Thursday, July 29, 2010

Eating and sleeping and pooping, oh my!

I'm a schedule person, a teacher with carefully thoughtout lesson plans and back-up plans for when there's extra time or if an activity bombs (and a pretty good sense of when one of those is likely).  I go on vacations having done my research, prepared with efficient but flexible daily itineraries full of well-reviewed restaurants and off-the-beaten-path sights. When Mike and I announced that both Sophie and Michael were on their way, friends and family commented that my love for organization and routine were going to serve us well.

With singletons, parents are encouraged to follow the baby's lead, feed on demand, and never wake the baby from sleep.  For twins, even their pediatrician will encourage you to feed them both when one is hungry, even if that means waking the other.  Otherwise you never get a break and will certainly end up desperately sleep-deprived, divorced, and a tad cuckoo.  Within Sophie and Michael's first days in the hospital, a loose schedule of diaper changes, feeding, and napping developed and repeated every two hours. 

The babies were home for only a week or so when I started wondering if our two-hour cycle needed some enhancing to serve Sophie and Michael better.  Since they were becoming alert, I wondered if I should I try to stimulate them more with singing and chatting instead of aiming for so much sleep.  Were there any habits I should avoid to get us on our way to sleeping through the night (STTN)? 

During Sophie and Michael's naps I found myself on the multiples message board that helped me through my pregnancy.  My immediate concerns and focus had changed from tips for prolonging the pregnancy and relieving discomfort to MoMs discussing daily routines and sleep training.  Many emphasized that crying it out (CIO) isn't the only option out there. (I was surprised to learn that "Ferberizing" is a real thing, thinking it was just something the writers of Modern Family made up.) MoMs often recommended the following books:

Secrets of the Baby Whisperer
Healthy Sleep Habits Happy Child
On Becoming Baby Wise

I borrowed these books from the library and found that they shared similar philosophies and encouraged getting started from day one.  I took away the following principles:

1) Babies need lots of sleep for brain development.

2) Sophie and Michael will sleep better at night if they nap regularly during the day.

3) A routine of eating, playing, and napping will help us on our way to STTN.

4) I should watch for subtle signs that Michael and Sophie are getting sleepy while they play.

5) Being awake for more than one or two hours can make them overtired and too upset to nap well.

I took these ideas and structured each day around them, enjoying the somewhat predictable waves of wakeful play and naptime.  Once they started eating every three hours, Sophie and Michael would eat (20 mins), I'd change them (5-10 minutes), and then we'd play until one of them started showing drowsy signs (20-30 minutes).  I'd put them down for naps, and we'd play some more if they woke before the next feeding time.  At that point the cycle started over.

We're currently in a stage of transitioning from feeding every three hours to every four (currently at 3.5) and napping in cribs.  This is to help get them to drop the one feeding left at night, to nap three times a day, and prepare them for napping in cribs at the child care center next month.  Since they're rolling from tummy to back now and are approaching four months old, we're going to have to work on sleeping without Swaddle Me's or Miracle Blankets soon too.  I'll likely detail those changes in upcoming posts!

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