When it comes to advice on how to get multiples on manageable sleep schedules, there are as many opinions as there are experts ... who don't agree on much besides this: It's smart to get all your babies on the same sleep schedule so that Mom and Dad have the best chance at getting some rest, too. Sounds good, but how do you do it?
If you can get your babies eating together, a shared sleep schedule usually follows, says George Cohen, M.D., editor of the American Academy of Pediatrics Guide to Your Child's Sleep and clinical professor of pediatrics at George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C.
"It's worth a try, even in the first few weeks, to give a little push toward a schedule by waking your other baby or babies to feed together after the first baby has woken on her own," Dr. Cohen advises. "Usually, though, you can’t start to get serious about a sleep schedule until at least 6 to 8 weeks of age — for preemies, 6 to 8 weeks corrected age."
Building Healthy Habits
There's no difference between multiples and singletons when it comes to laying a foundation for healthy sleep. In the earliest days, your babies may fall asleep at the bottle or breast once their bellies are full. But within the first four to six weeks it's important to start putting them down drowsy, not already dosing, so that babies learn to fall asleep on their own. If you see one baby threatening to nap prematurely, you might employ some extra cuddling and attention to help her stay awake until it's time to nap with the other(s).
During naps, don't tiptoe around the house speaking in hushed voices, or block out every last bit of light. Babies can and should learn to sleep regardless of the activity. (This will also make it easier to be mobile with your babies, should they need to occasionally catch a nap on the go.)
At night, change the environment to one that promotes longer rest. Infuse your bedtime ritual with calming activities — give your babies a warm bath, play soothing music, read them a book, give hugs and kisses, then place them in bed. Don't dwell in the nursery once the babies are laid down, even if there's crying.