Mr. Sandman, bring me a drink...I mean, dream!
Sleep is something new mothers hoard, crave, and need! Sleep is needed for mental clarity, post-partum recovery, and simply because the human body needs it.
So how does a mom of multiples get the sleep that they need? Here are a few tricks that worked for me.
Simply put, the first two months are survival, particularly if your babies are pre-term. During the first month (basically until they got to 40 weeks gestational age), we were up every two to three hours for something. The girls were on a three hour feeding schedule for the first two months. We would get up twice a night to feed the girls, and here are some tricks of the trade that we used.
One Up, Both Up
Even if one or the other was sleeping while the other was a little fussy, we got them both up for their bottle. Admittedly, Natalie was a bit bigger so she could "hold out" for longer, but even when M chirped while N slept, we still did a dreamfeed for N. This also was the rule for daytime as well. Otherwise, you would do nothing but feed and change with no break in between.
Products of the Trade
Sleep Sacks and Swaddle Me's
Both girls enjoyed being swaddled to an extent. M wanted to be wrapped up tight, baby sushi style. N preferred having her legs free to move. We LOVED Halo SleepSacks and Summer Infant SwaddleMe blankets. M was a SwaddleMe baby. N was a SleepSack baby, as seen below.
M was a baby who had to be held, so the tight swaddle really helped me recreate that feeling for her.
I'm a white noise person myself. We registered for a Homedics Sound Spa Lullaby Relaxation Machine and we swear by it. It has several settings, including rain and ocean, a projector with star scenes, and the girls have had it in their room every night since birth. I really believe there is something to that needing to hear the whooshing like a heartbeat to help babies sleep. If you are traveling and forget your sound machine, and you have a Smartphone, there is a great app called White Noise for 1.99 where you can get over 20 different sounds, like a clothes dryer, shower, etc.
Delicious Soap and Scents
I have decided that heaven is going to smell like California Baby Calendula Shampoo. The rest of the house smells like divine calendula, and we know it won't cause allergies with our girls because the company does allergy testing with all of its products. We also use Aveeno Calming Comfort soap and lotion with its lavender and oat formula.
I'm a big believer in the power of essential oils. We use eucalyptus in our house to help with allergies and colds. A few drops of lavender before vacuuming is helpful as well.
The Experts Say...
I'm a big believer in the philosophy discussed in the book The Happiest Baby on the Block. We were big into the 5 S's:
- Swaddling to recreate a womb-like feeling
- Side or stomach positioning (This is SUPERVISED positioning to help a baby with digestion)
- Shushing sounds to mimic the wooshing from the womb.
- Swinging, like in an infant swing, gentle rocking in a rocking chair, being worn in a Moby, or a car ride around the block.
- Sucking a pacifier releases feel-good, calming chemicals in the brain.
Meredith was a colicky baby with reflux, so these really helped with her (...oh, and modern medicine such as Prevacid).
The Controversial Cry It Out
Let me preface this by saying this: You can't spoil a newborn. A newborn cries because that is the only form of communication it knows. Until your baby weighs about ten pounds, he or she doesn't have the capacity to hold enough nourishment to last through the night, and even then, that's not a hard and fast rule to follow.
We were up every three for something until the girls were three months old. At four months, we were up once a night for a bottle. Then, at around the tail end of four months, the girls started sleeping through the night. We have had interruptions for teething, illness, N's occasional nightmares, etc. but for the most part, it has been smooth sailing.
M was very good at lights out with a paci. N needed rocking until she was around eight months old. When we were sure that they weren't sick, they were totally full, and were genuinely sleepy, we would do a very modified cry it out. N would whine and whimper for a bit, but we set a timer for five minutes. If she continued to fuss past 5 minutes, we would go in, reassure, and lay her back down. Within a few weeks, she would settle on her own. We also discovered that when one twin is mad at the world, the other blissfully tunes her out. This is why we really tried a 5 full minutes because we knew the other sister wasn't bothered.
Things aren't perfect...
While we are blessed with good sleepers, things aren't perfect. We do have the occasional night where one (usually N), wakes up at 2am, angry from a nightmare, and we have to snuggle in bed for 30 minutes before she is calm enough to lay back down. There are growth spurts which mean the occasional midnight snack cup of milk, teeth clawing their way in through the gums that require a dose of Tylenol to calm, etc. However, I'm a believer that consistency is the key and routine is the name of the game, whether it's bath, bottle, book, bed, or a form of routine where your babies know that sweet dreams are just around the corner.
What is your tried and true baby bedtime advice?