How to Get Sleep with Infant Twins

Any woman who has ever been pregnant with twins knows that the pregnancy is overwhelmed with one thought: “How am I going to get through this?” There are so many things to consider when you are expecting twins, from birth to graduation. But the closer to the due date a mom becomes, the more she is obsessed with the practicality of the first few weeks and strategizing sets in.

Most expectant mothers of twins attempt to educate themselves at every turn. Whether it is reading, or through friends, the thirst for advice seems unquenchable. They may remember thinking things like, “That makes sense. I will do that.” Or, “No way am I doing that!” But in the end, it’s guesswork and there is really nothing to base it on if you have never had twins, even if you are not a first-time mother. You may have thought one baby was a lot of work. But guessing was most unsettling when considering one of the biggest challenges ahead; Sleep.

As a mother of twins, most mothers can tell you what worked for them. They may recommend trying a number of suggested strategies first, which may result in no sleep and downright insanity (not to mention marital discord.) So, if you are looking to catch some real zzz’s, it’s time to stop weighing and measuring. There is a right answer. First, let’s debunk a few erroneous, well-intentioned suggestions. (For the record, you may have to try several before landing on what works!)

“Wonder Woman” on Maternity Leave Loses Superpowers

Many mothers work full-time outside of the home. So, your first strategy may assume since your husband has to go to work and you don’t (maternity leave) that you can do most of the nights because you can nap in the day. Fast Forward two weeks and your whole life may feel like a nap…day and night. People can’t live like that especially with so much change at hand. Consecutive sleep, deep REM sleep is essential. No mom is a Wonder Woman, no matter how much she would like to feel like she is. Besides, here’s a newsflash…staying at home with twins IS work.

One Day at a Time vs. A Plan

The person that says “We’ll just take it one day at a time” in reference to twins is an idiot. (Though Pre-birth, you may remember saying it yourself.) There are many levels you can take a one-day-at-a-time approach, but not with infant twins. With multiples, it is always better to have a plan in place. It makes you feel gathered and like you have some control. Sure, the plan may not work, but it is a great place to start when so much seems out of control.

“My Mom’s Going to Help Me…I’m Good.”

Even if this is true, your mom will also get tired. Odds are your mother is older than you by 20 years. Odds are also that infant twins scare people to death. Perhaps your mother or grandmother will come to help during the day in the first few weeks. That will be a huge help because will have time to nap. But, to rely on family for more than a 4-hour stint will wear everyone down. Moms and Grannies can definitely relieve the burden, but in the end, it is you who will pull the hard shifts, the shifts that suck the living life out of you. So, if this is the only plan…have a plan B.

You Take Twin A, I’ll Take Twin B

The terms “Twin A” and “Twin B” are unavoidable for the expecting mother of twins. So, this option means that you take one twin and the spouse takes the other. This is a poor strategy that will never last. Before long, one twin will emerge more high maintenance and you will beg to swap your assigned twin. Arguments ensue with sentences like, “You wouldn’t know…your twin slept all night.” This makes parents feel guilty because they are secretly a little mad at both infants; one for being so good, and the other for being a nightmare. Worse, now you are trying to pawn off the difficult one. Your spouse may agree to switch because they feel sorry for you. But beware: those little suckers can flip on a dime. The experience most have is that the “good” twin is always a beast in waiting. The longed-for swap can make a struggling parent feel like a failure compounded when, no matter which twin you have, they aren’t responding positively. All of this can be avoided by skipping the twin assignment at all costs.

You take one night, I take the next

This plan falls into the same category as someone who decides not to sleep for 30 years because they will sleep when they’re old. Don’t kid yourself, 48 hour days every 2 days never resulted in high function. In fact, it is a recipe for sleep deprivation (which is a proven form of torture, by the way) and is known to drive people mentally insane. Come to grips with the fact that you are not 18 and those all-nighters are a bear to recover from, let alone jumping into another one 48 hours later (resulting in you facing your inner zombie.)

Alternate Feedings

This strategy assumes your twins are on the exact same schedule. But, when pregnant, you may think this will work because you are going to be the one mother in this wide world that got her twins on schedule. The reality of this plan is that you may still be up with Twin A who is spitting up, crying or colicky (or all 3), when Twin B awakes (from their mini-infant nap) again. Then, the question comes, when did this feeding start and when did it end? When do you wake your husband in the never-ending cycle that your lives have become? Where do you draw the line?

This strategy may result in both you and your spouse being up in the night over and over. And nothing is worse than both adults in the mix being awake at night because both will be tired and crabby tomorrow. This also leads to “the great spouse comparison,” where each of you details the last 24 hours of sleep trying to convince the other you got less than they did. With alternate feedings, no one wins.

Every Other Hour

Shortly after our failure with the alternate feeding strategy, we landed upon the every-other-hour strategy. When you hit a wall, you will both feel like you are tanking. We need to stop fighting against each other and started fighting for each other so you can be assured protected sleep. You will actually be going in the right direction with time division (as opposed to twin division), but one hour was not enough. Consecutive hours of sleep can not be replaced with Starbucks or Red Bull, or another hour of sleep in an hour. The only substitute for consecutive hours of sleep is…consecutive hours of sleep. Ask your doctor.

Sleep Glorious Sleep!

Drum roll please: This is the strategy that seems to work best. “You take 11:00 p.m. – 3:00 a.m., I’ll take 3:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m.” The sooner you try this method, especially if you’re not petrified of doing two babies alone. You have to embrace that two babies do not require two adults. YOU CAN DO IT! Once that is accepted, this strategy reigns because then you are guaranteed consecutive hours of sleep. You will begin to protect your spouse’s sleep time and he will protect yours because everyone is so grateful to be sleeping. And it won’t be long before the twins are on a schedule that is a little more predictable and you can adjust the hours in fairness, both getting even more sleep. Ahhhhh.

If you are reading this, you may already be pregnant with multiples (congrats!)  or, you are in the throws of sleep deprivation. If this describes you, be encouraged, if you have a plan and divide time, it will get better. It will get better. (With twins, you may find yourself repeating that a lot the first 5 years.) The truth is…it does get better – every day!

Until then, sleep tight.