Taking care of a newborn is a 24-hour job, as bleary-eyed new parents everywhere can attest. Twins come with double the joy and double the work. “Caring for newborn twins can be so much fun, but it is also physically demanding,” says academic pediatrician Dr. Khanh-Van Le-Bucklin, author of “Twins 101” and founder of Twins Doctor. “Newborns eat every one to three hours,” Dr Le-Bucklin says, so how will you have time to eat and sleep yourself?
The key is getting your twins onto the same feeding and sleep schedule. “This helps to streamline the daily tasks and helps parents maintain sanity,” says Dr. Shelly Vaziri Flais, a pediatrician and the author of “Raising Twins.”
Here are nine expert tips for synchronizing your twins’ schedules and establishing a routine that will work for everyone:
- Get Help
Line up help from friends, family or a nanny as soon as possible — preferably before the twins arrive. “Think of it as going on a long road trip,” says Pat Malmstrom, the founder of Twin Services Consulting and co-author of “The Art of Parenting Twins.” “For that, you’d figure out who is going to share the driving, when and where you’ll eat, etc. Do the same for those early months with newborn twins.”
Learn more about hiring a nanny.
- Be Flexible
Though the goal is to get newborn twins on a shared schedule, the earliest days will be driven by the babies’ needs and cues. And even once you achieve a routine, you have to be willing to tweak it as the babies’ needs change. “Create a semi-regular schedule,” says Dr. Le-Bucklin, “but be open to moving feeds or naps a little earlier or later based on the babies’ needs.”
- Take Notes
Keep a log for each twin of what time they ate, how long (for breastfeeding babies) or how many ounces (for bottle-feeding infants) they ate, wet and soiled diapers, and time and duration of naps. This will help you understand your twins’ patterns and individual eating and sleep habits. You can use a notebook, a special journal like this one, or even a smartphone app such as Eat Sleep.
- Feed Them At the Same Time
Feed both babies at the same time, even if you have to wake one up to do so, suggests Dr. Flais. You can try to naturally nudge mealtimes closer together by rocking the first twin for a bit rather than feeding him right away to give your sleepy twin a little more shut-eye.
- Have Them Share Nap Time
After both twins eat, play with them a bit until one or both gets sleepy. Then lay them down for naps at the same time, even if one needs a little extra soothing to fall asleep. Before you know it, they’ll start to naturally drift off at the same time.
- Keep Them Together
Consider having your newborn twins share a crib until one baby is able to roll over (usually at about 2 to 4 months). Then move them to separate cribs, but keep them in the same room. “[This] can help synchronize their sleep and wake cycles,” says Dr. Le-Bucklin.
- Don’t Forget Yourself
Taking care of yourself is critical when caring for newborn twins. “Mothers need good nutrition and rest in order to optimize their milk supply and bonding time with their babies,” says Dr. Le-Bucklin. So ask one of those helpers you lined up to watch the twins while you get a few hours of uninterrupted shut-eye, or rotate shifts with your partner. And don’t forget to eat well!
- Nurture Your Relationship
The demands of caring for newborn twins can take a toll on a marriage or relationship, so be sure to devote time to your partner. “It can be as simple as five or 10 minutes built into the end of the day when you can just talk,” says Malmstrom. Better yet, put it on your calendar and treat it like an appointment you can’t break.
- Hang in There
Though it may seem like it’ll never end, the newborn period is fleeting. Savor and enjoy it as much as you can. Before you know it, your twins will be sleeping for longer stretches and life will be much easier!
Want more advice? Read the 9 Do’s and Don’ts of Caring for Twin Babies.
Jennifer Marino Walters is a Washington, D.C.-based parenting and children’s writer and the mother of fraternal twin boys and a baby girl. She blogs at doubledutytwins.com.
* This article is for general informational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be providing medical advice and is not a substitute for such advice. The reader should always consult a health care provider concerning any medical condition or treatment plan. Neither Care.com nor the author assumes any responsibility or liability with respect to use of any information contained herein.