Welcome to a new feature on HDYDI – Twinfant Tuesdays! Every Tuesday, we’ll have posts devoted to the first year of life with multiples.
Let’s kick things off with a post about naps.
Rather, let’s complain, lament, weep hysterically over naps.
This is my biggest How The %#@! Do You Do It moment with twins. Tandem feeding? Check. Double baby wearing? Piece of cake. Chasing two crawlers around the park? Got it covered. Putting them both down for a nap? Get out the rosary and pop open the Valium.
What purer form of torture is there than trying to put people to sleep when you are exhausted yourself? My sweet children have been perfecting this psychological weapon for nine months.
At first, I tried that whole eat, play, sleep thing. If it works for you, awesome. It did NOT work for me. I spent about 3 months failing at that before giving it up. My boys never liked the swing. Only one would take a pacifier. I swaddled them, rocked them, fed them, whatever it took. Usually I’d end up getting M down with a swaddle and pacifier, then have to bounce R on the yoga ball or nurse him, after which point I couldn’t put him down. Obviously, as soon as R fell asleep in my arms, M would wake up. All this accompanied by lots and lots of crying – from all three of us. No amount of baby juggling would consistently coordinate their sleep.
Things got dire. I had two options: let them sleep on the double nursing pillow after breastfeeding (sometimes they liked to stay attached for the. whole. nap.), or walk them around in the stroller. They would still cry in the stroller, but not for as long. However, a motorcycle or gust of wind was sure to wake them up after 30-40 minutes. Whenever they were asleep, I was a prisoner – no going to the bathroom, let alone time for myself. We did that for a few months.
Then we sleep trained at night, and I was finally able to just nurse them down for naps. We had a big floor bed (large mattress right on the floor). I would sit in the middle with the double nursing pillow, load them on, feed them, and lay them down on the bed when they were done. Then I’d creep away and hope they didn’t roll onto each other. That worked for a while.
Then they got mobile and the shenanigans started big time – romping around the room, crawling over each other, coming over to the door and crying. One would perk up just as the other was finishing eating and curiously poke at his brother’s eyes. Tandem nursing was becoming impossible.
We switched to bottles for naps and got cribs. Now I feed them bottles at the same time, and one of three things will happen:
- Instant sleep! Move carefully into cribs and creep away. Throw silent parade in my own honor.
- One sleeper, one scamperer. Protect sleeper who is finishing bottle from brother who is trying to climb on his head. Put sleeper in crib, gather scamperer and give him the rest of his bottle. Put him down once he’s done. Reward self with five minutes of facebook, after which the first sleeper wakes up.
- Two insanely awake children who faked me out completely by showing every tired sign known to man just minutes before. Breathe deeply while the boys crawl over me, laugh, throw their bottles, and otherwise put on a baby circus. Place both in cribs and leave to a chorus of hysterical crying. Pour giant glass of wine and blog to distract self from flood of CPS calls that are surely being made from other units in my building. Wonder if it’s actually possible to drown in shame.
M usually falls asleep. If R falls asleep and M is crying, I can go in and easily soothe him. If R doesn’t fall asleep within 15 minutes, forget about his nap for today. I could kill those people who say, “Maybe he just isn’t tired?” Babies need sleep. Fussy, ear-pulling, yawning, lethargic babies are ready for sleep. I do my absolute best to hit that magic window of tired but not overtired, but some days that window is only 5 minutes wide and despite all my efforts, I miss it. And I pay for it all day.
The root problem has been the same for nine months: they need two different kinds of individual attention, and they need it at the exact same time. M needs lots of cuddles and a little independence to go to sleep. R needs to be soothed to the brink of drowsiness, then quickly released into his crib at the exact right moment. And they have very different sleep needs – R sleeps less and has a harder time falling asleep. He would prefer to have me near him. I have to disappear quickly when I put him down, or hold him for the entire nap. M sleeps much more and enjoys lots of cuddles as he gets sleepy. I can rock him to sleep in two minutes and he will rest peacefully for 1.5-2 hours. But if I stay in the room, he gets amped up and will cry.
You can see how these styles don’t exactly mesh together.
The truth is, I need the small freedom nap time gives me. NEED. IT. I have to do chores, like cleaning and preparing meals, that I can’t do when they are awake. And more importantly, I need a break from the constant vigilance and interaction that is child care (more so because they are not sleeping through the night yet). If I don’t get it, I become angry, annoyed, impatient, checked out. Not the mom I want to be, certainly not the mom my kids deserve.
My husband, a teacher, is off for the summer and helping A LOT by putting one baby down while I do the other. It’s awesome. And terrifying. How am I going to continue to give them the individual attention they need when I am back by myself in the fall?
I feel that a new evolution is heading our way with naps. Increasingly, the boys are showing their thoughts and wills through action. R will point to the bedroom when he’s tired. Today they crawled over to their own bottles and started in before I had changed their diapers. Ideally, I want to shift the responsibility of their sleep from me and onto them. Instead of “putting” them to sleep, I want to set up the environment for sleep (proper timing, white noise, sleep sacks, dark room, bottles, etc) and and let them do the actual falling asleep part. In my perfect dream, I do a sweet little nap routine and place them in their cribs wide awake; they settle quickly and fall asleep.
But I waver. It is really hard to commit to a new level of responsibility for your kids, and be consistent about it. Can I stand to hear them cry sometimes when I know I could soothe them (at least one of them)? Can I stand to keep being a slave to their sleep, even though it makes me angry and resentful? Is this a time for me to reach a new level of resolve or a new level of compassion and patience?
If you can answer all that, please send me a bill
How do you put your twins down for a nap? Moreover, how did you come to terms with the shortfalls of your method?