Twinfant Tuesday: Naps

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Categories Ask the Readers, Frustration, Infants, Napping, Parenting, Parenting Twins, Twinfant TuesdayTags , ,

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 😮

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

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RebeccaD has 8 month old fraternal twin boys, R and M. She’s a teacher-turned-SAHM in San Francisco who loves dance, quilting, and geeking out over DIY projects. Having twins is challenging her perfectionism in the best possible way.

5 thoughts on “Twinfant Tuesday: Naps”

  1. Oh my! You do have quite the quandary.

    First, I have to commend you for trying all the things you’ve tried, and for knowing your kids so well. I’m so glad that you’re getting some relief from your husband during the summer. It’s precisely this sort of challenge that made me happily choose to keep working outside the home (not that there was a financial alternative).

    On the practical front, you summarize the issue very wisely as “they need two different kinds of individual attention, and they need it at the exact same time.” Obviously, you can’t change the individual aspect of it, but what about the “same time” piece. Is there any way you could have them nap in different rooms so you can soothe them one at a time? Could one of them hang out in a crib or other safe space with some toys while you put the other down for his nap?

    It worked for us to have each girl’s crib be a super safe place I could put her down for a while. If I absolutely had to do something, I could afford to remove my attention from the babies without putting them in danger. Of course, I had the world’s easiest naptime kids until they completely gave up napping at 2. At daycare, my daughters were required to look at books quietly while their peers slept FOR YEARS.

    1. Hahaha! I dread the day Toddler no longer takes a nap. But if her mother is any indication, that will continue long into her adulthood. =)

  2. I can SO hear you on this! When our son was 4 months old, I was able to do the “lay him down and walk away method” and he actually went to sleep! Happily! Of course, that is when Zoe came home and proceeded to scream the house down for three months. Whatever! 😉

    Now, Zoe goes down in a crib that we have set up in our bedroom just for naps. And Isaiah sleeps in their room for naps. They both do great at going down in the same room at bedtime(Yes, they talk, play, throw binkies at each other until they fall asleep…but, it works)! But, not for naps!

    Small aside, that, of course, is the next big transition for us! Moving Isaiah to his own room should be interesting!

    Anyway, for all of the same reasons you mentioned, they have never been able to nap in the same room. We ended up having to do the “put them down and walk away” in spite of some crying…each kid went through a different phase with that. And, Isaiah, more than once…each time we just stuck it out with the “go in and lay him back down, say nite nite and leave” thing. But, in the end, I arrived at the same conclusion that you have…I am a much better, happier, healthier, kinder, gentler and more patient mother when I get some much needed time to myself! It is a NEED. Given the additional need to keep up with everything else in our lives and home…nap time is it, folks!

    Confession here, one discovery I have made as mom to a kid with sensory(read screaming) issues…earplugs. I’ve been known to use them when I know for a fact that my child is healthy, not hungry, but definitely tired and bent on staying awake. Of course, mine are older than your little ones…and I know there are folks who think that is horrible. But, seriously, this is survival man! And, usually…if I can keep myself from going back IN there…he stops pretty quickly. Earplugs(and a video monitor) were the only way I could keep myself from going back in…

    Now, most days, I can lay them both down, wide awake, and leave each room to quiet(most of the time)…as I mentioned, I have a video monitor, and sometimes I feel guilty if someone wakes up early and I don’t go get them right away…but, if they are happy, I don’t. They are down at noon…and up at 2 or 2:30pm(depending on whether or not they are still asleep!) I am a firm believer in having a quiet time, even if they don’t choose to sleep! In our home, the kids are not the only ones who need a solid routine to be nice! 😉 Hang in there mama!

  3. Yes, I agree with separating them. I had to do that too, until they both learned how to sleep without my help. And it’s horrible to do, but sleep training is NECESSARY for their healthy sleep habits and your healthy wellbeing. Once in a while, Baby Girl still messes with Baby Boy’s sleep, but they’re not too bad about ignoring each other now. And I’ve noticed that it’s better to wake one when the other’s awake anyway, at least within about 10-15 minutes of each other, so the rest of the day doesn’t go haywire.

    It really is hard work that requires the ultimate dedication. Good luck! I hope you get your sleep at night soon too :(

  4. My little ones are four and a half months now. For the first four months of life, they would only nap if we bounced them on exercise balls for the entire nap. We tried nap training once at 3 months, but they were not ready for it, so we continued with the bouncing method. Once my husband went back to work at 4 months (we were lucky that he had a long paternity leave), we tried nap training again, and this time, the kids were ready for it. Now, I put them down to nap drowsy but awake. Sometimes, they are happy to be in their cribs until they fall asleep, not making a peep. Other times, they will shout or “talk,” but they don’t sound unhappy. Sometimes, they do some protest crying, but only for a couple of minutes. My nap time routine is to rock and sing to each baby for about a minute, then put her into the crib.

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