Twin Sleep Schedule: To Synchronize or Not?
When I found out I was pregnant with twins, one of the things that scared me the most was the lack of sleep I would surely endure during the first year (or two) of their lives. It was bad enough when I had my first, but she was a singleton: for the most part, when she slept, I could too!
But with twins? Not so much… Unless you synchronize their sleep schedule.
One of the biggest pieces of advice many twin parents get before their babies are born is exactly that: get your twins on the same sleep schedule. If one baby is awake, the other one should be too; if one baby is sleeping, the other should be sleeping as well.
Though it makes perfect sense and would undeniably make life with twins a whole lot easier (not to mention… think about all the work you could get done and all the Netflix shows you could binge watch), let’s get real: synchronizing twins’ sleep schedules is a lot easier said than done.
After all, they may look alike, but your babes are very different humans — with their own little (big) personalities and their own wants, and getting them to sleep simultaneously just may not work right away (or at all)… and that’s OK.
In this article, I’m going to talk about all things twin sleep — from tips to sync twins’ sleep to whether you should have them sleep together or not. I hope it guides you through some of the hurdles or, at least, lets you know that you are not alone!
Twin Sleep Schedule: Why it’s Helpful to Sync
Can I let you in on a little secret? The real reason for trying to sync your twins’ sleep schedule right from birth is for your own sanity.
When twins are on their own individual feeding and sleeping routines, you, parents, won’t get a break. You’ll likely be changing diapers and feeding/rocking/playing with babies all day (and night) long. But remember: taking care of yourself is just as important as taking care of your babies, whether it’s to take a shower, grab a snack or just fall onto the couch for a 10-minute snooze.
When it comes to synchronizing twins’ sleep schedules, the sooner the better. It will set your twins up for success and could pave the way for synchronized naps when they’re older (the “holy grail” every twin parent strives for!). Ahhhh…. Bliss for everyone!
Tips for Syncing Twins’ Sleep
I’m not a sleep expert, but as a twin parent, I learned a few tricks along the way for syncing up the twin sleep schedule. Of course, keep in mind that what worked for my twins may not work for yours (much like baby bottles, to each his own). Okay, here we go…
What if My Twins Won’t Sleep at the Same Time — Help!
I can’t say this enough: if you’re struggling to get your twins to sleep simultaneously, do not worry. Of course, it will make most (if not every) aspects of parenting more challenging (not getting a moment to yourself is… well, hard), but I promise, everything will eventually fall into place, and your twins will sync up, allowing for more predictability and more manageable days.
Truth be told, the journey to syncing up twins’ sleep schedule isn’t a straight line — there’s a lot of zigzagging and going backward.
Let me share a little about my story…
When my twins were born in 2016, I was hell-bent on syncing up their sleep schedules, thinking that it would be the only way to make the days easier. After all, how else would we get any semblance of order and routine in our lives, especially with a toddler at home? All the twin books and parents with multiples must be giving this advice (aka “The Golden Rule”) for a reason, right?
Well, things didn’t go quite as planned.
Of course, we had successful days that gave me hope (see the picture below); but on most days, my girls were not on the same page… despite my best efforts.
Those days were honestly like playing an endless game of whack-a-mole: I’d finally get them down for a nap, only for one to wake two minutes later crying. I’d quickly rush to her before she woke her sister up, but the minute I’d lay her back down, the other twin would pop up sobbing. Gah!
I felt like a total and utter twin-parent failure.
After all, this was THE thing I was supposed to do. Parents of multiples told me so; all the experts told me so. Even the pediatrician recommended syncing their sleep schedules. How, then, could I not get this right?
As the months went on, I kept working on synchronizing their schedules, but with far more patience and flexibility. For instance, on those days their schedules didn’t line up, I stopped thinking of it as a failure, and began to view it as a special opportunity that parents of multiples don’t often get: one-on-one time with each child!
Amazingly, around 4-5 months of age, a routine started to emerge: they actually began to nap and eat around the same times. I was thrilled!
Twin Sleep: Together or Separate?
Well before they could move or roll over, I had the twins nap together in the same crib. I’d read that infant twins sleep best when they’re snuggled up close to one another, which made sense to me… after all, they shared the same small space (my womb) for nine months, so abruptly starting to sleep separately would likely feel strange and lonely.
But on those days when I was attending to both, one right after the other, praying with all my might they wouldn’t wake each other with their cries, I decided that perhaps they really should be separated.
Then one day, one of the girls got sick — just a bad cold — and her sleep really suffered. I took it as an opportunity to nap them separately and guess what? It made all the difference in their sleep and in my stress level. No longer did they disrupt each other every few minutes with sleep grunts, coughs and cries, but I stopped feeling massive anxiety about having to race to the wakeful twin before she roused her sister. Phew.
Bottom line: As long as their sleep space is safe — do what works best for you and them.
To all you twin parents out there, as hard as it might be to believe right now, know that this time won’t last forever. There will come a day when your twins will take solid naps, eat together and, yes, even sleep through the night. It’s coming — I promise!
For those of you who are past these trenches, tell us: were you able to synchronize your duo’s sleep and feeding schedules? What helped you most? Please share with us your experiences, tips and tricks on the comments below!
Thanks for including us Marissa! We’re now at the two to one nap transition and trying to practice the same grace as we did going from three to two naps. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, though I’m still unsure how long that tunnel will be (they’re 13 months and my oldest went to one nap around 15 months, but obviously some kiddos aren’t ready until 18). It’s definitely been challenging during COVID as we haven’t had external help, though on the bright side (for my sanity ha!) my husband also hasn’t been traveling for work so he can help on the really rough days. We recently added to the mix a school schedule as our daughter started Kindergarten (full day, currently in person) so the whole family is shifting sleep routines together – and only the youngest (by two minutes) is a morning person so far so it’s a struggle across the board. I recommend an afternoon coffee for the parents and an earlier bedtime for all!
Thank you so much for your updated, Renee! WOW! Such good advice to give yourself grace. Sounds like you’re doing an amazing job. Hang in there, and enjoy that afternoon coffee!