Thursday, July 8, 2010

Sleeping advice: one twin is sleeping through, but the other is not...

Question from a CMOTC mom:

My twins are 4 1/2 mos now and one twin has been sleeping through the night since we decided to start letting her (instead of waking her when her twin woke up) about 4 wks ago. The other twin, however, is not even close. We went says he is now capable and that it was just a habit for him, and that we needed to start working on breaking him of it. So we started however, though he has proved he can make it through without a bottle, it is harder to get him to BACK to sleep without the bottle. At least then I was up no more than 30 minutes and then he would go back to sleep for 3 hrs. Last night, he went down at 8 pm and was up pretty much off and on all night from 10:30 pm -4:30 am.

We are still swaddling him, so I would re-swaddle and rock him and then lay him back down. He would sleep for a little bit and then wake up crying again. Any tips on how to break this? We haven't attempted just letting him cry it out because he's in the same room with the other twin who has been sleeping through the night and I don't want him to wake her. Advice??

Advice/experience from CMOTC moms:

I was worried about CIO b/c the boys were both in the same room, but they just get used to the other one crying. I think I just was too tired to go in there anymore. One was sleeping through the night about a month or so before the other. There were nights when one would be screaming enough to wake my husband and I up and the other would be sound asleep two feet away. I was amazed. It may take a few rough nights and they probably will wake each other up, but they should eventually get used to each other.


He may be ready to not be swaddled -- give it a try. He may get uncomfortable after a bit. We stopped swaddling at 2.5 months and switched to the sleep sacks, which if you need any, we have 4 of the small ones you can have. They are the summer weight and in cream.


It may be that he needs to learn to get himself back to sleep without your help, which usually means "crying it out." I had, and still have, a hard time letting them cry, but I learned to tell the difference between the "I'm hungry," "Something's wrong," and "I want someone with me" cry, although its not full-proof and it can change. My girl twin was the one for me that would have a hard time going to sleep at night and then occasionally waking up in the middle of the night. And that child has a voice on her! I was worried it would wake her brother, but he just slept through it all. When she did awake with the "I want someone with me cry", I would give her 10 minutes to settle down again, and 99% of the time she did. It is very hard to do, but if you don't, you will have a difficult time of it as your son gets older and won't settle down until you respond.

If I thought it was a more urgent sounding cry, i.e., "I'm hungry" or "Something's wrong", I always responded right away.

The only other thing I can think of that helped my two was to play a CD of lullabies when they went to bed (we still do that) or when they woke up. We also had a "Glow Worm" plush toy that when pressed played soft, music-only lullabies for 5 minutes that we placed near the crib.


I would say at 4.5 months, he is capable. But that does not necessarily mean he is willing!! Some babies take a lot longer to sleep though the night. Maybe try weaning him slowly. Like 2 bottles a night for awhile then down to one. Instead of none at all!! :)


Twins will often become accustomed to the others' crying & can often sleep right through it. I was doubtful of this, but my girls were co-bedded and there were many times when one would be screaming while the other would be sleeping peacefully right beside her. Very few times did the one wake the other.


Letting them "cry it out" always bothered me but when you are sleep deprived you become willing to try anything. I now believe it is in the babies' best interest to let them cry a little and learn how to self soothe and fall asleep. I know of people with young children who never learned this and believe me, they pay a high price!

Here's what we did:

When a baby woke: Offer paci, if that didn't do it, check comfort (too hot cold etc), check diaper, reswaddle, sing lullaby and rub belly (clockwise). We checked things in progression from least disturbing so we would not wake the baby up more if all she needed was a little soothing. Most times we wouldn't say anything except a quiet "shhh" then maybe a reassuring "mommy/ daddy is here" "you're OK". After each soothing attempt we left the room for a few minutes even if they were crying. Sometimes we saved the diaper for very last.

A few more things: We never turned the light on or played/cooed (kind of difficult when they give you those sweet smiles, but well worth it) with the girls. I tried to act as sleepy as I felt and would sometimes barely open my eyes. It was night-night time and we wanted them to know it! We also would not pick them up unless necessary for a diaper change.


Your little guy may be about to outgrow the swaddle. We had one baby who never liked the swaddle very much. We eventually swaddled her with her arms out and she liked that.

We used a blankie once the girls were big enough to roll over (check w/ your doc to make sure). People were always amazed that our girls would go to sleep just about anywhere with just a paci and blankie.


Just quick note back... I just let mine cry it out. Seems a little early for them to sleep through, I think at that age they could go 11:00 pm-5 or 6 am. Mine didn't wake each other. If you still fear this, as I sometimes did, I also had a pack-n-play set up in a large walk-in closet that I would often take one twin in to let him cry it out. He would go back to sleep. I put the sound machine (ocean waves in there). It was heart-breaking to allow them to cry, but they need to learn how to sleep and put themselves back to sleep.

They are now both great sleepers, and I personally think is is because I did not hold them in the night every time they cried.


First, do you have Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child? I loved that book. I actually had a friend give me the cliff notes when I had my oldest because he had colic and I was exhausted (since then I have read chapters that have pertained to what I needed). It worked well. For the twins,I felt it was more complicated. Same reason as you. One of the boys slept through the night before the other. You have to do what you feel is best. For example, the twin that wasn't sleeping through the night had feeding issues for 4.5 months until we figured it out. He was smaller too, so honestly, I cut him a break and just got up with him. He would, just like yours, go back to sleep right afterwards. But, I just wanted to do that for many reasons.

However, I did get to the point where I became a crutch to his sleeping. He didn't need food and neither one of us needed to get up. You have to be mentally ready to help him sleep. If you are, then you need to stop swaddling him and rocking him in the middle of the night. That is so comforting to them, he wants it. Who wouldn't? I love doing it for them myself. However, now he is at the point (if he doesn't need to eat), that he is waking up and can't get himself back to sleep so he wants you. Or he just wants you for comfort, swaddling or rocking. What's better than mom (or dad) holding you close? He needs to be able to self sooth, and since he can't swaddle himself (or any of the other things you do), you need to wean the swaddle and the other stuff.

So, this is where the mentally ready part comes in, you will need to start some sleep training. There are different methods. I did the intervals with my oldest and the twin that wasn't sleeping (the other twin just did it on his own). I let them cry for a few minutes, went in and comforted by standing at the side of the crib and rubbing his back, but never picked him up. Never spoke to him. YES, very, very hard. Then left. Waited five minutes, went in same thing. Waited 10 minutes, went in same thing. So on. I have to admit, especially with my first (because he was my first), I would roll up in the fetal position and stare at the clock and think that five minutes (or whatever interval we were up to) was hours and not minutes. I didn't love it. But after a week for him and just about two weeks for the twin (I think he took longer because he was a lot older than he should have been when I finally decided to do it), they were sleeping through the night.

Remember, he will be so much more happy once he is sleeping through the night. It's so painful (for me it was at least), to do it, but it's better for everyone.

Second, I was worried about the same thing - waking the other twin - I was really stressed about this. One of the many reasons I didn't force the other twin to sleep through for far too long. But, you just have to bite the bullet. She may wake up, she may not. Since they are used to each other, they get used to the sounds... even crying. Twins are amazing really. There were times when the one woke the other, but not always. You might be surprised. It is harder for twins, for sure. But doable. You have to be ready for a painful week or two, then it will be done and they'll both will sleep better.

Third, as the training goes on, you will notice that he will start to fall asleep quicker. Like, the first night is the worst. I think both mine that I trained cried for an hour and a half (and yes, I so cheated on my intervals and didn't space them out as much as some recommend... I am weak.... but it was what was right for me). The next day though, it was under an hour, then the next it was maybe 1/2 hour, and so on. It just dwindled down to where they cried for shorter periods of time before falling asleep. Then there was no crying. My twin (Oliver) took longer to dwindle down, but again, he was closer to nine months old (I know! I told you... that was crazy!). But he did it and though it took two weeks instead of one, it worked basically the same way.

Now, if you go a few days and he is crying the same amount of time or longer, then you need to stop. Maybe he isn't quite ready. I would still pick him up less though (if at all), just to get him used to no swaddling, not holding and no rocking which is what he desires to get himself back to sleep.

Fourth, we are all bonded very closely. There is no abandonment issues whatsoever. I hate it when people talk like that about this method. That said, you have to do what feels right to you. Again, I modified the method for me and went in more frequent intervals than what they said. Though, everything is adaptable to you and your children - adapt it to what works for all of you. Nothing should be so strict that you have to follow it to the tee. Well, unless what you are doing is negating it.


My experience was that the first few nights of "crying it out" they do wake each other, and then they learn to ignore it. It amazes me what my son can sleep through (my daughter is our tougher sleeper). One book that I found super helpful is called Sleeping Through the Night by Jodi Mindell, she is a nationally known sleep expert (and a really nice person, I knew her when I was in college.) She advocates a variation on cry it out that is super helpful, and also addresses sleep issues at all ages, so the book is useful until your kids are school age.


Were your twins similar - one slept through the night on their own, while the other still wakes up frequently? How did you handle it? Do you have advice/experience to add? Please share!


Post a Comment

Blog Widget by LinkWithin