake at any given time – and you will become very tired, very quickly.
Another way to sync up your babies: As soon as one cries to be fed, wake up the other one and feed him, too.
Try two beds for two babies
There's no evidence that sharing a crib benefits twins, though many do it – and some parents say their babies seem to sleep better. But the American Academy of Pediatrics advises against crib-sharing, saying there is added risk of overheating, accidental suffocation, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Twins born prematurely, or with low birth weights, have a higher risk of SIDS, and having separate cribs can lower their risk. Your twins may find it comforting (and can sleep safely) if you place the cribs close enough for them to see one another.
Establish a bedtime routine for two
Develop a soothing bedtime routine – maybe a warm bath, bedtime story, and a few minutes of cuddling or singing – and make sure it's simple enough to include both babies. Stick to the same activities and your babies will soon learn these signal it's time to settle down.
Settle your calm baby first
If one baby is typically fussy and the other usually calm, you may be tempted to spend more time with the loudest one. Alexander Golbin, M.D., director of the Sleep and Behavior Medicine Institute, strongly advises against this. The problem, he explains, is that your quiet baby will miss out on the same level of attention.
So if one starts fussing, check on the other one first to make sure she's happy and settled. This makes sure that no one is overlooked, and both children feel secure and loved.
Also, don't worry too much about one baby waking up the other: Many twins and multiples don't seem bothered by their sibling's crying, even when they're in the same room.
Put your babies to bed when they're still awake
Help your babies fall asleep on their own by letting them drift off in bed, rather than in your arms. This can mean putting each to bed after a joint bedtime activity – maybe a quick cuddle after reading a book together or singing a song. Resist the urge to rock or nurse each to sleep because babies who are put to bed while still awake learn to settle down on their own.
Swaddle your babies
The age-old custom of swaddling, or tightly wrapping each baby in a thin blanket, may help them feel safe, secure, and ready for sleep. Be sure to stop swaddling at about 2 months, before your babies can roll over. (You can then switch to a wearable blanket to keep them warm at night.)
Get your baby ready for the perfect sleep with these three simple swaddling styles.
Discourage nighttime waking
Cuddle and talk to your babies all you want during the day. But at night, keep interactions to a minimum so they're more likely to fall back to sleep. When they wake, don't make eye contact, keep their room dimly lit, and put them right back to bed after feeding them.
If your babies are at least 12 months old, you can encourage self-soothing by giving each a special soft toy or blanket to sleep with. These so-called transitional objects are comforting and can help soothe them back to sleep.
Accept that multiples sleep through the night when they're ready
Developing a regular sleep pattern often depends on your babies' weight, not their age. This means identical twins tend to sleep through at almost identical ages. Fraternal twins' sleep patterns may be more independent, especially if they're different in size or temperament.
Tips from our site parents
Often the best advice comes from people who have been in your shoes. Here are some tips from our site parents:
- I have learned that my twins are independent souls, and they sleep better in separate rooms. One sleeps through the night, and the other gets up in the middle of the night to eat. One waking up is better than two waking up.
- Blackout curtains and white noise are a must for twins! No cute little night-lights, etc.
- I separated my twins for sleep training at 5 1/2 months, then put them back together in the same room once they were sleeping well on their own and dropped their last middle-of-the-night feed around 7 or 8 months.
- My twins didn't sleep well in the same crib, so they went to their own cribs but shared a room (and still do at 3 1/2 years). To help them sleep, I used a white noise machine.
- The sooner you get your twins sleeping in the arrangement that you want long-term, the better. Our twins have shared a room since birth. Sure, there have been rough nights, but they needed to get used to one another.
- Sleeping has never come easy for my twins. We co-slept for a while because it was the only way anyone got any sleep! Then here's what worked for us: We separated our twins the first half of the night – 7 to 10 p.m. Then after a dream feeding, we put them in the same room. It's been working for us. The next step is to put them in their room together starting at their 7 p.m. bedtime.
- My twins had a major sleep regression around 6 months, which culminated in their scooting and teething. They had another regression around 10 months when they started cruising. When this happens, I recommend you give it time. Things should normalize again. Think of naps as practice – disrupting each other is inevitable, but they'll learn to sleep through the other's wakings. Also remember that every new day is a fresh start.
- My twins are 8 months old, and they have to share a room. I have a great sleeper and a terrible sleeper. Life totally changed when I hooked an iPod up to speakers and played lullaby music softly while they sleep. They are totally sleeping through the night since the first night I did it! I think it just reassures them if they happen to wake up in the night, which they were doing up to this point at least three times a night.
- I did not separate my boys into different rooms. They got used to each other's cries, and now it's a piece of cake! I'll rock one twin until he's really drowsy, then I lay him down and let him fuss for a little and get situated. Then I start with the second one. This means their naps and bedtimes start 15 to 20 minutes apart. With twins, you have to learn to be flexible and let go of expectations. Patience is very important. I just do everything one baby at a time. That's all you can really do.