Toddler Thursday: Escaping from Cribs

Last night, my 19 month old son discovered he’s strong enough to climb out of his crib.

I’ve actually known it for a while. He’s been climbing toys and furniture for weeks now. I’ve been finding him precariously bouncing on the arms of chairs, scaling high shelves for the goodies hidden inside, and even standing on the topmost refrigerator part of his sister’s play kitchen to look out the window. It’s really quite an amazing sight, but considering he’s my son and I would prefer not to have his head crack open in a fall, this is not funny.

However, that hasn’t happened. Yet. As he is a very active and fearless boy, I fully expect someday he is going to break something. I just hope it’s not his head, and that it doesn’t happen before he even makes it to age two.

I did not convert Big Sis’s crib to a toddler bed until she was 38 months old. That’s right, past age three. And this is only because she got too heavy for me to lift her in and out multiple times a day. Outside of a couple of weeks when she wanted to be held to sleep around her siblings’ age, when she did somehow manage to climb and fall out of her crib once, she’s never had any issues with staying inside.

Last night, my boy woke crying around 10:30pm. The twins sleep at 6pm, so he’d had a good solid sleep already. I was getting ready to go to bed when I heard him screaming, and since we’ve been passing around a cold lately, I went in to check if he was feverish. He wasn’t, but once I went in, I couldn’t get back out. He latched onto me with his whole body, and gestured that he wanted to lie on my chest while I sat in the chair. While we did that, he was completely calm. But the second I got up to put him back in bed, he would push my shoulders with his hands to indicate he wanted me to sit back down, and then hysterically cry when I put him in the crib. I just walked out because usually he quits crying when I do that, but it didn’t work this time. I saw him lift his leg over the crib rail on the video monitor and ran back in just in time to see him tumbling out to come find me. I picked him up, told him no climbing, and put him back in. More hysterics and immediately climbed back out. This time, he landed on his feet. The next two times he only perfected his technique and speed. In fact, he was so shockingly agile I almost laughed. (Good thing he couldn’t see me smiling in the dark.)

I didn’t want him to become an expert, so I sent in Daddy to keep him from vaulting his crib again. Meanwhile I quickly attempted to buy a crib tent online. Lo and behold, crib tents have all been recalled. I guess I vaguely remembered something about this, but it sure was darned inconvenient for me at the moment. Thankfully a search on google resulted in Plan B: drop his crib mattress.

Daddy sat with this boy, alternating between physically holding him down, patting his back, and leaving him alone, until close to 1am when he finally fell back asleep. It was only one night, but we all suffered, including his twin sister whose crib is right next to his. Immediately after breakfast this morning I went to work on our new solution. And TA DA! No way he is going to be monkeying himself out of this.

My son's new crib. While standing in it, the top of his head barely makes it to the railing. 

My son’s new crib. While standing in it, the top of his head barely makes it to the railing.

lunchldyd is mom to 19mo b/g twins and their 4yo sister. These toddler shenanigans are really keeping her on her toes!

Two Naps to One

A week and a half of summer break under my belt, and I’m ready for a vacation from my vacation.

I’ve known for a while that the twins’ naps weren’t working, but I hoped that I had more time to enjoy the status quo before upending it all for the dreaded transition. However, it became glaringly obvious that they were NOT going to take their 9am naps anymore, no matter how hard I tried to tire them out. Thing is, I’ve been looking forward to taking them to the Mommy-n-Me class that Big Sis and I attended almost two years ago, which is at 11am. But with my teaching schedule getting out the door by 6:45am, all the kids are used to waking up super early. That means, if they take no morning nap, they will almost definitely be sleeping through that class.

I can’t remember when Big Sis transitioned to one nap, but I am the one who did it, because my mom tells me that after some sort of break from school (winter/spring/summer), I brought her back already switched over to her new nap schedule. I do not remember it because it must have been a pretty natural and easy process. We settled on 11am-1pm for over a year. It wasn’t until her siblings landed on a 12:30-2:30 afternoon nap that I changed her nap to synchronize with theirs. But that wasn’t traumatic either, because she was ready to be awake longer in the mornings and have a later bedtime. There were a couple days of brief crankiness around her prior naptime, but I distracted her with something and she transitioned just fine.

No such luck with these two. There’s been lots of whining and general crankiness, even some food throwing and all-out meltdowns. Part of the difficulty has to result from the fact that there are two of them whose sleep/wake times need to be synchronized, but I think it’s mostly because they’re just not as agreeable as their sister. They’re much more active, and will fight to stay awake. Plus, as they share a bedroom and have their cribs next to each other, they will sometimes keep each other awake or wake each other up.

I’ve been writing down their naptimes for this last 1.5 weeks, and it looks like we’re starting to stabilize. And I’ve kept them more or less on the same schedule:

M 12:30-2 (garbage truck woke them)

Tu 12:45-2:45 (woke naturally)

W 11:30-1 (Big Sis woke them)

Th  9:30-9:45 (in car); 1-3:30 (woke naturally)

F  9:45-10:05 (in car); 1:30-4 (I woke them)

What I’ve learned this past week is that they haven’t been getting enough sleep. They’ve been fussy and unhappy, particularly in the late mornings.  Their nighttime sleep hasn’t been impacted too much by all of this (thank goodness!), other than falling asleep slightly earlier on the one-nap days. On Friday it felt like they were trying to catch up on sleep after being deprived for almost a week. Also the little catnaps in the car indicate they are indeed really tired.

I’ve been trying to force them to nap after lunch (more convenient time for me), but 6am to noon is proving to be too long a span for wakefulness, and too abrupt a change to make. They still need about 2-3 hours of naps during the day, but spaced right in between when they wake and their bedtime, so probably 10:30-1:30, keeping a wake time of 6am and bedtime of 6pm, which is what I hoped for on Saturday. Their actual naptime turned out to be 10:30-12:45. Close enough.

They woke up earlier the last couple of days though. We’re not even getting a full two hours in that nap anymore. And bedtime crept up to 6ish. Not the ideal I had in mind, but there’s also been less crying and screaming, so I guess we are making progress?

Sadly, I had to sacrifice Big Sis’s nap in this transition too. She was sleeping 1-2:30, but with her siblings unable to make it to nap at that time with her, I decided it was time for her to drop her nap entirely and move back her bedtime by 1.5 hrs. Other than her taking little catnaps in the car if I happen to drive over 15 mins in the afternoons, she’s taken to this just fine. And it’s kind of nice they’re all going down earlier for the night.

lunchldyd‘s b/g twins are 18mo, and their big sis just turned 4yo. She is welcoming any good suggestions for making this transition easier.

Traveling with Toddlers and a Preschooler

Having twin babies was overwhelming, having twin toddlers is exhausting, and having a preschooler and full time job on top of that is mentally draining. This is on a daily basis, in a confined predictable environment. So when Hubby suggested a trip away during my spring break last week, I was trepidatious, to say the least.

TravellingOur twins have never taken a trip of over a few hours at a time, we’ve never been out on vacation together as a family, and our preschooler hasn’t spent a night away since she was with Grandma when her siblings were first born almost 1.5 years ago. Suffice it to say, it’s been a long time. I also really wanted to go.

So, fully willing to accept getting no sleep, dealing with cranky children, and having no fun at all, we went… And it was GREAT! Completely exceeded all my expectations. For those contemplating travel with young multiples, it is possible. Here is what we did that I believe, contributed to a wonderful mini-vacation for us:

Location, Location, Location

We decided not to go too far, but far enough to stay overnight. Hubby’s suggestion of Legoland was perfect! Less than 2 hours away, nice hotel on site. We figured we’d give ourselves time to really explore, and we’d probably want to be taking it easy with so many young children, so I booked a two-night stay, and bought us 2-day hopper tickets.  We planned all our driving to coincide with the kids’ naps so that we’d have a nice quiet ride both ways.

Don’t Stress

Being very Type A, I knew beforehand I had to let go of some control. I had to force myself to relax my Nazi sleep schedule for the trip. I made a decision to prioritize nighttime sleep for the entire family and allow naps to be skipped/shortened for a couple of days. This was not easy for me, as I believe sleep is the foundation of everything for young children, but it was a necessity to balance the needs of everyone the trip. Obviously we knew what times the kids would all be sleepy, and sort of worked around those times (allowing twins to lay down in their stroller, taking it easy after lunch and returning to the hotel for a siesta), but for the most part I just loosely let naps be how they would.

Similarly, I only roughly planned the activities on this trip: What times we’d be driving, check-in/out times, the buffet hours, hotel entertainment events. I didn’t even know the layout of the park until we got there and explored it together. Besides a little mixup with our luggage being delivered to our room the first night (which of course was out of my control anyway), everything worked out great with my unplanned planning.

Eat at Buffets 

Our hotel stay included a breakfast buffet, and our kids ate free during the dinner buffet. Though we could have gotten dinner probably for less in the park or elsewhere, the convenience of food being an elevator ride away from our room, and the abundance of highchairs and kid food available at a place catering to children (an entire buffet section was at kid height) can’t be beat. We ate there for dinner both nights. Since breakfast was included for everyone staying at the hotel, it got to be very busy around 8:30am every morning. Not a problem for us: our kids are up and hungry by 6:30am. We ate breakfast there both mornings too.

Lunches we had in the park. As with all amusement park food, it was expensive and not the greatest. Factor in waiting for the food while your children are hungry, and you’d come to the decision to eat at a buffet whenever possible too.

Sleeping Arrangements 

When booking our reservation, I asked for a room on the top floor, away from the elevators. I knew that with so many kids staying in the hotel it would be loud, so I wanted to eliminate the noise as much as I could. I also brought a loud fan from home to use as a cover for any small noises we would make moving around the room. Again, this hotel is pretty spectacular that all their rooms are like mini-suites with a section for children that includes a bunk bed. My preschooler has never slept in a bunk before, so it was very exciting for her to look forward to being up high.

The hotel offered pack-n-plays, so I requested two of them. I was a little worried that there would be no space for them both, but going without them was not an option so we just had to wait and see. Thankfully, both cribs fit with plenty of space. We kept them at the foot of the adult bed. Knowing from traveling with their big sis at a younger age that being in an unfamiliar place might mean they would have trouble sleeping, I made sure to pack the bedding that they’re used to from home. The sheets and blankets took up almost half of the larger luggage we brought (the kids’), but it was worth it. They made not one peep either night. The fact that we all got a full night’s sleep really was the best part of this trip.

Ultimately, as with most things, I was much more worried about doing this than I should have been. I think now that I have 3 children instead of just one, I am learning to go more with the flow. Though damn expensive, this trip has taught me that some planning and the right attitude go a long way. I can’t wait for our next family vacation!

(As an aside, Legoland is such a wonderful place for young children. I would say it is perfect for kids aged 4 to 10. It is much smaller than Disneyland, easily walkable for young children without getting too tired. It was also less crowded, and if you don’t go during peak times there are no lines. Going almost anywhere with a double stroller often means a lot of maneuvering and blocking traffic, but Legoland was full of doubles, and we never had a problem getting around. Even “stroller parking” seemed plentiful. The Legoland hotel was the highlight of this trip though. Catered specifically to this age group, it had so many conveniences and amenities that made the trip super easy for us. Highly recommended.)

lunchldyd is mom to an almost-4yo and her 17mo b/g twin siblings. She is a high school teacher in a suburb of Los Angeles.

Twinfant Tuesday: Ever-Changing Schedules (Birth-4 Months)

Ever-Changing Schedules (1)

Schedules. Some moms love it. Some moms hate it. Some grandmothers think that their daughters/daughters-in-law are sickos for thinking about putting their sweet grandchildren on a dreaded schedule.

If you were a student in my classroom or one of my students’ parents, you will know that I love schedules and routines. By reading some of my extensive lists on my blog Doyle Dispatch, you could probably also tell that I like to know what to expect.

Let’s face it, though. Babies like routines also.

Think about it. They spent 9 months in this cozy, safe environment before getting expelled into this crazy, loud, unexpected world. What in the world is going on? As soon as they get comfortable with the way things work, they go through a developmental change and then POOF they have to re-figure out the world again. Scary! That’s why we swaddle our babies. That’s why we live with white-noise machines constantly humming all night long. That’s why we do schedules and routines. We do whatever we can to help guide our babies through the craziness of life, especially during their infancy.

Routines start simply: The Feeding Routine

  • unswaddle
  • change diaper
  • allow to nurse for about 10-20 minutes
  • supplement with milk that was pre-pumped
  • re-dress
  • swaddle
  • sleep
  • repeat

We do that every 2-3 hours. 24 hours a day. 7 days a week. It’s exhausting, but we can make it work.

Then a growth spurt happens, and we think we are losing our minds.

My breasts hurt. My nipples are falling off. My back is killing me. I’m deliriously tired. Can’t we put them back in?

Around 6 weeks, we re-evaluate and realize that, after this growth spurt is over, our perfect little schedule isn’t good anymore. Our babies aren’t sleeping every other minute of every day. They are getting overstimulated when they are held by us, their grandparents, their aunts, uncles, and visiting friends.

Twin Schedules

We come up with a new schedule: The Ideal Feeding Schedule

  • 11 PM
  • 3 AM
  • 7 AM
  • 10 AM
  • 12:30 PM
  • 3 PM
  • 5:30 PM
  • 8 PM

Ha. Like you have enough brain power to stick to that schedule! Think again, Batman!

Playtime within Schedules

You re-evaluate after a week and come up with the Get-Daddy-Back-to-Work Schedule

  • 8 AM: First Feeding
  • In-between: Daddy to work, Mommy and babies 1-1 cuddle or activity
  • 11 AM: Feeding
  • In-between: Babies nap
  • 2 PM: Feeding
  • In-between: Mommy 1-1 cuddle time or activity
  • 5 PM: Feeding
  • In between: Cuddle time
  • 8 PM: Feeding
  • Babies sleep (expect fussiness)
  • 11 PM: Feeding
  • Babies sleep
  • 2 AM: Feeding
  • Babies sleep
  • 5 AM: Feeding
  • Babies sleep

You discover that this one really doesn’t work either. Maybe it’s the fact that your babies are constantly going through a growth spurt or sleep regression. When one stops, the other starts. You give up. You just forget the advice from The Sleep Book (insert whichever theory you are going with now). You give in. You go with the flow. You feed ever hour if you need to. You feel like you aren’t producing enough milk. You are worried that you are starving your babies, but you plug along.

Twin Schedules

Suddenly, you realize that you can predict the type of mood that your baby is in at about 2.5 months. They still hate this thing called “napping,” but you just need a few minutes during the day for your shower/coffee/to clean the spit-up off your 3rd shirt of the day. A natural schedule takes place. It’s marvelous!

The Natural Schedule (Times are adjustable)

  • 6:00 AM Babies wake up and Daddy soothes them/turns on their mobiles
  • 7:00 AM Babies are too hungry and it’s time to eat (Mommy begrudgingly gets out of bed)
  • During the feeding, Daddy gets coffee for himself, tea and breakfast for Mommy, and showers
  • 7:30 AM Daddy takes both babies, changes diapers and enjoys Happy Morning Time
  • 8:15 AM Babies get tired and cranky. Time for naps!
  • 9:15 AM Babies are awake (although this can happen much earlier). Time for play gym, tummy time, singing, stories, talking, and other play activities.
  • 10:30 AM Mid-morning feeding
  • 11:00 AM Happy mid-morning time with activities
  • 11:45 AM 2nd nap
  • When wake-up: Playroom activity time
  • 2:00 PM Afternoon feeding
  • 2:30 PM Happy afternoon time with activities
  • 2:50 PM Nap
  • 4:30 PM Wake-up and playtime
  • 5:00 PM Feeding
  • 5:30 PM Cuddling with Daddy and Mommy after work (“Couch Cuddle Time”)
  • 7:15 PM Baths and Bedtime routines
  • 7:45 PM Final Feeding and Goodnights
  • Possible feedings around 12:30 AM and 3:30 AM (and sometimes at 5:30 as well)

Now, I’m not saying that this is perfect or that this is the schedule that we always stick to, but overall it does what we want it to do MOST of the time. Feed-play-sleep-play is really  a workable routine. There’s a reason that so many moms swear by it.

One other thing that has helped us is this: Whenever David or Audrey shows signs of being tired, we put them down for a nap or let them sleep where they are. If it is in the evening, we will let them fall asleep for a short time wherever they are (in our arms or in their bouncers if it is dinnertime). At this age, we figure that if they sleep, it’s because they need to sleep. Their nighttime sleeping is all over the place anyway, that we just go with it. Napping so close to bedtime hasn’t shown that we’ve had a negative impact on their overnight sleeping. I know that this goes against what the sleep-training advice tells us to do, but it has worked for us, so we stick with it.

Twin Schedules

Lately, I’ve been having some more appointments, whether is it physical therapy for my shoulder (totally different story… you try having shoulder blade issues when you have two babies that want to be held all the time), a class at the gym (free childcare and a hot shower afterwards!), or just sanity visits from other adults. We have tried one more schedule, based off of The Natural Schedule. We don’t have to stick to it everyday, but it does seem to work:

The 4-Month-Old Schedule

  • 7 AM Feeding, Diapers, Play
  • 8 AM Nap
  • 9:15 AM Feeding, Diapers
  • 10 AM Leave for Gym
  • 10:30 AM Class at Gym
  • 11:30 AM Shower and Locker Room Time
  • 12:15 PM Pick Up Babies from Nursery and Go Home
  • 12:30 PM Feeding, Diapers, Play
  • 1:45 PM Nap
  • 3 PM Feeding, Diapers
  • 3:30 PM Out and About (or Home) Activities
  • 5:30 PM Feeding
  • Evening Activities (Walk or Errands)
  • 8 PM Baths, Diapers, PJs
  • 8:30 PM Final Feeding
  • 9 PM Lights Out
  • + 1 or 2 feedings during the night

So, mommies and daddies, do you have a schedule that works? I’d love to hear it! How do you make it work with two babies? Do you hold your breath during “nap time” as well, knowing that one of them will wake up any minute?

The Time I Had to Clean the Poop Off the Wall

When twin 2-year-olds start changing each other's diapers during nap time, it doesn't make for a pretty picture.Once, when J and M went down for their nap at age 2, I decided to take a nice long shower. I’d been having a hard time sleeping, so I thought a shower might help me take my own nap. As it turns out, I should have done more to confirm that M and J were asleep.

When I came out of the shower, I heard voices in the girls’ room, so I went to investigate.

M: Mama, I can’t clean the poop on the wall.
Me: The what on the what?
M: The poop on the wall.
Me: How did poop get on the wall?
M: I put it there.

This face delivered the news of poop on the wall. Because twins will try to change one another's diapers if they can.

This face delivered the news of poop on the wall.

M had gone number two in her diaper. She had then used half a package of wipes to clean herself, and in the process smeared the wall above her bed with fæces. Can I get an “Eeeeeewwwww” from the peanut gallery?

I never got a clear answer from J on her level of participation.

Just to be safe, both young ladies were bathed, and all the bedding and soft toys in the room and clothes on the girls made their way through the washing machine with copious quantities of bleach. I was glad I had an economy-size container of disinfectant wipes because the walls, as well as the dresser where the used diaper wipes were piled, needed it. For the record, satin sheen Behr paint cleans wonderfully!

At some point, J’s (clean and dry) diaper was changed. J reported that M changed it for her, and I must admit that she did a great job. One tab was attached a little crookedly, but I wouldn’t have known that I hadn’t put the diaper on J except that she’d been in a different brand when she went down for her nap.

This was one of the grossest experiences of my life.

I started out angry and grossed out. Once the wall and children were clean, though, I was able to get a little perspective. M was genuinely trying to clean up after herself. She was embarrassed by the mess she made. J tried to communicate to me what happened, although I struggled to understand the sequence of events.

Our babies grow up. They won’t learn without falling down a few times and making a few messes.

What’s been your grossest parenting moment?

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun. She also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

Twinfant Tuesday: The Secret to Synchronizing Twin Naps – Wake Em Up!

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?

 

Twinfant Tuesday: Things We Live By

Since we’re still in the midst of Year One, this is not so much a look back as a look at right now. I’ve thought long and hard about how I could write a post to enlighten others with the wisdom I’ve gained through raising my b/g twins to the age of 10 months.But it turns out that other than the fact I have two babies the same age at the same time, I haven’t had too much adversity to really overcome. We’ve been really lucky. There was a month or two when Husband first went back to work that I struggled with coordinating the babies’ sleeping and eating schedules, but to be perfectly honest I feel fortunate every single day. I look at my chubbas and life is good. My babies were full term 38-weekers, have had no health issues, and are inquisitive normally developing crawler/cruisers.

But, for what it’s worth, there are some things we live by, to keep these babies the healthy and happy (and from wreaking havoc).

Sleep

This is BY FAR the most important thing when raising young children, in my opinion. I attribute all my children’s great dispositions to regular, undisrupted sleep. We sacrifice a lot to give them extremely rigid times for sleeping.

When our first was a baby, Husband and I had many arguments about this. I always had to take her home at about 5:30/6:00pm for bath/bedtime. This meant I often took her home by myself while he stayed to finish dinner with his family. So we would either take two separate cars or someone would drop him off when they were done. It got so I earned myself the nickname Sleep Nazi from his family.

But I stuck to my guns and continued to insist on what I believe in. He didn’t really “get it” until he experienced some late afternoon meltdowns firsthand with the twins. Now, with clear results as my proof, no one dares contest my methods. Dinners are scheduled at 5pm with the knowledge that we will bail.

Schedule

It was a challenge getting twin babies on a concurrent schedule, so much that I call those few weeks psychological warfare. But the good thing is that I won, and our whole family is better for it. These babies eat and sleep by the clock. Starting with a daily wake up time: 6:30am. If they wake before that, they know to hang out in their cribs until 6:30 when their older sister is also allowed to get up. Then they’re changed and strapped in the car for the ride to Grandma’s. Bottles are given at 7 when they arrive. On weekends I’ll make french toast or bake some muffins while Daddy dresses them to come sit with us to eat as a family. Nap 8:30-10, meal at 11, nap 12:30-2:15, meal at 2:30, nap 5:45-6:15, bottle 7pm. These times are all very solid, except they’re starting to transition out of that last catnap. Some days they don’t need it, and I just move their bath and bottle up a half hour.

Obviously there are some great advantages to this kind of regularity. Days are predictable for them as well as for me. I know when we can schedule outings, we don’t usually have cranky babies, and all our kids know what is expected of them. All of them are scheduled to take their midday nap at the same time.

However it’s not a foolproof plan. Last summer when our family took a two week trip to Asia, all our schedules were completely thrown off. We discovered that our daughter lacked the ability to adjust quickly. She was pretty miserable for about a month. But that’s a trade off I would easily take for daily predictability. No way we would plan another international trip before the twins are much older anyway.

Space

Independence is a trait I value highly, therefore it shapes a lot of my parenting philosophy. I know “attachment parenting” is trending right now, and many of my friends seem to want to raise their children in that way, but I feel my laissez-faire approach gives my children the self-reliance and self-confidence that they will need early in life, and gives me the peace of mind not to have to worry about them.

My 3.5-year-old rarely throws a tantrum. She will always attempt to solve problems herself first before asking for help. She is fully independent on the potty, can get dressed, does not require assistance going to bed, and always throws her own clothes in the hamper. She is secure in our love for her and has no problems with separation. She’s so self assured I don’t even worry about her being bullied.

This training began when she was a baby, and we are doing the same with her siblings. We don’t jump the second a baby makes a noise. We give them time to try to figure things out. They don’t need to constantly be picked up or held. Our presence is not required for them to go to sleep, or for them to be happy.

Therefore, our 10-month-olds rarely cry. They don’t fuss. If they take a small tumble, they will look to us for reassurance, and then they go right back to playing. When I take them out in their double stroller, they just sit side by side checking things out. They have easy smiles and aren’t afraid of strangers. I am always getting compliments on how well behaved they are.

Luckily our house has the layout to allow us to gate off a playroom for the kids. Space for them to roam and explore. Space to test their limits relatively safely. Space to be confined while Mama does her mama-things.

But the space kids need is much more than physical.

A Reluctant Farewell to Naps

In truth, my girls haven’t had a nap in the past couple of months.  I’m just now ready to admit it, to see that reality written in black and white.

Since they were infants, our girls have been champion sleepers.  I credit so much of our success to the BabyWise methodology.  We are very schedule-oriented.  I took to heart the BabyWise thinking, that “Mommy determines when naps start, and when naps are over.”  There were times when the girls’ needs would shift for whatever reason, and I’d have to find that new “sweet spot” window of magic during which I could easily get them down for a nap.  Sometimes it took a little experimentation, but I was always able to get back to blissful rest (for them) and blissful quiet (for me).

My unspoken goal was to keep the girls napping until they started preschool, at age 3 ½.  That felt feasible, judging by my mommy friends.  Some kiddos dropped their naps as early as 2 ½, but others were napping until they were four.  [I laugh as I write this, knowing the best-laid "plans" of parenthood are so often laid to waste!]

We went through a rough patch when the girls started preschool at 3 ½.  I can only guess that my Baby A decided that meant she was a “big girl” and so she no longer needed to nap.  My B continued to sleep willingly, though, and A was pretty compliant with my “quiet time” rules.  I would ask every few days if A wanted to nap, and she always said no…until the day – that glorious day! – after Thanksgiving.  She said she wanted to nap…she napped…we celebrated…and she napped every day for the next eight months!

There was no great schedule shift over the summer, but the girls did start talking a bit after I put them to bed at night.  It wasn’t long after that that they simultaneously refused to nap.  It’s hard to recount…one day, they napped, and the next day they played in their beds the entire time.  That went on for a couple of days, to the great stress of this mommy.  I finally asked the girls, “Are you going to nap today?”  They both said no.  I established rules for “quiet time”, and we moved on.

The stress of trying to “enforce” naps was really tough for me.  Although I really missed MY quiet time during the afternoons, holding rules for quiet time is much easier in comparison.

Here’s how I’m keeping things in perspective…

  1. My girls napped until they were 4 ½, which is a full year past my “goal”.
  2. After a (relatively painful) adjustment period that lasted two or three weeks, I am comfortable that my girls are getting the rest they need at night.  Their temperaments are pretty good, which I think is a fair indication.
  3. There’s a lot less pressure to keep our schedule running like a well-oiled machine.  I still value our schedule, framed mostly by mealtimes and bedtime these days, but I didn’t even come close to hyperventilation last week when we were running a full hour behind getting home one afternoon.  Just a few short months ago, I would have been tempted to break the sound barrier getting home in time for the girls to settle down and read books and start nap.  These days, we do the best we can, but it’s not the end of the world if we get caught up doing something else.
  4. There’s less commotion at bedtime.  The girls are ready for bed, so I’ve heard less talking over the monitor and I’ve made fewer treks upstairs.
  5. I’m not quite as stressed out about transitioning the girls to regular beds in the next couple of weeks.  I’d said I didn’t want to make the switch from cribs until they dropped their naps, thinking it would be too tempting for them to stay in bed with the lure of being able to get out.  It seems the stars agree with my game plan.
  6. I feel less guilty about doing housework when the girls are awake.  Particularly when the girls were taking two or three naps a day, I reserved all my housework for their nap times.  It’s not feasible that everything waits until bedtime, so the girls are more involved than ever in laundry, dishes, and cooking.
  7. The girls often choose to do artwork during at least part of their quiet time, so my refrigerator is fuller than ever with their creations.

So…would I love to have an uninterrupted hour to myself every day?  I’d be lying if I didn’t say yes.  But an uninterrupted day with my baby girls does come with its perks, and I’m choosing to focus on those.

Are your kiddos still napping?  If not, at what age did they give up naps?  Was it a smooth transition?  How did you cope? 

MandyE is mom to 4 1/2-year old fraternal twin girls.  She blogs about their adventures and her journey through motherhood at Twin Trials and Triumphs.

Twinfant Tuesday: Naps

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:

  1. Instant sleep! Move carefully into cribs and creep away. Throw silent parade in my own honor.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 :o

How do you put your twins down for a nap? Moreover, how did you come to terms with the shortfalls of your method?

Baby Sleep Books: A Review

This post has been put on hold for quite a while. First, it was because I was in the depths of sleep training hell, then when that got better I was waiting to finish up several chapters, and after that, well… I guess I just started to feel like I was writing a book report for school or something. But though I know these books have already been reviewed in the archives of HDYDI, I think the insight I’ve gained from them may possibly help some new MoMs. So here we go:

Weissbluth

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This is the book I started with, because it is more specific to twins, and I just needed a refresher since I already read a friend’s copy before the babies were born. It’s a very easy read, comprised of extremely intuitive advice that completely makes sense to me. I think it helped validate exactly how I’ve always felt about sleep for babies. There are a couple chapters in the beginning regarding his research and theories that are very interesting. If you’re looking for a quick fix for a common problem (e.g. how to create a schedule for both babies, how to stop bedtime crying, etc.), this is probably a good book to start with. The best gem of this book: “Sleep begets sleep.”

Pantley

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I bought this one because I wanted to get a perspective that wasn’t “cry it out” related. This book is geared towards parents who are opposed to letting their babies cry themselves to sleep. I was never really one of those parents, even with my first singleton, but now that I have two more babies, Pantley’s strategies really wouldn’t work for me. This book requires creating some pretty extensive sleep logs and QUITE a bit a patience. By that I mean, probably no one desperate for sleep would be able to hang in there for what may take weeks, if not months. But if the sound of your child crying is making you miserable, or if your baby requires a slower approach, you might want to give this a try. It really is a much gentler way.

Ferber

ferberbook

This is by far the most comprehensive book of the three. It includes very detailed information about sleep and virtually every sleep disorder there can be. Definitely some interesting reading in the later chapters (head banging, sleep apnea, narcolepsy, etc.), but you really only need to read half of Part II and Part III (Chapters 4-6, 9-12). Ferber is known for “cry it out”, but in his book it’s called “progressive waiting”, and I don’t find it particularly harsh at all. In fact, this method is probably the one that works the best and quickest. It’s written in a case study format, with some great charts for reference. There are also some great instructions for shifting nap schedules. I think this is the one I will come back to if I run into trouble transitioning my babies to new schedules in the future.

 …………….

So, while going insane with my babies not on any kind of feed/sleep schedule, I scoured the internet and bought these 3 books after reading some Amazon reviews. I believe they pretty decently represent the different schools of thought that are out there (except Sears’ attachment parenting, which I am not interested in). A word of warning: Most of the content of these books can be found on the internet, often even verbatim. I’m sure it’s copyright infringement, as the text is not quoted or cited. I probably could have read enough online to piece together what I needed, but the books definitely lay it out nicer and I feel better that I didn’t “steal”. Ultimately I cobbled together a bit from here and there. I don’t really even know what came from where because I took what made sense to me from different sources and internalized them. I think once you read enough you just start to allow your instincts take over.

The other thing I’ve noticed that really helped with my babies was when became able to find their own sleep positions around 4 or 5 months. Both my babies are stomach sleepers. More often than not, they will find a comfortable position face down sucking on a blanket (Baby Girl), or the two forefingers of his left hand (Baby Boy). And for those of you following my sleep training journey, she’s been good through morning for well over a month now. And they do sleep day/night in side-by-side cribs in the same bedroom. We’ve come a long way from these days. Fellow new MoMs, there is hope!

lunchldyd is mom to 6mo b/g twins and their 3yo big sis, happy to take compliments on her now-well-sleeping twins.