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 My Twins Won't Sleep 
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Post My Twins Won't Sleep
by: Angela Manton

Lack of sleep is the biggest complaint from Twin Parents and often because of the methods we have to adopt just to get some sleep in the early months bad sleeping habits are formed.

Now that you have reached Toddler stage and the feeding demands have vanished you may feel that you need to try and tackle the sleep issues surrounding your sleepless twins! You could try some of the methods advised by some of the sleep therapists. Most of the advice is based on one child opposed to two children of the exact same age but nevertheless you could give it a go.

Firstly, you need to establish whether there is a problem and secondly if you want to solve it. It may be the case that getting the maximum amount of sleep is the priority in your household and you achieve this by co-sleeping for example. If you are happy with the situation then just accept it for what it is until they are a little older and are likely to naturally grow out of their habits. If however, you are unhappy with the circumstances and it is affecting the rest of your family and/or your marriage then try and do something positive to change it.

One of the biggest problems when dealing with night time behaviour is that you are tired yourself which means you are less likely to rationalise and your patience is likely to wear thin.

The recommended advice is to keep a sleep diary for one or two weeks so you can see clearing what is happening and how it is being dealt with. You may find it’s not as bad as it seems or that it’s far worse than you care to admit!

Once you have established where the problems lay you can start to implement a new strategy or routine.

Twins who wake in the night

If like me you have twins that wake in the night you will have probably forgotten what it is to put your head on the pillow at night and not wake until the next morning. I know I have, in fact I have not had a solids night sleep in about 8 years! Having said that, we do try and get the most sleep we can by not making too much of a fuss over whether our children wake in the night or not. If they want to get into our bed then they can and likewise the youngest set of twins have a sleeping arrangement whereby my husband or I can jump in with them if necessary.

If you do not want to co-sleep with your children there is a procedure you can follow as recommended by sleep therapists and other such experts.

The recommended procedure for curing this particular problem is known as “Checking”. When your child starts to cry go to him, reassure him and tuck him back down to sleep in a deliberate manner. You need to be firm so your child knows that they are not going to be picked up and should go back to sleep. Then leave the room even if he is still crying. If the crying is still continuing after 5 minutes go back into the room and repeat the procedure. This pattern of “Checking” should be repeated and within 3 or 4 nights your child should learn that his crying is no longer receiving the desired aim of getting up. The key to success for this procedure is consistency.

So, can you apply the above to twins? Yes you can try but it may be a longer battle and you may need extra will power. Leaving one twin to cry for 5 minutes often results with the other twin disturbed and then both you, your partner and your existing children will have a disrupted night’s sleep.

Wanting drinks and bottles at night

First ascertain whether or not your twins still need their milk during the night. If your twins were premature they may be hungry during the night due to their constant catch up and you may have to bear with it for a while longer. Perhaps you can ensure they have a supper before bed to help fill their tiny tummies and then in the night switch the milk for water.

With older children, you can leave them a drink by their bed where they can reach it themselves rather than disturbing their parents. Create a rewards system for every undisturbed night and display it on the wall with stickers. This way your child can be reminded of how well they are doing.

A Child (or twins) who won’t settle alone

You would think that being twins and the fact that they do take a certain amount of comfort from one another would result in an easier process for settling alone. Even though they are twins and probably share a bedroom doesn’t a mean they won’t cry out for their parents during the middle of the night or will settle alone at bedtime without mummy or daddy. Often this is because they have been conditioned this way from the beginning.

It is very difficult to manage two newborn twins and cope with the lack of sleep during those first few months and often parents of twins find themselves co-sleeping or allowing a baby to rest with them just so they can grab 1 or 2 hours sleep. Now that your twins are older its time to try and get them to settle alone.

If your twins are calm at bedtime but don’t like to be left until they are asleep then a step by step approach is best. I found this worked with my older twins who are now 7 and settle alone in separate bedrooms just with a night light on.

The advice from the health visitors and the sleep experts is that you should make sure your child goes to sleep in her cot or bed but not beforehand. So, don’t allow them to fall asleep with you and then transfer them. They need to learn to fall asleep in their own bed. If you put a drowsy child down and she wakes up fully and cries when you try to leave the room try and implement the 5 minute checking system as mentioned before. If this proves too difficult because you have two children to settle then take the step by step and gradually put more and more distance between you and your twins.

When our fraternal twins were really young I would lie between them so they went to sleep but when they became ready I would stand between them and just place a hand on each child so they remained lying down in their beds. This gradually progressed to a chair in between their beds with no contact whatsoever and then eventually I would leave the room completely and they would drift off on their own. In all honesty, this has been a very long process and not something that happened over a matter of nights. At 7 years of age they now sleep in their own bedrooms and fall to sleep on their own – although they do still often wake during the night!

Twins who won’t go to bed

Do your twins whip each other into a frenzy of play if you are not in the room to control them? I have heard many a twin mum say that her twins are too busy chatting or having fun at bedtime rather than settling down for sleep. For this reason you may have no choice but to enforce a calm bedtime routine, perhaps earlier than you already have and remain in the room until they have fallen asleep. Consider separating them at bedtime but be prepared you may have other issues if they are not secure enough with the separation from their twin.

Twins who keep coming down in the evening

I don’t believe you can tackle this problem unless your twins are at least 3 years of age. The advice is that the parent should take the child immediately back to bed. Potentially you could be doing this for hours especially with two of them doing it but apparently persistence is the key and they will soon get the message.

Twins who come into their parents at night

This is a difficult and demanding process and both parents must agree to return the child at once to her room. If either parent gives in it immediately nullifies all previous attempts and will make any subsequent attempts more difficult.

Important factors to remember when dealing with any of the sleeping problems mentioned above.

• Establish a calm bedtime routine and stick to it. Erratic or irregular bed time routines especially in younger children give very mixed signals.

• Behave in the same way every time you are managing a process so your child will eventually get the message.

• If you give in, you will be taking steps backwards to solve the issue not forward.

About The Author
Angela Manton, mother of two sets of twins, fraternal and identical.

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Fri Jul 31, 2009 9:26 am
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