When I went to check on my daughters last night before I went to sleep, I found J’s Kindle lying on top of the covers. It should have been under her pillow. I sought out her 8-year-old twin M’s bedtime reading and found her book under the pillow, but on the opposite side from where I’d seen her put it at lights out.
When it was time to get up for school, J was the first to wake.
Me: J, have you guys been reading after I turn the lights out?
There was a long, pregnant pause. J sighed.
J: Yes. Yes, we have. Me: By flashlight? J: How did you know?
I had to laugh, loudly enough to wake M.
Me: Because I used to do the same thing. Thanks for being honest with me. I know you were tempted not to. J: You did it too? Me: I did. J: What did your mommy say? Me: She never caught me, but my Nanu (maternal grandmother) did. J: What’d she say? Me: That she used to do it too, but by candlelight or moonlight. And that sleep is important.
We shared a laugh. This time, M wanted to know what we were laughing about.
Me: M, I know about your reading by flashlight. M: Am I in trouble? Me: Do I look mad?
She studied me.
M: No, I don’t think so. Why not? J: Because she did it too! M: You DID? Me: I did. M: Mom! Me: I know. But here’s the thing. Sleep is important. Sleep is when you form your memories and… J: What memories? Me: All your memories you’ll keep forever. Everything you’ve learned and everything you’ve seen and your friends and silly things M says. Your brain needs time to rest and recuperate, and so does your body. A lot of the chemical in your body that tells you to grow is made while you sleep. M: Did you have to stop? Me: Well, my Nanu didn’t tell, but she made sure that I got more sleep, because I was tired. M: Do we have to stop? Me: Yes. J:(disappointed) Okay. Me: You have plenty of reading time. We can try to adjust things to give you more reading time. But you need all the sleep time too.
M handed me the flashlight she’d just dug out from under her pillow.
I’m not sure I handled this the right way. Perhaps I should have been harder on the children for actively misleading me. Perhaps I shouldn’t have confessed my own childhood disobedience. Maybe the consequence of not respecting bedtime should have been the loss of reading privileges.
I really didn’t want to punish the children for loving literature. I didn’t want to make them afraid to admit their mistakes to me. I didn’t want them to feel that it was safer to build lies upon lies instead of coming clean.
Our bedtime check-in seems to indicate that I made the right choice. When I asked J what she’d learned today, she answered, “I learned that I can’t get anything past my Mommy. I have lots of examples! Like reading… and wearing perfume… and brushing my teeth.”
What would you do if you discovered your kids reading after bedtime?
I originally wrote this when my twin girls were three, as a review on our local MoMs’ group blog. My girls are now six, and my love for this little gadget is still as strong as ever.
Since our girls started sleeping through the night, until they were about 18 months old, I could usually count on them waking up around 6:45 in the morning. And then, when they dropped to one nap during the day, they began sleeping until about 7:30. Those were the days!
When we began potty training, around 27 months, though, we experienced a drastic change in the girls’ morning routines. I appreciated that they woke to use the potty…but there were some painfully early starts to our days for quite some time.
I then discovered a wonderful gadget that has made a huge difference in our morning routines, the “OK to Wake!” clock. [There are several iterations of these in clocks and stuffed toys…just search “OK to wake”.]
I set the clock to 6:30, at which time it glows green. (As much as I’d like them to sleep until 9am on the weekends, I wanted to set a “realistic” goal.) I tell the girls, if you wake up and the clock isn’t green, you can roll over and go back to sleep.
There are times when I hear them stirring shortly after 6:00, but they don’t usually call for me until 6:30…on the dot…and then I hear, “Mommy! The clock is green! I slept well!”
There are times that they wake up early, sometimes needing to sit on the potty. After they use the bathroom, it’s been great to have an “impartial party” — the clock — to cite. “The clock isn’t green. It’s still sleep time,” I’ll tell the girls. They almost always accept that they need to go back to bed.
I was worried that the clock would somehow wake them up in the mornings. Its glow isn’t so bright that it disturbs them, though, and a handful of times they’ve slept an extra 15 or 20 minutes. The green glow lasts for 30 minutes, so they still get to call out to me when they wake up (which they get a big kick out of).
I would love to one day get back to our blessed 7:30 rise and shine…but for now, I’m so thankful to at least have a consistent wake-up time.
(This is not a sponsored post. I am in no way affiliated with the companies that make or sell these awesome gadgets. It’s just been a lifesaver to us…for close to four years now!…and I wanted to share.)
MandyE is mom to six-year old fraternal twin girls. She blogs about their adventures, and her journey through motherhood, at Twin Trials and Triumphs.
I’ve been on Spring Break this week, but my husband is swamped at work and couldn’t take time off to be with us. Last year for Spring Break, we took a family vacation to Legoland and LOVED it, so I hoped to be able to do something as exciting with them by myself just around town this year.
We went to the zoo, the park, ballet class, indoor playgrounds, and some museums. Even though most of these places are a short driving distance away, and we could easily stick to our schedule, there was one place about an hour away. It’s called Pretend City, and I’ve only been there once, back when Big Sis was really too young to enjoy it much. I’ve been wanting to go back ever since, but the logistics with napping babies just wasn’t working out. Until this week. I decided we would just have to take a shortened nap in the car on the way there, and get a catnap driving back. It actually worked out perfectly.
As any parent of multiples knows, a tightly run ship is necessary for the successful functioning of a household with many kids. And as I prioritize sleep for my kids above all else, our bedtime routines have always been pretty rigid. Except for very special days such as those once or twice a year on vacation, our schedule rarely shifts beyond a half hour.
What I realized this week, though, is that once a routine is set, it is something that my kids will stick to even if we take it off course. Let me start by describing what our normal bedtime routine looks like:
It actually starts with dinner. Dinnertime at our house is 5:30pm. Every Sunday we eat at 5 because we’re with the grandparents (because we need to account for the time to drive home), and on ballet class days we eat about 15 mins later, but usually we eat at 5:30. At 6 or so, kids are done and baths begin. Twins get their baths first while Big Sis plays by herself or does something on her iPad, but I do baths pretty quickly so she will often stay in the bathroom to talk with us. After the little ones get lotioned, teeth brushed, and diapered/dressed, they go off to their room for stories with Mama while Big Sis soaps herself up. I sit with the twins to read one or two books (sometimes of my choosing, sometimes at their request) before putting them in their cribs and turning on their humidifier and night light. Then they get a last sip of water, tucked in, and lights off around 6:45. Big Sis gets help washing her hair, and she is out of the bathroom lotioned, teeth brushed, and hair dried by around 7. She puts on pajamas and joins me in the living room for stories or some other quiet activity (like Legos or puzzles or paper folding) with Mama. Her bedtime is usually 8pm, unless I know she’s had no nap or an especially long nap that day, then I will adjust it by a half hour either way. She doesn’t require tucking in anymore, so when time’s up she just grabs her blanket and goes to bed on her own.
I have to say that this structure pays off. From the time they were babies, my kids knew that bath time comes after dinner, and bedtime comes after bath time. It doesn’t matter that on weekends Daddy does some of the routine, because they’re always done the same way, in the same order. They know exactly what to expect, and will often ask for the next step in the routine at the end of the previous one. For example, when Baby Boy is finished eating, he will ask to get his bath. And after they get dressed, Baby Girl will run to choose a book for reading. They don’t always like going to bed, but they know when it’s coming, and lights-out means lie down.
Smooth as bedtime usually is, this doesn’t give us much leeway for any evening activities. Rarely do we commit to events that take place after 5pm. Every so often Big Sis gets to stay out later because her bedtime is later and her schedule less rigid now, but the vast majority of our evenings are spent with our comfortable routine.
This is why, when I decided to take the kids to Pretend City this week, I sort of had to force myself to accept any crazy meltdowns that may occur. Factoring the traffic coming home, I debated whether to leave at 3pm and be home for dinner, or have dinner there and stay later. Since we didn’t arrive until noon, I decided to stay late and have dinner with my brother who lives in the area before driving home. We stuck to the kids’ dinnertime and ate at 5:30pm. But it was 6:30 before we got on the road, and 7:30 before we got home, well past their usual bath time. However, I knew that with the half-nap they got on the car ride there, they would sleep some more on the way home (my kids all love to sleep in the car).
Which they did. When we got home, I immediately started the baths and gave them all back-to-back-to-back. Each kid sat in the bathroom half dressed while waiting for the others. I even read Goodnight Moon (nice and short!) with all 3 together. There were no meltdowns, and everyone promptly fell asleep when they got in bed at 8:10pm.
I don’t plan to do this often, but it’s nice to know that I could if required for something special. And it’s all thanks to such a well-defined bedtime routine.
lunchldyd is mom to 2.5yo b/g twins and their almost-5yo sister. She is also a part-time teacher.
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.
lunchldyd is mom to 19mo b/g twins and their 4yo sister. These toddler shenanigans are really keeping her on her toes!
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.
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.
Our 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.
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.
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.
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
allow to nurse for about 10-20 minutes
supplement with milk that was pre-pumped
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.
We come up with a new schedule: The Ideal Feeding Schedule
Ha. Like you have enough brain power to stick to that schedule! Think again, Batman!
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
2 AM: Feeding
5 AM: Feeding
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.
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.
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?
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?
My daughters are at a turning point. Being together 24/7 at age 7 as they more deeply explore their distinct interests is grating on each other. M loves to sing and J sometimes just wants her to stop humming. J likes to see the bright side or educational opportunity in every challenge, while M just wants to have the freedom to feel and express her frustrations.
I’d sent the girls off to get ready for bed Sunday when J flounced out of the bathroom and threw herself into my lap.
J: M’s annoying me. Sadia: Have you talked to her about it? J: Yes! And she won’t stop! Sadia: Just find somewhere else to be. J: silence Sadia: There are moments when I get frustrated. Sometimes the thing I do is go to a different room and do something distracting. J: I can’t do that. We’re sisters. We’re in the same place. You don’t get it. Being an adult is so easy. Sadia: hiding a smile Adulthood has its own challenges. You know, we do have an extra room. Do you want your own room? J: How would you fix the bed back together? Sadia: I was thinking you could sleep in the bed that’s already in the guest room. J: Yeah! I’ll do that tonight. Sadia: Oh! You need to let your sister know what’s going on so she’s not surprised.
I hadn’t anticipated J’s response. I thought that the idea of sleeping alone would horrify her, as it has done every time Daddy has brought up getting separate rooms. He and his sister were 13 months apart and in the same grade. He cherished the sanctity of his own space.
Five minutes later…
M: getting louder and louder But I don’t like sleeping by myself! J: M! It’s just for a month. M: Mommy, J says I’m annoying and she won’t sleep with me. Sadia: I know, honey. It’s like when you told her last night that she couldn’t sleep in your bed because she was annoying you. M: It’s not the same. I don’t like sleeping by myself. I only sent her to a bed in the same room. Who’ll sleep with me? Sadia: What if I sleep in your room? M: I guess. My bed. I need snuggles because I’m without my sister. J: It’s for a month, M. In one month I’ll try sleeping in your room if you’re not annoying. If you are annoying I’ll go back to my room for one more month.
With little fanfare, J went to bed in the guest room. We read a chapter of Little House on the Prairie together in J’s new bed. The girls said their prayers.
J: … Thank you, God, for giving me a mom who understands my needs…
The new arrangement lasted one night. In the car yesterday evening, J brought up having come to snuggle with us around 2:00 am when she was suffering a snuggle deficit. She reports our having had a conversation. I didn’t remember it at all. I didn’t think of my lack of memory as a big deal, but J interpreted it as “sleep talking”. She has an inexplicable terror of sleep walking. After many tears and endless attempts on her part to get me to remember the discussion and on my part to show that there was nothing wrong, she elected to sleep in M’s bed for comfort.
I wonder where she’ll decide to sleep tonight. At least she’s convinced that I understand her needs. From my perspective, it’s all a big fat mystery.
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, when the girls entered elementary school and also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.
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).
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.
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.
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.