There are arguably seven popular schools of thought regarding sleep training. Those schools of thought are all led by different experts who do not always play nicely together in the sandbox. On the one end is Richard Ferber; popularly associated with the “Cry it out” method. On the other end of the spectrum are Drs. Sears who favor attachment parenting style. Marc Weissbluth, the author of Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child falls somewhere in between those two extremes.
I decided to follow the Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child book in sleep training my twins and 3 years later, it’s a decision I do not regret. I chose this book because it focuses more on building good sleep habits very early in life to forestall problems later. Some of the concepts I found most useful are:
Differentiating between night and day straight from the hospital: Daytime was for cuddles and games with baby but night times were made as boring as possible so the babies knew the nights were for sleeping and nothing else.
Putting baby to bed awake – as opposed to rocking baby to sleep and then putting them in their bed. The author gives some signs of tiredness to look out for with babies. Once you see those signs, put baby in bed and let them self-soothe to sleep. This advice was hard for me because I really wanted to snuggle my 8lbs of sweetness to sleep all the time. THEN I reminded myself that 8lbs of sweetness quickly grows to become 25lbs of defiance.I’m glad I went with the authors’ recommendation to teach kids to self-soothe.
Sleep transitions – As a light sleeper, I got up every time my babies made a sound. Understanding the concept of sleep transitions helped me manage our nights better.
This book and the concepts it teaches may not necessarily be the best for your family but it’s what worked for me. I consider it an essential part of my twin parenting library and even now, whenever my twins start having disruptions in their sleep schedule, I consult the Healthy Sleep habits book for solutions as it contains tips starting from infanthood all the way to adolescence. As a bonus, there’s also a chapter devoted to special family events and concerns – dual career parents, mother returning to work, vacation, twins, adoption, daylight savings time and health issues.
True-Life Testimonial – When my twins turned 3 in November, I thought it was a good idea to move their bedtime to 9 pm as it seemed they could handle staying up for longer and we got to spend more time together. One month later, I was the mom walking on eggshells around her 3 year old because any wrong move could result in a meltdown of epic proportions. In one month, my daughter Sugar had more meltdowns than both girls combined had when they were 2 year olds. I confess that I started to wonder if my kid has previously undetected behavioral issues.
By the third day, the girls were staying in bed quietly even when they did not immediately fall asleep and there was noticeable improvement in their daytime temperament. A week into our renewed sleep training, I had reason to say a prayer of thanks for Dr Marc Weissbluth. When I arrived to pick up the girls from daycare, Sugar (the same meltdown mistress of the prior week), went round the class hugging all 8 of her classmates and telling them she’d see them later. She did the same for her teachers. I was close to tears. I recognized that beautiful, bubbly child. I had missed that beautiful, bubbly child. I’d almost forgot what her personality was like before lack of good sleep habits turned her into the equivalent of a PMSing 3 year old with a bad hangover. This book gave me my happy child back
Of course its not all rainbows and unicorns… they are after-all still 3 year olds!
Advice for other parents of multiples
Explore all possible options available to you for sleep training and choose the one that works best for your personalities. To get the gist of any other book out there, just do a search of the book’s title on any parenting forum. (I used the babycenter.com forums). You’ll find a legion of passionate parents for and against the ideas of whichever book you’re researching. By the time you read through a few threads, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what the author is advocating and how it can be applied to your family situation.
Most importantly is to have a sleep plan (hopefully) before your multiples are born. When it comes to sleep and two or more babies, having a sleep strategy can be life and sanity saving.
Yetunde is the proud mom of twin girls, affectionately nicknamed Sugar and Spice. She blogs about the twinmom hustle at mytwintopia and is almost sleeping through the night now.