Israeli sleep coach, Batya Sherizen is taking questions from Kveller readers. Send your problems to firstname.lastname@example.org
My husband and I have almost-10-month-old twins. They wake up repeatedly during the night. Often it’s easy to soothe them back to sleep. But sometimes one (or both) of them is just wide awake at 4am and it’s really hard to get them back to sleep. They start off the night around 8:30pm in their cribs. If someone wakes up before we are in bed, we rock him or her back to sleep and put them back in the crib. If they wake up after we are in bed, we just bring them into bed with us (we have a king size bed for this purpose). That used to solve the problem and they slept solidly the rest of the night. But more and more they are waking up even once they are in bed with us. I don’t know why and I don’t know how to get them back to sleep. We are not willing to let them cry (beyond a little kvetching), so that is off the table as a strategy.
Sounds like you have a tag team over there! It seems they are both waking so frequently at night due to the fact that they simply don’t know how to settle themselves to sleep. You can never spoil a baby, and all you can do is love them to pieces, but when push comes to shove they need to learn how to self-soothe in order for them to improve in their sleep habits.
You need to first ensure they’re not overtired by bedtime, and on a decent routine during the day that allows you to predict when their bodies are actually regulated to sleeping for the night. Below is a sample schedule that may help you:
7:00 – Wake and Breast milk or Formula
9:00 – Breakfast
10:00 or 10:30 – Morning Nap (at least 1 hour)
11:00 – Breast milk or Formula plus snack
1:00 – Lunch
2:00 or 2:30 – Early Afternoon Nap (at least 1 hour)
3:00 – Breast milk or Formula plus snack
5:00 – Dinner
6:15 – Begin bedtime routine, including Breast milk or Formula
7:00 –Bedtime (aim to have them both asleep by this time)
After ensuring their bodies are regulated, you can then move onto actually TEACHING them how to sleep. When working with multiples, it’s best if you can separate them so they don’t wake each other up. After a few weeks of their sleep improving, you can then move them back into the same room and allow them to get used to each other again.
Place each one in their crib/room at bedtime. Sit there with them for as long as it takes for them to fall asleep. They see you, hear you, and can even touch you to know that you’re there, but give them the secure, loving, but firm message that they need to learn to sleep on their own. Some protesting will be involved, but they will never feel alone or abandoned because you are right there with them! After 3-5 days, you can slowly become less involved in helping them fall asleep until you’re able to simply kiss and cuddle them, put them in their cribs, do your routine, and leave the room to let them drift off on their own. It’ll probably take about 2 weeks of hard work…but it’ll be worth it!