Synchronized sleep: the holy grail of twin parenting. Veteran parents, experts, and other advice-givers agree that the key to synchronizing twin naps is to put them down to sleep at the same time.
It makes sense. Logic would dictate that if you start nap at the same time, the babies will eventually get on the same rhythm.
However, we all know twinfants are the ultimate defy-ers of logic, and sleep-deprived parents are hard pressed to puzzle out why their carefully laid plans are not working. Our fraternal twin boys were determined to sleep in shifts. They just had different internal clocks and different ways of being soothed to sleep. If I put them down for nap at the same time, one would sleep and one would cry, babble, roll around, or poop – anything but fall asleep. I had one early riser and one night owl. For 6 months, I basically did nothing but put babies to sleep, yet I almost always had a baby awake. A special kind of torture for the exhausted mama!
Here’s what we finally figured out: you can’t make them fall asleep. But you can wake them up.
I know, I know – it goes against every instinct. But once we established firm wake-up times, our boys were finally able to synchronize our twins’ naps and nighttime sleep, which made EVERYTHING in our lives better. The parents got much-needed breaks throughout the day, the babies gained better quality time when awake, and the entire family got the predictability of a good routine.
At 6 months, our twins’ bedtime was the most consistent part of the day. So we determined firm wake-up times that would ensure a 7pm bedtime: 7am, 11am, and 4pm.
Yes, we sometimes have to wake them up at 7am. This is the hardest part. My babies could sleep til 8am some mornings. But it would throw the whole day off, which would throw the whole night off, which usually resulted in a 5am wake up the next day. Not worth it!
I put them down for nap at roughly the same times, but it is flexible within a half hour, based on their sleepy cues (9am and 2pm). This gives them about 4 hours of possible nap time in the day. R takes a good half hour or more to settle down, and M needs more sleep than R. They usually get 2.5-3.5 hours of sleep per day. As they more toward only one nap, this is changing, but our schedule is not. Sometimes R hangs out for an hour in his crib without falling asleep, just talking and playing. If he cries, I go get him and enjoy some one-on-one time. Then he has to wait for the next scheduled nap time (unless it’s Meltdown City, in which case he goes down earlier, but the wake-up time is still strictly observed). M is nowhere near ready for one nap. Once they are BOTH skipping a nap everyday for 1-2 weeks, we will make a schedule change.
They both quickly adjusted to the wake-up times, and usually wake on their own. But we still don’t let them sleep past our set times, no matter what: even if they just fell asleep, even if they had a shorter nap earlier in the day, etc. For illness, we just put the sick baby down earlier.
Here is the crazy part: not only did set wake-ups sync up our polar-opposite sleepers, the kids love it! Very rarely do they wake up grumpy. They are happy, refreshed, and ready for action (basically the opposite of when they wake ME up :o).
Do you have any tips for synchronizing twin naps – especially if you have very different sleepers?