All three of my kids are great sleepers. As in 12 hours by 14 weeks great. I’ve had a lot of people ask me how it happened, and I have a very specific method that I followed with all of them. Today I will tell you how I got my twins to sleep through the night by 14 weeks. Every baby and mommy are different. If you disagree with something that I did, that’s fine! I won’t be offended. As my mom says, different strokes for different folks.
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My twins were 8 weeks early. Their adjusted age when they started sleeping through the night was only 6 weeks. Some say that it is luck, and I will just smile and nod my head because we put a lot of work to get these little ones to snooze the way they do. We woke them at times during the day when they were sleeping, and coaxed them to drink their milk, even when they didn’t want to; we made sure we were home for every single nap (as preemies, this was every three hours!), no matter what. I love and swear by the books On Becoming Baby Wise, and Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child.
Eat, Play, Sleep
When my babies wake up, I feed them immediately. After they eat, it is playtime. Playtime for newborns can consist of a diaper change and a few songs. Newborns need sooo much sleep. Eat, play, sleep is important for two reasons. If you feed them right when they wake up, then you won’t end up putting them to sleep by eating. Babies can become dependent on nursing or taking a bottle to fall asleep. Some moms love this, but I prefer to have my babies fall asleep on their own. Otherwise, they will be two years old and still need to be rocked to sleep. That’s not exactly an easy task with twins! Also, if they fall asleep while nursing, they will want to nurse back to sleep when they wake up in the middle of the night… or 20 minutes later.
While my babies are eating, if they start to fall asleep, I gently wake them up. I stroke their cheek (this triggers the swallow reflex), blow gently in their faces, undress them, etc. With my first, I would nurse him on one side, change his diaper to wake him up, and then finish nursing him on the other side. With bottle fed babies you can also rotate the bottle in the mouth or wiggle it around.
Feedings No Longer Than 3 Hours Apart
It is very important to not move to a 4-hour schedule until your baby is sleeping through the night. This goes for both breastfed and bottle fed babies. When you stretch to a 4-hour schedule you essentially drop a feeding. It is very likely that your baby will try to make up that feeding in the middle of the night.
I know it’s hard. My husband BEGGED me to switch to a 4-hour schedule because feeding twins is so much work. Our girls struggled with reflux for several months. They would only eat if they were swaddled, and we walked around the room holding them. During the week I had to feed them one at a time because I was on my own. It would take at least an hour and a half to feed them because of the constant screaming and arching of their backs. By the end of the day, my biceps would be on fire! Coincidentally, once we found a medicine that worked, they upped their milk intake, and almost immediately started sleeping through the night. Had we switched to a 4-hour schedule, it probably would have taken them much longer to eliminate that middle of the night bottle.
My newborn schedule looked something like this:
- 7:00 AM: eat, play
- 8:00: sleep
- 10:00 eat play
- 11:00: sleep
- 1:00: eat, play
- 2:00: sleep
- 4:00: eat, play
- 5:00: catnap- about 45 mins-1 hour
- 6:00: play
- 7:00 eat and bedtime (should start the bedtime feeding around 6:45 for a prompt 7 pm bedtime)
- 10:00 or 11:00 PM: Optional dream feed. A dream feed is when you feed your baby without truly waking them up, and then put them right back to bed. This sometimes makes them sleep longer, but I have heard that it can have the opposite result. You should experiment and see what works best for your baby. I gave my girls a dream feed, and it did help them to sleep for longer stretches. I eliminated it once they were sleeping through the night and waking up in the morning with no desire to drink their bottles.
Babies will likely get up several times in the middle of the night. If you stick with this schedule, they should quickly go down to one or two feedings in the middle of the night because they are getting plenty of calories during the day.
This will feel weird, I know. With my first, I thought that the less he slept during the day, and the later he went to bed, the longer he would sleep in the morning. PSA: this is not true! If babies are not well rested, they will resist sleep even more. Make sure your babies are getting adequate naps during the day and going to bed early enough at night.
I put them to bed at the same time at night, and wake them up at the same time every morning. This one was essential for us but was really hard. We decided on a desired wake time, and stuck to it: no matter what! We chose 7:00 am at first because Theo was getting up at 8:30. The babies took a 2-hour nap every three hours at this point. Waking them up at 7:00 meant that they took a nap at 8:00, and I had 30 minutes to pump and get Theo’s breakfast ready before I got him up. What if the babies are up at 1 am, 3 am, and 5 am and are sound asleep at 7:00 am? I would wake them up and feed them anyways! I would much rather be sleeping myself, but I believe that consistency is important.
Their naps should also be at the same time (within 30 minutes) every day. Imagine if you took a nap every single day at 2:00 PM. Your body would become accustomed to it and every day at 2:00 PM you would begin to get drowsy in anticipation of your nap. This is exactly what should happen with the babies!
Stretch Their Night Time Feedings
How the heck do you do this?! When the babies would wake up in the middle of the night, we gave them a paci before we fed them. If they settled, even for 5 minutes, they were learning to sleep for longer stretches. If they spit it back out and screamed, then we, of course, would give them their bottles! DO NOT do this with a brand new baby until you get the OK from your pediatrician to let them wake on their own in the middle of the night.
Our middle of the night feeding ended up getting later and later until it was 5:00 AM. I would still feed them and put them back to sleep, but then they wouldn’t be hungry at 7:00 for their morning bottle. In my opinion, it is VERY important to have a consistent wake time. Think about how your body would feel if one day you got up for the day at 5, but the next day you could sleep until 7:00. It’s confusing! Plus, with 3 under 3 (or even just twins), it’s just easier to have everything at the same time every day. Trust me. We got off schedule a few times; the toddler wanted breakfast at the same time I had to prepare bottles, and everyone napped at different times. Nooooo!
Once my twins woke up at 7:00 AM not wanting their morning bottles, I knew it was time to eliminate that 5/6 am feeding. You can do this two ways. 1. You can decrease the amount you feed them each morning until they no longer wake. 2. Soothe/settle them until their morning feeding. I followed the second method. I didn’t have fun doing it, but it worked in 2 days. They woke up and fussed for a few minutes. Once I gave them their paci they went back to sleep for 10-15 minutes. We repeated that process until 7:00 AM. It took two days of this and the end result was worth it! They went to bed at 7:00 PM, received a dream feed at 10:00 PM, and slept through the night until 7:00 AM.
But What About Crying?
Crying. Ugh. When I first wrote this post I tiptoed around the whole ‘crying it out’ part, because I didn’t want to scare anyone away. After much thought, I decided that it’s something that needs to be addressed. So here we go. I personally believe that there is nothing wrong with babies crying a little bit. I even think that letting them ‘cry it out’ can be done appropriately, but that is for another post. Even if I didn’t think it was OK to let babies cry a little bit, I would have no choice but to let them cry sometimes. I had twins and a 2-year-old for an entire year, so there was no getting around sometimes one of them would cry and I couldn’t do anything about it because I was busy with the other baby.
When my girls were babies, I would let them cry for a few minutes after I put them to bed. They had had a full feeding, had dry diapers, and I knew that they were ready for sleep. I actually would set the timer for 3 minutes, which is something I highly recommend doing (you can increase or decrease the time to whatever you are comfortable with. I did this with my son when he was older, and I started at 5 minutes). The majority of the time, they would fuss for 1-2 minutes and then fall asleep on their own. If they were still crying after 3 minutes, I would go and resettle them and repeat the process. If their crying was slowing down, I would wait a few more minutes to see what they would do.
I followed this method and never had to let my twins full on cry it because they learned how to fall asleep on their own from the start.
Why Not Let Babies Sleep When They Want To?
I personally believe that the parent knows best. Babies don’t know what they need and require guidance from parents. I get comments all the time about how happy my kids are. I think that they are happy because they are well rested and get the sleep that they need and deserve.
Tools and Resources
- You can read this post on Optimal WakeTime for your baby.
- Swaddles: We always use swaddles until the babies can roll over. Some babies will fight the swaddle, but then relax and sleep better once they are in it. Babies have a Moro reflex up until 3 or 4 months. This reflex makes the baby feel like they are falling and startle themselves awake. Swaddling helps with the Moro reflex! There are some babies that sleep better without a swaddle, so it’s worth experimenting with. The Halo sleep sacks are some of my favorites. I used them with my first, as well as the twins. They make a cotton one as well as a really nice fleece one. My absolute favorite swaddle that I discovered with my twins is the Woombie. It is seriously so easy to use, it’s like zipping them up into a little sleeping bag. My girls could still wiggle their hands up to their chin, but it definitely made them feel safe and secure, and they didn’t startle awake.
- Sound machine: I won’t recommend a sound machine to you because ours aren’t the best. Make sure you are consistent with the sound, and the volume! Babies will eventually rely on these cues to know that it is time to go to sleep. When Theo was a baby I was adamant that I wasn’t going to use a sound machine with him. He shouldn’t have something he relied on to fall asleep, or so I thought. I ended up caving, and when I took it away it was not a problem at all. We put a sound machine in his room again when the girls came home so that their crying wouldn’t wake him up.
- Rock n plays: While I definitely suggest getting babies used to their cribs as early as possible, sometimes they just like to feel snuggled and secure. My babies all slept in a mix of their crib and rock n plays when they came home from the hospital. Rock n Plays are slightly inclined and are especially helpful if babies have reflux. We just have basic ones such as the Fisher-Price Newborn Rock ‘n Play Sleeper. They make all kinds of fancy ones that vibrate and rock on their own.
These tips worked for my kids. If you have any other tips that worked for your family, I’d love to hear them!
Note* I am not a medical professional or an expert. As with everything parenting, talk to your pediatrician and do your research before you implement a sleep plan.