Two mouths to feed plus two bottoms to wipe plus two little ones to soothe to sleep can make for two shell-shocked parents. "Getting infant twins on the same sleep and feeding schedules is key to staying sane," says Shelly Vaziri Flais, M.D., author of the American Academy of Pediatrics' book Raising Twins: From Pregnancy to Preschool. Dr. Flais speaks from experience: Her identical twin sons are now 9 years old. But when her boys were babies, she tried to keep a set routine. "I found it made everyone happier--my husband and me, the boys' caregivers, even the boys--if life was a bit regimented," Dr. Flais says. It's true that infants often operate on their own time, but there are ways to get them in sync. Here's how.
Follow the hospital's lead. If your babies spend time in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), the nurses will get them on a feeding and sleeping schedule that you can continue once you are all home. But even healthy, full-term twins typically spend two to three days at the hospital, and during that time, the nursing staff will get them on a schedule. Before you leave the hospital, ask a nurse to write down your babies' feeding and sleep routines so you can follow it at home. Still, for the first six to eight weeks, you need to follow your babies' hunger cues and feed the little ones as frequently as they need.
Wake that sleeping baby! Whoever said "Never wake a sleeping baby" clearly wasn't taking care of multiple babies at once. "If one baby wakes in the middle of a night for a feeding, wake the sleeping sibling and feed him too," Dr. Flais says. Failing to heed this advice only negatively affects you. "There's a temptation to think, 'Maybe the sleeping one will sleep all night if I leave him alone,'" Dr. Flais says. "But what tends to happen is that the second baby wakes up an hour or so after you've taken care of the first baby." Then you're on an ugly cycle: tending to the needs of one baby just an hour before the other baby needs the same care.
Keep track of feedings, diapers, and sleep time. Channing Kelly, of Albuquerque, New Mexico, made sure that she and her twin sons' caregivers wrote down the time and duration of the boys' sleep time, how many ounces of formula or breast milk they consumed and when, and diaper changes, including whether the diaper was wet or soiled. "By keeping all of the caregivers up-to-date I was able to keep the kids' routines more consistent, which ultimately helped to get them onto the same schedule and stay there," Kelly says. This information also comes in handy at your children's well-care visits.
Roll with the changes. Disruptions are a part of life, and although it's best to minimize interruptions to your children's schedules (don't plan outings that conflict with nap time), changes in babies' routines are sometimes inevitable. For instance, sleep or feeding patterns can get out of whack when one baby is sick or you're traveling to visit relatives. "When your baby is well or you're back home, use the 'wake a sleeping baby' method to get your two little ones back in sync again," Dr. Flais suggests.
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