Maria, a reader of the blog, posted a comment the other day asking about our current nap situation, as her daughter is a similar age to Hattie and Joe. Here’s what’s been going on with us…
We’re still on a two nap a day schedule, although it’s been touch and go for a while. In late January I became convinced that the two of them were ready to drop down to one nap a day, primarily because we were struggling to get them to have two day sleeps. They were settling well for their morning nap, but one or both of them would then refuse to sleep at all in the afternoon. I consulted with another twin mother in our multiple birth club – a very wise and helpful woman whose own three children (twins, and an older sister, follow good routines), and she gave me a sample one nap routine to try.
The routine involved keeping them up until around 11.30am, at which point they’d go to bed for what was designed to be a long (two – two and a half hour) nap. They’d have breakfast at 7am as usual, a morning tea snack at 9ish, lunch at 11ish, and would then go straight to bed – with an afternoon tea snack when they woke up (and that was to be no later than 3pm, and there were to be woken up if necessary). She warned me that we’d probably need to bring dinner and bedtime forward a bit, while they adjusted.
Hattie and Joe coped well with this change initially, although the first one nap a day sleep was only an hour or so long. The length of this nap lengthened after a couple of days. However, they were so knackered by the end of the day. On the fifth day they woke up very early in the morning, and so we decided to revert to a two nap routine for that day (my friend had advised that we should make the change and then stick to it, but other people had suggested that it’s sometimes easier to accept that the kids may need an occasional two nap day, to ‘catch up’). On this particular day Hattie and Joe slept for 90 minutes in the morning, and again in the afternoon, and were on excellent form for the rest of the day. We tried a two nap routine the following day, and again they slept very well, so we’ve stayed on a two nap routine ever since.
It seems that most children drop their second day sleep at some point between 12 and 18 months. My two were not ready, but as another month or two passed it became clear that we still needed to tweak their sleeping habits a bit. The two main problems were: one or both of them (usually Joe) taking ages to settle for the afternoon nap; and one or both of them (almost always Joe) takes agggges to settle to sleep at night. I ended up having a chat with the amazing Baby Sleep Consultant. As you’ll all know by now, I have no problem with paying for expert help when it comes to child-related issues – I work on the theory that a relatively modest expenditure can save us a huge amount of drama and hassle, which makes buying advice a very good investment. I had a telephone consultation with Emma, the Baby Sleep Consultant and talked her through our routine, and other pertinent details: eating habits, sleep environment, etc. I was starting to wonder whether we really did need to bite the bullet and drop the second day sleep.
Emma suggested that the children’s willingness to sleep in the morning meant that they did still need two sleeps, but their occasional lack of interest in an afternoon sleep meant that they sometimes weren’t tired enough in the afternoon. Her advice was to reduce the morning sleep gradually. She also felt that the nighttime settling difficulties were because the day sleeps weren’t quite right, and as a consequence Joe was overtired.
We took Emma’s advice and reduced the morning sleep down to one hour initially, and this made a difference straight away. As she also advised, we reduced the morning nap still further when afternoon settling issues reemerged – currently, the morning nap is 45 minutes long. Hattie and Joe are always out for the count when we go to get them up from their morning nap, and always need to be woken up, but the one time when I decided to let them sleep on, they flatly refused to sleep in the afternoon, and we had epic bedtime meltdowns.
Occasionally they’re taking as long as 20 minutes to settle to sleep in the afternoon, but it’s rare that I don’t get at least an hour’s sleep out of them. Every now and then Joe will flatly refuse to sleep in the afternoon, so I get him up and leave Hattie in peace (although I swear that child can sleep through anything, bless her).
I’ve also become far less rigid about bedtime, in that I’ve finally realised that, if the children are too tired, I should just put them to bed earlier. That sounds fairly obvious, doesn’t it! For some reason, I kept persevering with their standard 6.30pm bedtime, even though they were obviously too tired (and they’re just awful to put to bed when they’re overtired – Joe gets so upset). Now, if they only sleep for an hour in the afternoon, I put them to bed by 6pm. And on the rare day that Joe won’t sleep at all in the afternoon, bedtime is 5.45pm. It’s made a huge difference.
They’re now 15 and a half months old, and I still don’t see much sign of them bidding farewell to their morning sleep – they always settle straight away, and always need to be woken up. We just juggle the times a bit. If they’re awake at around 5.30am, we put them to bed at 8.45am for 45 minutes, and they then have their afternoon sleep at 1pm. Today they slept until just before 6am, so they’ll go for their morning nap at 9am, for 45 minutes, and I might push out their afternoon nap to 1.15pm.
I’ve also learned that they need to get some fresh air and exercise every day, weather permitting. Giving them a chance to run around outside increases the chances that they’ll sleep well.
The obvious complication with twins is trying to decide whether to keep them on the same routine. If I was at home with them all day, with no other commitments, I’d be more inclined to try it, but given that this is no longer the case, I really can’t be dealing with dual schedules. I do try to tweak it for them where necessary – for example, if Joe wakes up at 2.30pm and Hattie is still out for the count, I’ll let her sleep on for another 15 minutes. We’re lucky because Hattie is a very good and reliable sleeper.
It would all be much easier if they came with instruction manuals, wouldn’t it!