My last post was all about feeding, and so it only seemed fitting that this next one be about sleeping (because what else do they do?!). I have to say right off the bat that we are very lucky to have really good sleepers in our hands. It seems, from talking to my mama friends, that the norm is to have not so great sleepers especially when it comes to sleeping through the night. Looking back, I think it was because they went straight into the NICU after birth. They were put on a feeding schedule from the second they were born and so we didn’t struggle with the round the clock on demand feeding that I’ve heard about from my singleton friend moms. The other thing we ended up finding helpful (although it didn’t seem so at the time) was that the only times they came out of their incubators was to eat and snuggle with us when we were there. When we weren’t there the nurses fed them and put them back into the incubator so when they came home they were very used to being placed in their crib or rock n play to sleep. There was lots of snuggling, don’t get me wrong, and there still is! As hard as those two weeks in the NICU were, there were definitely some benefits we hadn’t considered until we came home. The NICU was literally like baby boot camp – the nurses showed us how to give baths, suction their noses, change diapers, make hand sanitizer part of the routine, and swaddle like pros (to name a few).
When we left the NICU they were eating every 4 hours (4am/pm, 8am/pm, & 12am/pm) and sleeping regularly although there was no rigid schedule per se. We were very fortunate to have my mom living with us during the first three months and her help was invaluable. The three of took shifts and by the time she left we were able to establish a great routine. During this time we rocked them to sleep and if they woke up, we would pick them up and rock them back to sleep. That’s what we chose to do because it broke my heart to hear them cry and I wanted to take advantage of every opportunity to soothe my babies. They are only this little once, and we don’t plan to have more babies.
Some of my biggest challenges and things learned during this time were:
- Figuring out bath time. Finding the right time to give baths was harder than I would have ever thought. We tried before feeding, but by the time I was done bathing both of them they were so hungry that they cried and screamed hysterically while I dressed them (which was hard enough already). Their witching hour seemed to be in the evening (7-8 pm) so I tried to bathe them then, but then that made dinner time for us insane. Trying to squeeze making and eating dinner, & bathing and feeding them was overwhelming and extremely stressful. Finally I thought, who cares when they get a bath, they are probably too little to establish a routine anyway so I started bathing them in the afternoon (2-3 pm) after I fed them. I waited about 15-25 minutes after they finished eating. This made more sense for us. I could take my time with both of them and that made it way more enjoyable for everyone. Don’t get hung up on routine or when you think you should do bath time like I did! Do what makes sense for you and your family.
- Suctioning nose. This was a nightmare for me, especially with Cali. At the NICU they had this machine that would suction all their snot out in a flash but at home it was a completely different story. The ball suctioning device from the hospital wore out and the NoseFrida nasal aspirator wasn’t doing it. I wanted to cry every time Cali got stuffed up. Poor little thing couldn’t eat! Finally I figured out that the problem was I wasn’t using enough saline drops in their nose before suctioning. It’s so dry here in Denver, and she needed at least 3 drops in each nostril. The Little Remedies saline drops were terrible, they didn’t work at all and the saline came gushing out. These CLEARinse ones were by far my favorite and the same ones they used at the hospital. The drops really loosened everything up and I was able to suction with no problem. Now I love the NoseFrida!
- Finding the perfect swaddle. OMG the dreaded swaddle! They needed it, but there was never a good time to put it on. Swaddling before feeding seemed cruel, and doing after would wake them up. Then there was the Cali, the swaddle Houdini, and the super loud and ridiculously strong velcro. It’s funny to think about it now but such a big ordeal in the moment. Needless today, I spent a lot of money and time trying to figure out the best solution. The two that worked best was the “super swaddle” technique I found on YouTube (look it up!), and the Anna & Eve arms only swaddle. I would interchange between these two and finally when it was time to transition I used the Merlin’s Magic Sleepsuit and that worked out great.
- Breastfeeding. As many of us have heard, breastfeeding is one of the most difficult things to do as a mom. I tried to prepare as much as possible but nothing can really prepare for you for any of this. I really wanted to breastfeed but my supply didn’t come in as abundantly as I had hoped so we chose to give them donor breast milk at the hospital in addition to any and all I could provide. We transitioned them over to Baby’s Only Whey formula before we left the NICU which was seamless (thank God!), and a close friend gave us some frozen breast milk as well. At home I continued to pump, and would give them that first but my supply still wasn’t enough and I cried A LOT because I felt like a failure that I couldn’t provide my babies with all the milk they needed. It was one of the hardest times of my life. At about a month in, I went to see a lactation consultant and she told me that my supply had come in (I was pumping anywhere between 1-3 oz total per session) but that in order to increase it and establish my supply, I had to pump every 3-4 hours for two weeks. I just didn’t know if I could handle this. The inner debate was an endless battle… I would break out in tears every time I tried to talk to Chad or my mom about it. In the end, I decided that it wasn’t something I could physically and emotionally handle. I had a tough recovery and I needed to get rest, and it would also mean less time with my babies, more time pumping. I also really needed all the help I could I get and the thought that I would potentially have to do all the feedings on my own terrified me. Still though, I pumped and breast fed until they were about 3 months old and supplemented with formula. I felt guilty for a long time after I stopped breastfeeding, probably up until they were 6 months old. My OB later informed me that because of some serious complications during delivery (which I’ll talk about on another future post), establishing my milk supply would be extra difficult. This did make me feel better, and I’m OK with my decision now because I have two healthy baby girls and that’s all that matters. Fed is best!
- Trying to relax. If I could go back in time and tell myself one thing, it would be relax, take a deep breath, and don’t stress so much. Let go! I was so wound up, and worried, and yes I’m sure it’s normal but I could have let go a tiny bit and it would have gone a loooong way. This is the one thing I have to consistently remind myself to do in life!
One night after my mom left, Chad and I were so tired we slept through a midnight feeding and so did the girls! Each night we would just let them sleep as long as they wanted and each night it got longer and longer until they slept through the night. We started feeding solids around this time too so I think that helped get rid of those feedings. During these months we also went to Miami to visit family and get the girls baptized. It was the first time traveling so we were nervous but the girls did great. As far as sleep goes, we tried to keep them on the same schedule but it was hard to do on vacation so we did the best we could. They still seemed so little to me to be so rigid, and they were meeting so many new family members, sleeping in pack n plays in a different place and trying new foods so I honestly didn’t want to make it harder on them by forcing a sleep schedule.
So much happened during these months! Right after 4th of July weekend we decided it was time for them to move into their cribs. They had been sleeping in rock n plays in our room which they had outgrown, they no longer needed swaddles, and they consistently slept through night. We felt like it was the right time and we were comfortable with them sleeping in a separate room. What was the baby monitor for after all?! I think it makes more sense to break it out so here is what what we did and what happened.
- Transitioning to sleeping in cribs overnight. Cali and Gianna had already proven they could sleep through the night (7-7) so our challenge was to get them to fall asleep and stay asleep in their cribs in the same room. Way harder than it sounds. We also chose to take Cali’s pacifier away cold turkey because every time it came out she would start crying until we put in back and it was a vicious and exhausting cycle. On July 5th, 2017 we started our version of the “crying it out” method and it was the first night they slept in their cribs overnight. I’m sure this version has a name but since there’s so many these days, I don’t know it. Our version went like this… we placed our drowsy babies in their own cribs, and they started crying almost immediately. We quickly walked out and started the timer for 5 minutes before going back in and soothing. Honestly, I don’t remember if we picked them up or not. I think it depended on their level of hysteria. Next time we waited 10, then 15, then 20, etc. If they didn’t cry for 3 minutes straight, then we would restart the timer. The first night this went on for the longest TWO HOURS of my life! The worst thing was that they would wake each other up during all the crying. The next day we did the same thing and they cried for an hour and a half. It probably took about two weeks for them to cry/whine for 5 minutes or less (sometimes no crying at all) and just fall asleep. It was excruciatingly painful for us to hear them cry and it pretty much dominated our existence for those two weeks, but in the end it was totally worth it for us. We were able to get our room and our dinner time back, and life finally started to feel more manageable. Most importantly, everyone started to get some good, well deserved rest.
- Teething, regressions, developmental leaps, oh my! You never get that nice little break in between these milestones with twins because one of them is always going through one. They are rarely on the same stage at the same time so I am constantly dealing with it two fold or back to back (IDK what’s worse). All of these affect their sleep tremendously and differently so I never really knew, (or know for that matter) which one was the true culprit for one of them waking up in the middle of the night. One that I didn’t see coming is that phase where they learn to stand up by pulling themselves up with something. This was mind blowing, especially for Gianna. She just didn’t want to lay down and go to sleep. All she wanted to do was stand up in her crib! It was so exhausting and for a good second I felt like all the work we had done had been a waste. I guess Cali wasn’t that mind blown because it didn’t phase her as much. In my opinion, this is what made this age so challenging. All we could do was be patient, caring, understanding, and loving and try our best to maintain a consistent bedtime routine. My advice is to choose a routine that works for your family and stick to it (as much as possible). Don’t get hung up on what you read on baby apps. This is the perfect time to do some trial and error and find what works. Be kind to yourself, be flexible, and get to know your baby or babies.
- Naps. During these months they were taking 3 naps pretty consistently. We chose to have them nap in separate rooms but sleep in the same room overnight. This was mostly because (I believed) if they got good rest during the day, then they would be more willing to go to sleep at night with less of a fight. Since they were sleeping so well at night I didn’t make nap schedules super strict. What I did do though, was make sure that I fed them at the same time (I did wake them up to eat if I had to), and I let the naps fall into place. A strict nap schedule didn’t work for our lifestyle either. We traveled again during this time and went out of the country so we wanted them to learn to nap in a stroller, car seat, with light, with noise, and of course in pack-n-plays. When we were home, I took them on lots of stroller rides to the park and we made it a point not to make our schedule revolve around their sleep schedule. Instead we brought them along to BBQs, family friendly festivals, and other fun outings (we needed a social life too). Yes, there were times when this was hard and stressful but babies are resilient and they adjust so quickly. Another plus is you end up with very social babies!
Although we had already established a bedtime routine around 5+ months these were the months where it seemed crucial to maintain consistency, and where it really paid off. At our house we like to have dinner together first, then give the girls a bath at the same time (watching them play in the tub is the best!), massage with lavender lotion, get their PJs on, feed them their night time bottle, goodnight blessings, and then to sleep they go. I would say 80-90% of the time we are able to keep our routine, the other 10-20% we are flexible and do the best we can. One thing I learned was to plan! If I knew there was even a remote possibility that we would not make it home for our bedtime routine, I would pack some PJs and their lavender lotion and do massages and put on their PJs where ever we were. Then I would give them their bottle in the car on the way home and that way we could transfer straight to crib when we got home. This helped a ton and made going out less stressful. Transferring from the car to crib worked the majority of the time, and thanks to all the travel and flexible napping practice, they transferred really easily. If we going out late, we would start bedtime routine at home, leave with PJs on, and feed in the car on the way to our destination. Then they would sleep in their strollers or pack n plays, depending on where we were going, and we would do the transfers to and from car to crib as needed. Sometimes we would have to feed again when we got home. This mostly happened on vacation, during holidays, and other special events like birthdays and was not the norm at all.
Naps. The biggest change here was transitioning from 3 to 2 naps during the day. They were really good about giving me hints they were ready. Like I had mentioned before, I always feed them at the same time and this helps keep their naps regular. Of course there were days, maybe even weeks, when they were in different stages of the transition and we were all cranky and tired but everyday we would wake up, reset, and try it again. We adjusted feeding times and bed times as needed but our bedtime routine remained the same, and that was key.
First Stomach Flu, Cold and Fever. We spent the holidays in Miami so again we were away from home for 3 weeks during these months. Before we left they both got the stomach flu back to back and took turns sleeping with us on those nights where they were throwing up non-stop. Then in Miami they both got colds and 102 fevers back to back and slept with us then too. Sick nights were the worst because I felt so helpless and all I wanted to do was take their pain away. On those days & nights I just managed and let them sleep however, whenever they wanted. Once they recovered and/or we got back from traveling, we would get back on our schedule and for the first few days they would fight going to sleep but eventually they would get back on track and it has never been as bad as those two weeks in July.
After the transition to 2 naps completely happened, this is the schedule we try to maintain on a regular basis:
- 7-8 AM Wake Up
- 8 AM 6 oz of formula/milk
- 9 AM Breakfast
- 11 AM 8-10 oz of formula/milk
- 11:30-1 PM Nap #1
- 1 PM Lunch
- 3:30 PM 6-8 oz of formula/milk
- 4-5:30 PM Nap #2
- 5:30 PM Snack
- 7 PM Dinner
- 7-8 PM Bath/Bedtime
I am hoping that we keep this schedule for a while longer because it’s been working great for us but I know soon they will transition to one nap, molars will come in, more developmental leaps will happen and the tantrums will start. For now I’m sticking to no more guilt, just survive!