Sleep Training Twins

The thing is, I hate it.  I hate it the very most when I finally am on the ropes, tapping out, screaming “UNCLE”, waving a white flag, surrendering and have no plan for what to do next. Especially at 3:00 AM.  The early AM hours bring out a special intense version of me-as-a-knuckle-head, just wondering if there’s someone who will please be in charge of this family just until 7 AM when I can resume my regularly scheduled duties.  Sheppard and Smith are not particularly bad sleepers.  It’s just that they’re not all that predictable.  Some nights, they’ll wake up twice, I’ll nurse them, and they’re down for the count.  Then some nights, they’re wanting to get up every 1 1/2 hours, bright-eyed and ready to party.  I do love a good party.  But I do not love the party that happens when I put them back in their cribs and they rebel-yell for two or more hours.  No, that is not my kind of party.  And that is exactly the party we had on Wednesday night, which was following a similar Tuesday night party and by Thursday morning I was having a baby-party hangover in the worst way.

Whaddya mean you're tired? WE ARE NOT TIRED!

So.  I finally reached out to Natalie Diaz, a parenting professional, whom I had met in the nursing lounge/sex shop of the Brooklyn Baby Expo.  Natalie runs Twiniversity which is a website I joined early on in my pregnancy so I could get an eyeful of what parents of twins talk about. Now, if you know me and let’s face it you do know me I’m an open book, or at least an open website – anyway, asking for help is not my strong suit.  But I emailed Natalie and asked a dumb question which she used her super decoder ring to reply thusly:

I know what you are going through and you are a trooper woman, you will be totally fine! You’ve been through this before and this is just twice as hard, but no different.
If you want, you can give me a call today and I can walk you through what to do tonight if you like. I’ve coached 100′s of parents on how to get their monkeys to sleep.
I’m here for ya woman! Use me!

Bath nap. Not recommended by experts.

And this is the moment that love bloomed.  She wasn’t promising results for a fee, advice for a dime, or support for some cash. Nope. This here other mother of twins was simply offering help to a stranger. And. Then I took what felt like my first breath of the day. To have someone just tell me I’m doing it wrong or I’m doing it right or even that I’m in the ballpark of hope, that’s all I needed. We talked.

Natalie presented a plan for me. It is a simple plan, one that she’s seen work, and then told me to run it by my pediatrician. I was a little “Meh” on calling the doc, but Nat emphasized that I should do that.  She told me that in the wee hours of the morning, as the babies are crying, I’m going to wonder if what I’m doing is ok.  And if the doc has told me that medically it’s ok, that’s going to stop me from second-guessing myself. She was, of course, absolutely correct. I called my doc who didn’t even skip a beat before she said to go for it, it is 100% fine. The babies are ok to go.

So what’s the plan? Cutting out the night feeding. My boys are asleep in their crib every night by 7. They wake up to be fed usually around 11.  Then maybe 1 or 2, and then again around 5.  Nat advised me to cut out the feedings after 11/11:30, letting them sleep until 7 am. So at 11pm, Anson goes in, changes their diapers, then hands them off to me for a “dream feed”.  She said that it’s better if we wake them than to wait for them to cry – further enforcing that crying doesn’t get them picked up/nursed at bedtime. So I give them a big feed, trying to keep them as asleep as possible, hand them back to Anson, who puts them in their safe little cozy cribs, and that’s it for the night.  No more feeds, pick ups, pats, songs, rocks, fretting or hand-wringing, you dig?  I do.  I dig.

And the thing that surprised me the most – Natalie assures me that the babes can smell me – smell my milk. And that me sleeping in the room with them is probably keeping them up when they wake up at night. So another part of this plan is me getting out of dodge while we re-program our little bots. So I’m on the couch for the next little bit.

And last night was our maiden voyage.  I have to admit that I felt tremendous guilt, knowing they would wake, and probably cry their little strong hearts out for a long time .  But even knowing that, I allowed myself a little bit of pleasure knowing I’d be on the couch where I could not hear them, and sleeping the longest stretch I have been allowed to sleep in five months. I did of course stupidly wake up a few times and turn on the monitor – just to hear a report – and did hear some rather emphatic wailing a few times.  Tonight, I am giving the monitor to Anson to hide from me. No sense. I am dumb.

Natalie said her hope for me is that they will be sleeping through the night by Monday.  That is quite a hope, is it not? And I can do this hard time with that hope. I know the babies probably think I suck the most right now. But when they’re getting a nice stretch of uninterrupted sleep, I have a feeling they’re going to be happier, I’m going to be happier, and that makes for a happy family.

Do we look unhappy to you?

I’ll let you know how it goes – until then – please let me know how and when and what kind of results you’ve gotten with sleep training techniques. I love hearing that I’m not alone in these here woods.

[Reminder: This is obviously a hot-button issue.  So many great parents, so many great parenting philosophies and beliefs.  I honestly enjoy reading about other people's experiences and opinions, and appreciate each one that takes the time to leave a comment.  Just remember to be respectful of each other.  Play nice.  Feel free do disagree with me, or anyone here - but do it in a way that is constructive. Name-calling and other nastiness doesn't have a place here. Thanks!]

84 thoughts on “Sleep Training Twins

  1. Lori is clearly uneducated on the matter. Apparently she needs to take some intimacy lessons from some of us co-sleeping mamas because it sounds like we’ve got more exciting sex lives than she does! No, it doesn’t always have to happen in a bed. No, there’s not always a kid between us. No, we don’t go to bed at 7. And no, most of us don’t go on vacation (without our children) because when you have a child, that’s a sacrifice you make. Even if my son was sleeping in his own crib, I would NOT be leaving him to go on vacation.

    My DH and I are closer than we’ve ever been and have been co-bedding with my son for 2 years. Leaving a baby to cry it out is NOT healthy, no matter how you want to justify it. They don’t stop crying because they “learn that they can soothe themselves.” They stop crying because they go into survival mode and realize that mom has “abandoned” them. Regardless of what many want to think, a 5 month old does not realize you are “only” in the next room. Nor do they understand why they might be hungry/wet and mom doesn’t answer to their cries. There is a biological reason that leaving your baby to cry rips at your heart
    It’s because it’s WRONG. Period.

  2. Well we all choose our own hill to die on.

    The sleep thing? Actually not a Big Deal. Baby’s gonna cry no matter what because babies keep being such crybabies, generation after generation.

    But they can learn to stop and sleep instead and turn out awesome.

    Or get lotsa snacks all night and turn out awesome.

    And then later they take all your coolest clothes and someday your cutest bra and even your ’80s music. (My hill to die on.)

    Now. More deets on the sex life, co-sleepers! I am your student.

  3. Another reason not to sleep train a baby to sleep through the night. Waking in the night is how babies *survive*. Night-waking is normal and GOOD for babies!

    http://www.drmomma.org/2010/01/night-waking-protects-against-sids.html

    BTW, I’m really curious. All those mothers here who are for CIO, training babies to sleep through the night and against co-sleeping or sleep-sharing…. Have you read any of the research available on baby sleep? What do you think of it? Do you think it’s a load of bunk or that the researchers are biased and, if you think they are, why do you think they are? I’m truly curious. For me, it just seems so hard to refute cold hard fact. On the other hand, personally, I’m never comfortable with giving advice on controversial subjects when I haven’t informed myself with all the information available first. I’d truly like to know what you have read and how you still come to the conclusions you do (ie., sleep sharing is not OK and CIO is).

  4. Holy smokes, people! As my 5 year old son says, “Chill out, chill out.” There is just no right or wrong way to do this sleep thing. However, for the cry it out haters I just have one thing to say: don’t knock it till you’ve tried it!

    As for you, Jodi, I hope you and all your boys are finally getting some good sleep.

  5. I have to say, I had a funny feeling that this post was going to get a lot of people on different sides of the fence in a tizzy. But at the end of the day, it’s OK to have differing opinions. It’s OK if what works for me doesn’t work for you. It’s OK to ask for suggestions/opinions and then use them or discard them at your discretion.

    It just makes me feel sad that because one(or many) people disagree on a technique, that it has to become a heated debate where it seems like people are quick to insult. Kind of like breast vs. bottle, or spanking vs no spanking. Why does everyone feel like their way is the best/only way? Why don’t moms agree to disagree then just be there to help them through?

    While I may or may not agree with Lori, I’d like to think that she loves her kids and decided what was right for her family after careful thought. Most Moms have instincts that lead them to do what is right for TREIR babies. Which isn’t necessarily the same as what is right for YOUR baby.

    Judging each other is kind of crappy in my opinion. I think Jodi was looking for opinions, not judgement.

    I am a mother of four, so I am not speaking without experience. All babies are not the same. My oldest slept through the night in her own crib (in my room)at six weeks without ever waking to be fed or snuggled. She also ended up hopping in bed with me (when she was old enough to hop)til she was about 8 years old, every night. She quit on her own. It never bothered me. My middle and youngest daughters were/are also great sleepers, and I felt very grateful that I got decent sleep when they were little. My son, on the other hand, had a rough time.

    I tried the CIO method with my son on the advice of other moms and my pediatrician, and it didn’t work for me/him. He needed me, I couldn’t leave him to sob himself to sleep. Now, as a 13 yo, he sleeps like a log — in his own bed. In fact, he started sleeping through the night (in his crib)with no feedings when he was ready (before he was 1). I admit that it was exhausting getting up in the night to rock/feed him, but it was also a great feeling knowing that I was there to comfort him. That what I was doing was right for him. Also, I knew that there was an end in sight. But I had a husband who helped me, and I didn’t have to get up to go to work either. So maybe it was easier becasue of that. BUT, I am not going to sit here in judgement of other mothers who make the decision to CIO.

    So either way Jodi, I hope it works out for you! If not, I would try the co-sleeping thing for a bit — it might be easier than actually getting up several times a night. Like some of the other moms who have commented, my sister breast fed (and co-slept) and she said she barely woke up herself during the feedings, and everyone slept great.

  6. Laurie says “There is just no right or wrong way to do this sleep thing.”

    When something causes another person harm, it’s wrong. Sorry. All many of us here are trying to do is let mums who think CIO is harmless know that that unfortunately isn’t true. That’s not our opinion, it’s just a fact.

    Opinion: Leaving a baby to “cry it out” won’t hurt him.
    Opinion: Babies do not need mothering at night.
    Opinion: Babies should learn to sleep through the night.
    Opinion: Babies can be trained to sleep through the night.

    Proven Fact: Leaving a baby to “cry it out” can do actual physical and psychological harm.

    Proven Fact: Babies need mothering day and night. They do not run by the clock.

    Proven Fact: Babies are not biologically programmed to sleep through the night for survival purposes. Some can, most cannot.

    Proven Fact: Babies cannot be trained to sleep through the night, they can only be taught that they are helpless and alone and no amount of crying or need will bring the person they need most. Babies can only be trained to give up.

    This isn’t an argument of opposing opinions. This is an argument where opinion on one side refuses to acknowledge the actual research on the other side.

    For those who believe CIO is perfectly fine and safe, please, please, PLEASE show us the research that backs these opinions. Provide us with more than “well, I did it and my child(ren) turned out fine”. It’s just not compelling enough evidence to convince me that all the research out there (telling us that sleeping through is unnatural and possibly harmful to babies and that CIO is harmful) is wrong. Simply because you don’t see how it did your child any harm.

    If CIO is harmless, please show us the research! In the meantime, take a look at the above link citing the research on SIDS in reference to sleep-sharing and night waking.

    Laura, your sage advice “don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it” isn’t really a compelling argument, don’t you think? Have you ever tried giving your baby sleep-inducing drugs or alcohol to get him to sleep through the night? Yeah, yeah, I know there are people out there that say it could be harmful to the baby but hey, don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it!!!! Right?

  7. What can I say that has not been said……..wow. Not to keep stirring the pot, but I say that you are on the right track with your original post…and that is a really good idea. I am not a fan of co sleeping nor nursing your baby/toddler in “dream states”. This is just very odd. A person I know that is a part of a co sleeping family was telling me the only problem she has is that her 2 year old latches onto her in the middle of the night which is FINE with her except when he bites her too hard because he is sleeping….and she doesnt really even know he is ummmm “nursing” because she was sound asleep. I am really sorry all of you co sleeping/nursing beyond what is nutritionally necessary people………I think letting your baby cry for 10 to 15 minutes is so much less harmful then all that. I’m just sayin. Jodi…..you are doing a wonderful job and from what it seems, you should not be second guessing. Everyone has a different solution and what works best for you and your family is just exactly what you should do……co sleeping or not co sleeping……..everyone has a choice and may everyone find peace with that choice :)

  8. I just want to know about the seats you have in the tub! I saw them, with your adorable boys, in the pictures and I immediately started trying to figure out where they came from! Hahahaa!
    I had twin girls seven weeks ago. I came across your blog recently and read everything posted. Many of the things you and others suggested, we did with my oldest daughter. We didnt have to do any cio because she was a good sleeper…we found other things that helped like swaddling, the swing, and white noise.
    We had her in a pack and play in our room until she was four months old…the twins will be in our room until they sleep through the night, and then we will get them into their nursery.

  9. ” There is a biological reason that leaving your baby to cry rips at your heart
    It’s because it’s WRONG. Period.”

    Amen, sistah!

  10. It’s Monday and I am dying to know how it went. Oh, and on the experience level, we did the same thing with our one baby, Otto. The minute we took away his 11 pm feed and kept my boobies away from his room and down the hall, he slept through the night. It changed our lives. Okay, so my husband had to stand in front of the door and not allow me in when Otto cried at 2 a.m. but we got through it without dueling pistols (that’s in honor of you, J) and karate chops. Congrats on the next step! You are my hero in every sense!

  11. Joan says “I am really sorry all of you co sleeping/nursing beyond what is nutritionally necessary people………I think letting your baby cry for 10 to 15 minutes is so much less harmful then all that. I’m just sayin.”

    Great post, Joan. Um…what exactly are you basing your “just sayin” on?

    Oh, and Joan, you don’t have to take my word for it that co-sleeping and extended nursing are GOOD for babies and toddlers and that CIO is physically and psychologically harmful. Really. You can read the scientific evidence for yourself. Or not. I mean, personally, I prefer to inform myself on a subject before spouting off in public about it, but hey, that’s just me! ;-)

    <<<<<<>>>>>>>> Why won’t the CIO fans just show us the research??????

  12. “nursing beyond what is nutritionally necessary”… Wow, seriously? The WHO recommends breastfeeding until at LEAST the age of two (and beyond if desired by mother and child). Breastmilk is the best source of nutrition for baby and is FAR superior to anything and everything else. Breastfeeding past the age of 1 year is normal. Feeding your baby breastmilk alternatives at 1 year is NOT.

    Im not understanding your logic when you say that “letting baby cry for 10 or 15 minutes” is “less harmful than nursing beyond what is nutritionally necessary.” That makes absolutely zero sense. And it seems to me like someone who needs to do a little more research on the benefits of breastmilk AND extended breastfeeding.

  13. HBD!!!!!!!!!!!

    If those babies go pro at uni-sleeping, I’m offering my services for an overnighter on their 6 mo. birthday. You and Anson git.

    I’ll bring the puppy and the party.

    Oh and HBD!!!!!

  14. Kristen, I am a Mom, just like you. I breastfed my babies until the doctor told me to stop. Age One. They are super happy, super smart (ACT, SAT, College Scholarships to prove it) super healthy teenagers/young adults that have adjusted very well to my and my husbands care of them. Because it is not my thing does not mean that it shouldn’t be your thing. You had a good time pointing out things I said, however, you didn’t point out when I said “Everyone has a different solution and what works best for you and your family is just exactly what you should do……co sleeping or not co sleeping……..everyone has a choice and may everyone find peace with that choice” Please…..ladies…..don’t take offense if I, or others, do not agree with your choices. You don’t agree with ours and that is just a little thing we call “life”. Bottom line, at the end of the day, we all seek the best advice we can in nurturing and raising wonderful, happy, successful children that will grow into amazing, happy, well adjusted adults. We are all on the same team…..we just play a little differently. It’s all good! Enough crazy problems in the world without the Mom’s turning on each other right?

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  16. Wow, they hijacked your blog Jodi. I’d hazzard a guess some people spent more time on their snappy retorts than you spent writing the post. (well crafted and beautifully written.)

  17. The end.

    Ok. Maybe not. I’m opening comments back up because people seem to want to say more. Let’s keep it cool though people. Real cool.

  18. Jodi, reading your blog gave me the strength to try it myself. I have twins who will turn 1 in a week and they were still waking up for comfort in the night. I started three days ago, and they’ve done really well. Last night they slept through the night and we all woke up a lot happier this morning!

    I know everyone very strong feelings on the matter, but the fact of the matter is I’m not raising your kids and you’re not raising mine. I will respect your right to choose what’s best for you, please respect my right as well. My kids are happy and healthy and loved and isn’t that what’s best for all children?

  19. Well my children (7yr old and twin 2yr olds) are doomed. Thanks while I go cry it out alone.

    I read the posted articles, and one also talks about lack of play with other different aged children was a cause for ADHD. Awesome since my 7 yr old was home until Kindergarten with me.

    So I have to agree that the proof is in the pudding you can’t walk up to adults (successful or not) and just know who was a CIO baby or a co-sleeper. They probably can’t tell you either without asking their own parents.

    We all love our children and want what is best. Do not be-little Jodi for her parenting decisions.

    Just so you know Jodi, my twins are exceptionally awesome (not just fine), they were CIO breast babies.

  20. Hi there. I was prompted to read your blog from the Twiniversity site. I haven’t even read the other comments because I’m sure they are every way controversial. I just want to say, that I did what you are doing and it works and it’s grand!!! We started by cutting out night feedings and putting them down with the 5, 10, 15 method. Not sure of it’s proper name. Don’t care. It worked! We’d let them cry it out for 5, then soothe, then 10, then soothe, then 15, then soothe and repeat for 45 minutes. If they still haven’t given up, then we’d offer milk, etc, give them a break, then start over. I don’t even remember now, but I want to say that by week 2, we were down to soothing only after the first 10, then quickly to the first 5. Now….they usually go down without a peep at 6:30 and sleep until 7ish the next morning. If you are not of a mother of twins, I’m not sure you can understand what this means. I’ll let you take a moment to think about it. Ahhhh. Now, if they need soothing, we typically have to go in together and each take one since one may keep the other up. I should also say that they’ve been sleeping in their own room, they share a room next to ours, since a couple weeks after coming home from the hospital. And, I should also say that our boys were born 3 months early and spent 3 months in the NICU, so we may have been of a different mind set than other parents. We had already left our boys for the night to go home to sleep and had watched the nurses intently on their routines with the boys and recreated that when they came home. So, we had a bit of an education from the start. But with the sleep training…we took the lead from our pediatrician and while it may not work for some, it worked for us. Good luck and hopefully happy sleepful nights ahead!!!!

  21. Oh, I should add that our little dudes are 15.5 months, 12.5 months adjusted age and have been sleeping through the night now since I wanna say September? It’s been a while now. Knock on wood. And, I should also add that I breastfed for 4 months. The 3 months they were in the NICU and one more month at home. For various reasons, one of which was my low milk production, my boys have been formula fed. Not by choice, but I came to terms with it. One of them just switched to milk last week and other is still on formula. We’re wondering if switching to milk will change his sleep habits. Hopefully not!!! AND..I should say that the sleep training was not easy for the first several nights. I think it was less easy on me than them. They were just learning how to go to sleep. I was listening to my sweet little babies cry. However, crying is the only way they know to respond to what they don’t like. If they were hurt or sick, then it’s different. But I knew they were okay and I was steps away. Okay…I think I’m done now. Ha!

  22. I wanted to dive back in, bc I wondered when the co-sleepers would chime in! I knew this is a controversial issue!

    I agree with the person who said – if you lined up the co-sleepers and the no-sleepers and the cry-it-outers when they’re 5, 10, 15, 20 – you’d never know which was which. Ditto for the attachment parented babies and the babies who went to daycare from 6 weeks. The most important thing, I would argue the only important thing, the defining factor in how secure and happy a child turns out, is whether s/he grew up with love and affection. All the rest is gravy.

    I will say, though, that when I haven’t slept in six days (this is me, now), I am cranky as all hell, my temper is short, I snap at my children and my dog and my husband, I drop things, I have a hard time doing pretty easy tasks. So doing something “for you” is ok – my children have learned from day one that they are part of a team, part of a family, and we all give and take. I’m pretty selfless, but I didn’t totally give up all of my rights to health and the pursuit of happiness when my son entered the world screaming! I think night sleep is good for everyone. (And so do all 4 of the pediatricians in my group, by the way, all Cry it Out advocates, so your ped is not alone.)

    I understand why people get excited about this – the thought of a little baby crying is pretty distressing to think about. That’s why I like to teach my monkeys to self soothe – because my job, from day one, is to teach them to be independent and be without me. They learn I’m not coming at night, but that I always, ALWAYS come in the morning (same as preschool – Jack sometimes wailed when I left him at preschool, but he soon learned that I always come back to get him).

    So, we’re all delightful, and I’m glad we all care so much about our kiddoes that we get a little flamey and ALL CAPSy on issues, because it’s important to be an advocate for your child. But my 3 year old couldn’t be more affectionate and well-adjusted, yo, and he cried his head off back in the day. And my 9 month old, though STILL NOT SLEEPING CURSE THE DAY AUGH, is pretty awesome, too. There are very few things of which I am certain, but this is one thing – that how I trained (the first one) to sleep caused him no lasting harm, and made us a much much happier family.

  23. I really think that teaching your children to be open-minded, respectful and kind human beings who realize that the world is full of “right ways” to do things will prove to be MUCH more important than how you taught them to sleep. Sounds like you’re doing a fantastic job.

    There are less cool things I’d like to say right now, but you asked us to keep it cool, so I’ll leave it at that. ;)

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  26. Wow! I have met these little ones and they are really sweet and happy boys! They are super loved, snuggled and well attended to. I know Jodi doesn’t need me to defend her but I couldn’t resist responding. I am the mother of four boys and an aunt to like 40 so I have seen some different ways of doing this sleep thing. I won’t argue with the angry ladies research that CIO is potentially harmful but I will argue that the alternatives could potentially be quite harmful A’s well. How many beastly moms out there would be sweeter and more gentle if they only had a little more rest? Is being happy for your children really selfish? Is it possibly just as harmful to have a mother so upstight that she feels the need to rip apart anyone who doesn’t follow her sage advice based on her research? There are so many variables that contribute to the mental health of every one of us to narrow ut down to damning someone for the CIO method seems a little rash, no? I have found ( and I haven’t done a fifteen year study on it so I could be wrong). That children with confidant, cheerful, and even well rested mothers seem the most well balanced to me. I am not sure that the cry it method is always called As such I prefer the self soothing method, but that is just semantics. To be honest I have nursed each of my children till about 14 months and have enjoyed it. That is perhaps the most important part, the enjoyment of motherhood. I have to also say that I know plenty of children of the nurse til you’re three variety who are pretty um different, research, no but enough evidence to be comfortable with my fourteen months.

    * disclaimer….my children also love chocolate milk on occasion once they give up nursing, not all of our produce is organic, my childrens favorite movie is nacho libre, an di raise my voice and call my holdren turkey’s when I am upset. You can go call child protective services now. ; )

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  29. How did it go? I have 7 month old twins, and I think I’ll be embarking on this journey soon.

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  32. Baby sleeping is not as similar as adults. Some baby loves to take the long nap and play at night, even they stay awake until midnight while parents are simply dying to put their tired head on a soft pillow.

    Well, I want to know some light on co-sleeping. As co-sleeping is getting popularity day by day what do you think a parent of twin should go for co-sleeping? Is it safe enough?

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