It was the first Wednesday after Labour Day, everyone had gone back to work after a summer off, and I was hating maternity leave. I was miserable. I would walk up to 4 hours a day, if I was alone with the boys, so that they would stay content. Except all the sudden, they weren't content in the stroller or carseat. I called my parents and Tim crying telling them that I couldn't take care of the boys on my own, I needed help, I needed a nanny!!
I was chatting with my cousin on Facebook messenger, about how things were going with the boys. I was telling her that they weren't sleeping as well as they had been, and I thought they might be going through a sleep regression (the dreaded 4 month one). She immediately suggested the book, The Sleep Sense Program: Proven Strategies for Teaching Your Child To Sleep Through the Night. At this point, I was ready to sleep train. I was ready to let the boys cry it out, if it meant I would get to SLEEP again! I was so tired of waking up at random times and nursing the boys. I was tired of going for 4 walks a day and/or driving aimlessly around in the car to get the boys to sleep. The only thing that my cousin highly recommended, was that I stick to the program, be consistent, and make sure that Tim was on board. We had to follow through and persevere. Things could only get better.
I read the book in one sitting. I stayed up late and just devoured Dana Obleman's words about sleep training. It was almost like therapy, good for the soul, to read about other people's situations in sleep training. I was comforted by the fact that we had been doing some things right, and that the boys were doing a lot of "normal" things when it came to sleep and fighting sleep!
So, I read the book on a Wednesday night, and on Thursday I decided to tackle it ALL. I knew I had to fix the nap situation. I also learned from Dana's book that naps were the toughest. I was READY (or so I thought)! I had a big problem on my hands: the boys never napped in their cribs. But today was the day, we were going to try. Well, Day 1 sucked, but it wasn't the worst. The boys screamed bloody murder for 70 minutes before they fell asleep. I stayed in the room the entire time, texting Tim a play-by-play of what was going on. When they finally fell asleep, I snuck out of the room. They slept for 20 fricken' minutes. But, I was happy! They had slept in their cribs, during the day! We had a little bit of success. I did this again for the next nap. Dana's words had promised it'd get easier every time. But, it didn't. The boys cried even LONGER this time before passing out for another 20 minute nap. But, I persevered.
That night, I explained to Tim the basics of the program. We came up with a plan for the night time feedings. We decided we would let them cry for up to 70 minutes (as the book suggested). Dana also wrote that you do not go into the nursery right away. She suggested waiting 10-15 minutes, because babies often fall back to sleep on their own. This wasn't the case for our boys. They woke up and cried and cried and cried. We waited it out for quite some time. Probably over an hour. I finally gave in and got up to nurse them. Tim and I also decided that if they woke up and didn't go back to sleep, that they were probably hungry. They were just shy of 4 months, so we thought they were right on the edge of being able to sleep through the night.
We realized too, from reading Dana's book that we were putting the boys to bed way too late, and that they were probably waking during the night and early in the morning because they were overtired. We decided to start the bedtime routine at 6:30 and have them in bed about an hour later. Having twins takes twice as much time, don't forget!
Our bedtime routine went like this:
Nurse Baby 1/Tim entertain Baby 2 (15 minutes)
Baby 1 gets bathed while Baby 2 gets nursed (15 minutes)
Baby 2 gets bathed while I made the bottles, filled the diffuser, and read Baby 1 a story
Both babies get another story while Tim dresses Baby 2
Both babies get a bottle (about 15 minutes to drink)
Oh, I forgot to mention that we got rid of their soothers. UGH. That was not fun!!! But, the goal was to get the babies to self-soothe, without using any sleep props (anything that we had to do to get the babies to sleep. e.g., soother, rocking, nursing to sleep). We did however keep our white noise maker and let them have a stuffy (which they could grab and cuddle on their own), and at the time, we still swaddled because they weren't moving much at night.
The first night we did our new routine, we had the boys in bed by about 8:00. They probably only cried for about 20 minutes. I hid in the laundry room with the washer and dryer on so that I didn't have to listen to their cries.
The first few nights were a doozy. They'd wake and cry and we would listen to it. I often put ear plugs in or watched Grey's Anatomy on my iPad to drown out the cries. It was tough. I had a lot of anxiety about it.
But each night got better (the odd night sucked, but overall it was getting better). It definitely took a few weeks to a month before the night time feeds stopped all together. NATURALLY. They would wake up, and put themselves back to sleep! It was amazing!
The naps continued to be a struggle. I have deep anxiety when it comes to naps. At this time, the boys were still napping about 4 times a day. They would be awake for no more than 2 hours (based on their age) before going for a nap. Often naps were 30-45 minutes at the beginning (sometimes they still are!!). But, the boys were getting better at going down easily. They would sometimes squawk a bit, but they didn't really cry. I started watching for their cues when they were tired and would try to put them down before they got overtired.
Our nap routine is really simple. I would sign to the boys "sleep" and at the same time say "It's sleepy time" to warn them that nap time was coming. I would continue to say this a few times as I got them ready for their naps. I was usually alone to put them down so one baby would stay out playing.
Our routine went (and still does) like this:
Me: "It's sleepy time. Time to go to sleep"
Take Baby 1 into the nursery and on the walk down the hall sing a lullaby
In the nursery, sing a second lullaby as a tucked him in and put his bunny close to his face
Turn on the white noise machine and diffuser
Repeat "It's sleepy time. Time to go to sleep"
Get Baby 2 and repeat what I did with Baby 1
Tell the babies I loved them and that I hoped they would have a good sleep
Quietly exit the room and close their door
The nap routine was super quick and maybe took 10 minutes. Not long at all! What was hard was the waiting to go to sleep. If the boys fussed I would get super anxious that they were awake for more than 2 hours (for their age, this is an appropriate amount of awake time). But if one fell asleep, and the other didn't, I would worry that they were getting off schedule from each other: #twinproblems. Then I worried about how long they would sleep for, and already be calculating the next awake time. It was a battle between me and my anxiety. I often asked myself, "what are you so afraid of?" and I guess I just really wanted a break. I wanted silence. I wanted to be able to eat breakfast and lunch in peace. I wanted to sit down and watch the Real Housewives without being disrupted. I also worried that if they didn't nap well in the day, that they wouldn't sleep well during the night. And I wanted a good night's sleep so that I could function the next day! But overall, I would answer back to myself, "Nothing. There is nothing that is scary about babies." Even so, my anxiety often got the best of me and I would call someone for help. If a baby didn't sleep, I would get someone to take him in the Ergo carrier because I knew he'd sleep in there.
Sleep training doesn't end. There is always something that comes up (teething, growth spurt, sleep regression, illness), and I often refer back to the program, and the rules, and the routines, and the schedules. The program keeps me sane. Dana's words help calm me down when anxiety gets the best of me. I follow this program religiously. This program is not for EVERYONE! Some people don't want to let their babies cry it out. And that's totally okay. It worked for us though. And I know that there is no psychological damage to my boys for letting them cry it out. Babies need to learn to self-soothe. Putting yourself to sleep is a lifelong skill and it's OKAY for babies to learn at a young age. If I had known how successful sleep training would be for us, I would like to think that I would've started earlier. Especially naps in cribs. That's essential. You actually get a break this way. If I was walking or driving or letting them sleep in their swings, I never fully got a break. I got silence, which was good, but I was still "on". I was still "working".
What sleep is like for us today:
The boys start their bedtime routine at 5:30. They are in their cribs, WIDE AWAKE by 6:30 at the latest (usually 6:15/6:20 ... we got this twin thing DOWN!). We do not get them out of bed until 6:30 a.m./ 7:00 a.m. Most nights they wake up and squawk a bit around 6:00 a.m. But, sometimes they fall back asleep, or are happy to play with their stuffies in bed till we get them. My hubby and I get EVENINGS TO OURSELVES. It is WONDERFUL! We get to eat dinner in peace. We get to watch t.v. We get to read a book. We get to blog (okay, I do). We get to drink wine. We get to do whatever we want! We are lucky too, to have both our parents here who babysit in the evenings so we can go on a DATE! It is so so good. And then, we get to sleep! I just realized a few weeks ago, that I felt rested. I didn't think I'd ever have that again! The boys are down to two naps a day: a morning nap and an afternoon nap. They usually nap at 9:30/10:00 a.m. and then 2:00/2:30 p.m. Naps last anywhere from 30 - 120 minutes. Most days it's 60-90 minutes. Life is good. Sleeping babies are happy babies. Sleeping babies make mama and daddy happy.
I am finally sleeping again! If you are interested in this program, leave me a comment, and I can email you a copy of the PDF.
Thank you for reading!
MRS. + MAMA