What Parents of Multiples Need

Sleep Solutions

If your multiples are sharing a room, let them get accustomed to it from the first night. "I worried that one baby's cries might awaken the others, so at the first peep I'd whisk the fussy baby out of the nursery," LaPadula says. "Big mistake! I was back and forth all night. Once I let them get used to each other's noises, they learned to settle themselves back to sleep."

Ideally, you should synchronize the babies' nap and nighttime schedule. It can take weeks, but hang in there. "Early on, when at least one baby was always awake during the day, life was constant chaos," LaPadula admits. "Finally, we instituted a schedule: breakfast at 8:00 a.m., nap at 10:00 a.m., lunch at noon, walk at 1:00 p.m. Now they never fuss about napping."

Establish a soothing nighttime ritual -- a quiet lullaby in the rocking chair, with the lights off -- that lets the babies know it's time to wind down. Then put them to bed at the same time. Make an exception, however, if your twins' sleep needs differ greatly. "Megan sleeps 12 hours, from 7:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m., but Jonathan just doesn't require as much sleep," McClanahan says. "If I put him to bed before 9:30, he'll be up before 5:00 a.m."

To stave off your own sleep deprivation, take advantage of any opportunity to get some shut-eye. Have your husband handle one nighttime feeding or at least the early-morning breakfast bottles on weekends. If you're nursing, have him bring the hungry babies to you in bed; when the feeding is over, he can change diapers and settle the infants back to sleep. During the day, nap when your babies nap, even if it's just a 20-minute snooze in the rocking chair. 

Or try this favorite strategy of mine: Whenever my twins were asleep in their car seats after an outing, I'd park in the driveway, recline my seat, and take a nap with them.

Whenever your new life seems crazy despite your best efforts, keep in mind that things will soon calm down. Moms of multiples almost all agree that the first year is the most demanding. "Life gets easier with each milestone -- getting over colic, sleeping through the night, spacing out feedings. By the time your babies start amusing each other, the initial phase will be over," Dr. Pearlman says. And remember: Your hands are fuller than most parents', but so is your heart.

Copyright © 2000 Emily Perlman Abedon. Reprinted with permission from the November 2000 issue of Parents magazine.

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