When I was pregnant there were a few things that I was worried about, obviously there were the usual concerns over carrying the babies to term, actually giving birth (a pretty frightening prospect for a first time mum), the babies being healthy, there was the quite unique worry for a mum of identical twins, would I be able to tell my own babies apart and then one of my worries which was kind of a selfish one was how would I cope with the lack of sleep. I have always been an 8hr a night MINIMUM sleeper, maybe it was having M.E as a teenager or maybe it’s just in my DNA but I need a lot of sleep; so how was I going to cope with 2 newborn babies?
I remember chatting to my friends husband about it. He was a former Marine and current adventure/ explorer Marine Biologist, think Indiana Jones meets Jacques Cousteau but despite those facts he said he liked to sleep, a lot, and he had the same worry before having kids but he said to me you just learn to function on less sleep, and that statement could not be truer, I do question on what level you function (I caught my husband going to put the kettle in the fridge once after making tea and one time I tried to put washing powder in the dogs dinner luckily realising what I was doing at the last second) but you definitely learn to function, because you have to, tiny lives depend on you.
Sleep has got to be the number one question that new parents are asked about and it can be the subject of much tension and stress. I am NOT an expert in any way, shape or form on sleep, nutrition or even parenting but having had over 2 years of 2 little people interrupting my sleep I thought maybe sharing some of the things that helped me and my husband may help some poor sleep deprived family (I guess I am that vain that I think my thoughts are worth sharing, hello narcissist).
In the beginning after the initial few months of newborn feeding like monsters phase and tiny tummies needing constant refilling things settled down into a more manageable routine and the girls started doing that rare, wondrous, golden, sought after thing of ‘sleeping through’ and I’m gonna be honest, we were smug. ‘Oh our 2, yeah they sleep like 10/11 hours a night.’ we would say nonchalantly assuming we had cracked this thing called parenting but then something changed, I’m not quite sure what, was it when the girls out grew their moses baskets and we moved them into their own room, was it a developmental leap that I’m not aware of or the beginning of teething but whatever it was that changed, it meant that over the next 2 years those rare, wondrous, golden, sought after nights of ‘sleeping through‘ were no more.
For the next 18months the girls took it in turn to wake us up. Before they had always waked for a feed at the same time but now they were essentially doing a night time relay that meant they each slept for 4 hour stints but never the same 4hrs, so me and my husband spent our nights wandering between our room and the girls trying to soothe, comfort, feed and rock our daughters back to sleep whilst praying to the God of sleep that the currently awake child would not wake up the still asleep child.
5 things things that helped us:
- ‘The Gentle Sleep Book’
(Copy and paste link to the book on Amazon http://amzn.to/2rckUlQ )
Eventually we, mainly me did what I imagine all sleep deprived parents do after consulting the usual Health Visitors, Matriarchs of the family, every parent they know, I turned to the internet and I came across the website of a Sarah Ockwell-Smith trained Psycologist and parenting author. I loved what I read, it was gentle, kind and caring, the total opposite of some methods that had been advocated to me. I instantly bought her book ‘The Gentle Sleep Book’ and it sooo helped. It adjusted my expectations on what ‘normal’ baby sleep is, it gives advice on developmental stages that effect sleep, practical tips to help babies and tots prepare for sleep and has been my sleep bible since.
2. Co- sleeping
I had always been terrified of co sleeping with the girls when they were tiny babies but we just got to a point where we couldn’t keep getting up and down, traipsing between rooms all night long so as they were bigger and stronger we moved them into our bed (following all the co-sleeping and SIDS guidelines, find advice here…. https://www.lullabytrust.org.uk). For the next year this is where they stayed and we eventually starting getting some sleep! And we only stopped this when 4 in a bed became just too much of a squeeze and I couldn’t cope any more with getting elbowed, slapped and poked by wiggly little ones any longer. This is HONESTLY how I woke up one morning….
And contrary to what the naysayers said it hasn’t been forever, we still found time to be together as a couple, just not in our bedroom and the girls have now transitioned back into their bedroom, so win win. We have the odd stint, normally when they are ill that they end up wanting to be in our bed, and we let them. It normally means that I end up sleeping in an odd position, cramped into a corner and I always worry that after a few nights or even weeks with us they won’t go back to their beds but they always do and its when they are ready and don’t need the comfort of parents close enough to reach out for.
3. We fed them when they woke up.
I know a lot of people even Health Visitors said to me that after 12/18months they shouldn’t need to have milk over night, you are just developing a bad habit of rewarding them for waking up but I didn’t care in the end. It comforted them, and helped them drift off to sleep and the girls were always small for their age being prem twins so in my opinion maybe they had smaller stomachs or maybe they did just want milk for comfort, but is that wrong to comfort a small child in the night even if that meant that I had to wake up to do it? Surely thats better then leaving them to ‘self soothe’, which they haven’t the neurological capacity to do until they are much older. Eventually I started slowly over weeks/months watering down the over night milk and reducing the amount and on their own when they were ready they stopped those night time bottles and now at nearly 3 they rarely wake, apart from for the occasional wee or bad dream.
The girls are a particular case due to the fact that it turned out they have a few foods that they don’t tolerate very well. Over time I realised that, Emma especially would be awake for a couple hours of a night if she had eggs during the day. Eggs didn’t and still don’t agree with them although they can tolerate them a bit now. Also lactose and bananas turned out to be no go’s for the girls. Again as I stated earlier I am not a professional, I’m just writing about our unique experiences, so if you do think your children may have diet issues please speak to your health care professionals.
5. White noise
We found that having white noise playing helped the girls sleep. Being in NICU and SCBU for the first nearly 6 weeks of their lives they were used to noise and I think silence was more unsettling for them. In fact when they were very little they would always fall asleep when I hooved. We used and in fact still use as it has a good night light a Fisher Price Jungle themed one but there are obviously tonnes on the market.
Let me know what you think and please share what has helped you and you baby sleep more. Knowledge is power after all, so the more we have and can share the better.
Peace out peeps!