What’s your bedtime routine, my best friend asked through the waspish grumbles, the owly shrieks of my daughters. My vision was fuzzy. Dingy, you know? From too little sleep and even less cheer. Perceptually compromised as I’d been, it appeared that my best friend had somehow merged her DNA with a Charlie Brown character – imprecise and wobbly on the edges – and had become acutely fluent in Teacherese. What’s your bedtime routine translated to womp-womp-womp-womp-womp-womp as Harper slapped me in the temple and June sobbed, inconsolably, face first into the carpet. Up to this point our bedtime routine had all the planning and execution of the dropping of a cooler at the paws of a hungry, and consequently a quite angry, bear. Offer food, run, pray.
We began our bedtime routine that very night, with my best friend (a School Psychologist from Vermont, who’d taken all of the Developmental classes I’d missed in college) looking on. Baths. Bottles. Bed. And, for the first time in three weeks, silence. For four straight hours. I was in new mommy heaven. And if she hadn’t been my best friend before, she would have been bumped right to the top of the list six weeks later, when the bedtime routine still worked like a spell. Or four months later, when our girls (and we) were sleeping a full 10 to 12 hours with no night time feedings, weaned from their binkies and swaddles, and still beaming bright as neon every morning when I responded to their waking squeals.
Our bedtime routine, which developed into a modified form of Weissbluth’s Cry It Out (or CIO) has adapted to fit Harper and June’s rapidly changing needs. At nine months old, they are little bed and nap time rockstars. I lay them down and they just know that it’s time for sleeping and, most of the time, they’re ready. I usually hear a touch of grumbling. Maybe some chatter. Often there is a cry or two thrown in, just to test my resolve. But then they’re out and, whether it’s a one hour nap or the beginning of a 10 hour night cycle, the mommy version of bath, bottle, bed – a little number I like to call coffee, Flannery O’Conner, dozing – may begin.
Choosing to sleep train was essential for me, mainly, but also for my husband, to maintain our sanity. Simple things like daily routines with twins is exponentially harder (forget double the work, try four times) with multiples and mothers of singletons often don’t understand my unyielding insistence on logging those nap hours.
Once we made the decision to sleep train (thanks, again, to my baby guru and best friend), deciding how to go about it was like trying to cut a path through the jungle. Google the term “sleep training” and you come up with somewhere in the neighborhood of one hundred million results. In point three seconds. If you’re already reeling from the normal, everyday tasks, trying to understand, let alone choose, a sleep training method can seem insurmountable.
My best advice, my only advice really, when you boil it all down to bare bones, is to find a peaceful moment and just stop thinking about it. Wait until that magic instance where they’ve both managed to fall asleep at the same time and the house feels like an old west boomtown before a gunfight, and stop worrying about it. Continue to think about it, gently, but rather than trying to figure out whether to sleep train or how to do it, just listen to your intuition.
Ugh. I know. Every mother in history who has levelled up and unlocked an achievement that you desperately covet says, when asked how she got there, just use your intuition, or you know your baby best. But that seems to hold true for me. It’s just that I have to stop trying to come up with the answer and be willing, instead, to hear it.
Ugh. Okay. I’m making myself sick. Next I’m going to tell you to just open your soul and allow the positive energy to flow through you or something, right? I know. It’s one of those pieces of advice that you need a decoder ring to understand. But all I can say is that I can’t tell you how many times I’ve honestly believed that this was it, I was finally going to lose my mind. Like Fred Sanford, this was the big one and Elizabeth of Crazy Town, I was coming to join you. And then I just decided. With no idea whether it was the right choice or the wrong one. I just chose a course of action and I’m pretty sure I’m kind of psychic because every single time I’ve just made a choice like that, lo and behold, go tell it on the mountain, it’s been the right one. For all of us.
I’ve learned many things about babies since then, which seems inevitable really, when you consider the fact that I knew nothing about them to begin with. That you didn’t have to wait, or instance, until they could run through the hallway after a bath, like the dog, hooded towels streaming behind like terrycloth capes on the backs of superheroes in the eternal fight against Body Odor. Just maybe, you know, not rubbing their faces on the floor, or rolling over to have their bellies scratched. Maybe just running.
And my best friend no longer looks (or sounds) like the Charlie Brown trumpet teacher. So that, she might tell you, is the real victory in it all.
Here are a few resources you may find helpful when trying to decide whether sleep training is for you, or what method is the best for your multiples:
● The American Academy of Pediatrics published a recent study stating the safety of infant sleep training: http://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/Pages/Infant-Sleep-Training-is-Effective-and-Safe-Study-Finds.aspx
● One of many message boards on Babycenter specifically created for the sleep training of twins, as opposed to singletons. Something to be aware of when surfing message boards: You are going to get many different, often heated opinions both for and against the topic. If you’re still seriously undecided, message boards should probably be saved as a resource for when you’re a bit more comfortable with the decision you’ve made and are simply looking for third-party reports and advice. http://community.babycenter.com/post/a19725195/sleep_training_twins
● Because her story is so similar to mine, and because she’s a member of Twinversity, I would feel remiss in not mentioning this blog post by Jodi Call over at Pistols+Popcorn. And I feel I should let you know that you ought to read more than just this post. It’s good stuff. http://wp.pistolsandpopcorn.com/?p=1952
● I have to admit that I did not use a book and that I only gave the most general of glances over the gist of several sleep training methods before “creating” my own. That being said, Marc Weissbluth’s method resonated deepest with me and I modeled my own approach after his. If you’re interested in a form of Cry It Out, check him out. http://www.drweissbluth.com/media/pdf/WeissbluthIntro.pdf
● On the flip side of Cry It Out is a parenting philosophy known as Attachment Parenting, associated with Dr. Sears. I’d like to point out that you do not have to be a strictly Attachment or a strictly Cry It Out sleep trainer. There are countless ways to cherry pick the best of many methods and tailor a routine specifically for your twins. So even if you’re a staunch supporter of Cry It Out, it helps to just be a little familiar with the other end of the spectrum as well, if only for the sake of calling yourself well rounded. http://www.askdrsears.com/
● And just to round us out, here’s a nice, all encompassing blog specifically about sleep training. While a search of the blog returns no results for the term “multiples,” this resource boasts solid information and research. Lots of it. This was my best friend when trying to puzzle out the differences between methods and what to expect with each one. It also was a source of genuine comfort at moments when I questioned my decision. That being said, it is geared toward the Cry It Out method, so if you’ve already researched CIO and decided to avoid it in any form whatsoever, this is probably not the resource for you. http://www.troublesometots.com/sleep-training-and-cry-it-out/