Thu 2 Dec 2010
Newborn twins require a 24 hour sleep / feed schedule
Whether you are having twins (triplets, or higher order multiples) soon, or are already in the first few weeks with your twin infants (your “twinfants”), there is one overarching reality that you cannot escape — newborn twins require round the clock care to support their sleep / feed schedule. You will feel like a feeding, burping, diaper changing machine running on minimal sleep. But, arming yourself with some basic information about newborn twins will certainly help you to cope with the reality of the first few months in your twins lives.
Newborns sleep from 14 to 18 hours per day in the first week, and from 12 – 18 hours per day by one month. Granted, this sleep is broken into 2 – 3 hour chunks, but they do sleep a lot. Planning your time wisely will allow you to maximize your sleep as well.
Caregivers need sleep, too
In these early weeks, it is tempting to want to be there for every waking. But, in the long run, doing so may wear you out — literally. Think about your options — are there ways that each caregiver can obtain an uninterrupted 4 hour sleep stretch? If you are breastfeeding your twin infants, you might consider skipping 1 feed (and having another caregiver give a bottle of pumped breastmilk or formula). Or, can another caregiver do all the “extras” that need to be done with a feeding and bring the babies to mom for a ”sleep feed”?
Get creative — that single 4 hour sleep stretch can do wonders for your mental health in these early days.
Reality #2: Newborn twins are hungry often
Newborns tummies are tiny. On top of that, formula digests quickly — and breastmilk digests even faster than formula — leaving an empty tummy that needs to be filled. Newborns will wake when they need to be fed — usually every 2 – 4 hours.
Gently begin moving your twins toward a schedule
While gently working your newborn twins towards a schedule can begin as soon as you bring them home from the hospital, attempting to force longer stretches between feedings should not be attempted for a while. Newborn twin infants should be fed whenever they show signs of hunger. Still, there are many things you can do to begin the process of moving towards a schedule. For example, if one baby wakes to feed, you can wake the other baby and feed both babies at the same time.
Check back with us — we’ll feature an article soon about steps you can start to gently begin moving your babies toward a schedule.
Reality #3: You cannot “spoil” a newborn.
Newborn twin infants do not have the mental capacity to cry for attention or just because they want to be held. At this early stage of life, they cry because they have a need. If your twin infants are crying, respond to them quickly — this builds confidence that they are loved and you will take care of their needs. Check for the big 3 needs of this stage… Hunger, Burp, Wet.
Lay your twin infants down drowsy but awake
Even though you can’t “spoil” them, that doesn’t mean that you can get away with always holding and rocking your babies to sleep. While it is okay to do this sometimes, you won’t want to do it every time — as your babies will soon require holding and rocking in order to fall asleep. Your twinfants are learning how to fall asleep. Most of the time, you will want to lay your babies down in their cribs while they are drowsy but not fully asleep yet. If they begin to fuss, you can pick them up and repeat the steps to get them drowsy before laying them down awake in their cribs.
While in the short run, it may seem easier to rock them to sleep and lay them down after they are fully asleep — in the not too distant future you will be so glad for making the extra effort to lay them down awake in the early days. We promise! This can be one of the hardest things to do when you are exhausted and you just want to get the babies down as quickly as possible, so that you can return to your bed. But don’t worry, if you choose to hold, rock, and cuddle your babies to sleep, later gentle sleep training techniques can help to solve any issues that might result.
Reality #4: Growth Spurts will knock your schedule off track.
Just when you think things are settling down to a routine and the start of some kind of schedule, everything will go off-kilter. Your babies will experience several growth spurts that will require cluster feeding. Your best bet is to expect this to happen and to respond with more frequent feedings when they need it. Don’t get frustrated or feel that you are doing something wrong, or that there is something wrong with your babies — this is normal.
Trust your instincts
If, however, you feel that your babies are hungry all the time and show some other signs of a problem (such as not gaining weight) don’t hesitate to contact your physician.
Reality #5: “Sleeping Like a Baby” means a lot of interruptions, noises and needs.
Whoever made up that expression “sleeping like a baby” must not have had one! It’s true that sometimes when a baby sleeps it is a very sound sleep and loud noises will not disturb them. However, most of the time, your babies will be grunting and groaning, and even crying out — but they often continue sleeping despite these noises. The trick is to figure out when they need to be picked up and fed and when to let them resettle themselves. If you respond to every sound, you won’t get any sleep yourselves!
Baby Monitors in good measure
While baby monitors are wonderful inventions — sometimes it makes sense to go without a monitor, or to keep the volume on your monitor low. Unless your babies are on the other side of the house, you will hear them when they cry. Keep the monitor’s volume down so that normal sounds of sleep cannot be heard, while cries can.
Reality #6: Sleeping Through The Night (STTN) is really only a 5 hour sleep stretch.
As soon as you’ve had your babies, people will start asking you, “Are they sleeping through the night yet?” and commenting, “Things will be better as soon as they start sleeping through the night.” What they don’t know — or don’t remember — is that babies don’t really sleep all the way through the night without waking up until many months down the road.
Your Twins First Milestone
But, somewhere after 6 weeks of age (adjusted), babies will be begin to organize their sleep. This results in a longer stretch of uninterrupted sleep of 4 — 6 hours, usually happening in the late evening hours. For most babies, this will happen between 3 – 6 months of age. This is it. This is what your pediatrician means when they ask about “sleeping through the night”.
The babies will usually still require 1 – 2 feedings during the night at this stage. And, since there are 2 (or more) babies involved, this still makes for quite a few feedings in the night. Still, once this longer sleep stretch becomes a pattern, you can claim your STTN award. Cherish it — you’ve reached your first major milestone!
copyright 2010 – TwinParenthood / Kathryn Whiteley