*This is Part Two of a Six Part Series.  Please take a moment and read Part One, which covers bedtime routine.*

Jacob sleeping

Esau Sleeping (when he still had stork bites)

Jacob (top) and Esau (bottom) sleeping at two months (Esau still had stork bites then)

Sleep Training:

Sleep training is the act of teaching a baby to develop the skill of falling asleep on his/her own.  This is skill that we are not born with and must be learned.  To understand why sleep training is so important, let’s first look at why babies wake up throughout the night.

Why Babies Wake Through The Night:

Let’s look at why the average baby wakes up during the night.

Almost all babies are rocked or fed to sleep.  Most parents feel that this is the only way to get their babies to sleep because otherwise their babies will cry when put down in their crib or bed, sometimes to the point of making themselves sick.

Rocking or feeding to sleep may work for some people when initially getting their babies to bed, however it will mean that you are going to have to do this several times throughout the night and here is why:

Humans, including you and I and everyone else from birth to death, wakes up many times every night during the transition between sleep cycles.

This is the time that we will roll over or maybe even talk in our sleep (it is a common belief that you talk in your sleep because of a dream you are having, but actually you are never dreaming at this time, because you are between sleep cycles and not in a REM sleep cycle), but we generally don’t even realize that we have woken up, because our bodies know how to fall back to sleep immediately.

The reason why most babies will wake up and cry for you throughout the night is because they do not know how to fall back to sleep on their own.  If they only ever fall asleep by being rocked or fed, they are never learning that skill and will rely on you to continue to aid them to sleep.

Our Sleep Training Method:

After a lot of research, I decided to use the FERBER method for sleep training my sons.  There are a lot of different sleep training options available which will work better for different families, but the Ferber method to me seemed to be the most reasonable, combining the tough love and effectiveness of what most people consider “cry it out” with the nurturing and reassurance of other less effective sleep training methods or lack thereof.

With the Ferber method, you put your baby in their bed/crib and give them lots of love and reassurance.  Then you leave the room for a set small duration.  (I use three minutes)

If the baby is still crying after the set duration, you go back into the room, but don’t pick him/her up.  You just pat him or rub his back/stomach, reassure him with soft words and then leave again for a slightly longer duration (I use five minutes).

You continue waiting for slightly increased duration (for example, I use 3, 5, 10, 20, 37, 63, etc but they have never made it past the 20 minutes before), returning if the baby is still crying, patting, reassuring and then leaving.

What this does is reassure the child that you are still there and they are not abandoned, but that it is seriously time to go to sleep and that crying and carrying on will not manipulate you into giving into them.

This can be very hard to do for the first little while, and I know there were nights I cried more than they did, but it gets easier very quickly and before long, there won’t even be any crying at all and your baby will have learned to fall asleep on his own.

Next week I will cover the tough decision that any parent of twins face – to co-sleep or not to co-sleep!

Twins and Sleep – Part Two: Sleep Training

Twins and Sleep – Part One: Bedtime Routine

 

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I decided that I’m going to start my blog on a positive note, because it is inevitable that some topics regarding the life of a single mom with twins may be a bit on the negative side. 

I will be beginning with one of the things I am most thankful for which has made my life as a single mom of twins much easier.  Believe it or not, this topic is sleep!

Now, you wouldn’t believe that sleep would be a positive subject with two babies in the house, but both my babies have slept through the night since they were three months old!  A solid twelve hours from 8pm to 8am with the very odd exception due to colds or teething.  They also have two one-hour naps during the day like clockwork at 11am and 3pm.

When I tell someone about their sleep habits, I get many comments about how I am lucky or blessed, and although this is more than true in many respects, I credit their good sleeping habits to a bit of tough love and a very solid bedtime routine.  

This will be a six part series on Sleep. There will be information here that can help any parent, single or not, with any amount of babies, singletons or multiples, on how to get your babies to sleep through the night.  Please note that before three months of age, babies will still need fed throughout the night, so although you can start these habits earlier (I started at six weeks) to build a solid foundation, you should still feed your baby when he/she wakes up before three months of age.

Bedtime Routine:

One of the first and most important aspects of good sleeping habits is a solid bedtime routine.  We start every bedtime with a strong routine.  You can created any bedtime routine on your own, but there are some important factors to ensure are included in this routine for it to be successful:

  • It begins at the same time every night
  • It lasts the same amount of time every night (preferably an hour)
  • It includes only activities which allow winding down (quiet, relaxing activities)
  • It includes at least one activity in their room while they are in bed so you aren’t just putting them in their room and leaving them.

The Twins’ Bedtime Routine: 

Our bedtime routine starts at 7pm every night after the boys have had their last feeding.  

1) The boys have a warm bubble bath for about 20 minutes.  They are allowed toys, but it is still a fairly quite and relaxing time for them to wind down. As you can see from the picture, sometimes our dog, Zeddicus, likes to help with this step.

2) Bath time is followed by a baby massage with Johnston’s Bedtime Lotion.  Refer to this video to learn how to massage your baby.  Massage is a wonderful way to bond and allow your baby to relax.

 3) I dress them in their sleepers.  It is important that babies are put in clean, dry sleepers that are not too tight and allow their legs to fully bend and straighten and their toes to be completely flat.  They should also be appropriate for the temperature of the bedroom (warm, thick sleepers for cooler temperatures and short sleeve, footless sleepers or even onsies for the warmer nights)

4) I brush their teeth and have done so every night since they came home from the hospital.  At the beginning, I used a baby cloth and warm water and rubbed their gums down until they cut their first tooth and then began using an infant brush and infant toothpaste (make sure it’s fluoride free!)

5) We then go to their bedroom and while they are in bed, I read them two stories (alternating between regular children’s books and their children’s bible).  It is never too early to begin reading to your baby (many start while they are in the womb!) Even though they cannot fully understand what you are reading, it will encourage vocabulary and cognitive development.

6) I sing them a song (usually All Through The Night or From This Moment) and lately they have been trying to sing it with me and are pretty good at matching notes to me!

7) Then we say our prayers, have hugs and kisses and I leave the room.

At this point, they will usually just fall right to sleep, because they know now that it is bedtime after their routine is over and they have learned by now how to fall asleep on their own, but it hasn’t always been this easy once I have left the room.  It has taken quite a bit of sleep training that took from when they were six weeks old until they were three months old.

Next Post will cover sleep training and insight on why babies wake up through the night.

Where It All Began

I decided to start a blog to share the struggles and triumphs of being a single mother of twins. Although becoming increasingly common, multiple births are still a rare blessing.  A blessing that leaves the world as you knew it a glinting memory and brings a new world of double the work, double the chaos, double the stress, but double the love and joy!

Even more rare than a mother of twins is the mother who does it all on her own!  It’s rare, yes, but after reading various forum posts online, I do know that I am not alone!  There are quite a few woman out there doing the double duty of child raising and doing it solo!  So I decided to share my experiences as my children and I grow together in our crazy little family where the parent:child ratio is reversed from the norm!  And this is where the journey started:

I was 23 when my life started falling into place.  I started dating the man that would become my husband and started my career as a Correctional Officer all within three months of each other.  Due to work circumstances, I was forced to live two hours away from my new boyfriend and we maintained a long distance relationship for the first year and a half of our relationship.  After nine months, even though we were carrying out a long distance relationship, we were engaged.  We moved half way between our two homes and shared an apartment together while I commuted an hour each way to work every day.  While living in this apartment, we were married four years and one day after we had started dating.  Shortly after we were married, I finally received a transfer back home and we moved back to our original stomping ground.  This is when we decided to start a family, and where my heart started to break.

I had always wanted children very much.  I can remember as early as nine years old wanting to be a mother.  It seemed, however, now that I was ready to be a mother, it just wasn’t happening.  It took a year before we could even get an appointment to see a fertility specialist and that is when I received the biggest blow of my life – I had Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and it was not likely that I was going to be able to become pregnant and in the rare event that I did, it would more than likely end in a miscarriage.

All was not lost, however, because 22 months after initially trying to conceive, I received my first and only cycle of Clomid, which is a medication that induces ovulation.  It worked!  And boy did it ever work!  25 months after initially trying to conceive, at just eight weeks pregnant, I had my first ultrasound and received the news that would forever change my life – there were two babies!

The pregnancy was not an easy one!  I seemed to have every pregnancy symptom in existence at about double dose.  I felt like I went straight from the first trimester sickness to the third trimester discomfort with no glowing second trimester in between.  I also became very ill with pre-eclampsia (formerly known as toxemia.)  I gained 80lbs in the blink of an eye.  My entire body swelled up, my blood pressure went through the roof, I could barely breath because my sinuses swelled, and I developed sleep apnea.

As if expecting twins and being very ill wasn’t stressful enough as it is, one month before my babies were born, my husband was fired from his job because the company did not want to pay for his parental leave.  This was a really hard blow to take when we are about to face the most economically straining time of a couple’s lives!

At 35 weeks, my body had had all it could handle and was shutting down.  My OBGYN admitted me into the hospital and three days later, on Friday, April 13, 2012, my two beautiful boys were born via emergency cesarean section.  The older of the two (will be referred to as Esau throughout this blog) was born at 8:26am (on the right in photo at top of blog) and his little brother (to be referred to as Jacob) was born one minute later at 8:27am (on the left in photo at top of blog.)  I was extremely ill from the pre-ecampsia that had developed into eclampsia and the boys, although fairly healthy, were sent to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), also called the special care nursery, while they were monitored for Jaundice and blood sugar levels.

We began life as a family of four and my husband received his grade 12 diploma soon thereafter and began college when the boys were five months old.  When the boys were six months old, he moved his stuff out of the house and went to live with his mother and never looked back and I began my new adventures with my boys as a single mother.

It has been four months as a single mom now and it has definitely required a lot of planning and tactics, learning how to do things differently and just surviving the days, but even though I wish we could still share the generic family structure, I have enjoyed every minute of my boys’ lives so far single mom or not and it’s just getting started, so feel free to enjoy this wonderful ride with me!