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I am a huge fan of sleep. I would choose to sleep over pretty much anything else, given the choice. I am also a huge fan of my babies sleeping because that means downtime (and sleep!) for me! One thing I definitely wanted to make sure we had down by the time the boys were a few months old was healthy sleep habits. I am a member of an online message board community so that I can keep up to date on current baby topics and see what milestones the boys should be hitting along with other babies who are the same age - and I am always beyond shocked to see the number of parents who do not know what healthy sleep habits for theirs babies are.
Beyond shocked might be a bit of an understatement --- I frequently call Andy over to show him a post that goes something like this... "My 8 month old won't sleep for more than an hour at a time and we are still getting up 6-8 times a night to nurse! Help! Also, he doesn't go to sleep until 10 p.m. and he sleeps in a co-sleeper and my husband snores really loudly and everyone is a light sleeper!" These people usually also note that every time baby wakes up, they nurse him back to sleep and put him in a food coma, rock/shush/pat for 30 minutes and then by the time that whole process is done, baby is ready to wake up again! I just.can't.imagine.
Here are a few things I implemented early to make sure that we were on the right track as far as healthy sleep habits go. Bonus: If you instill these habits early enough, you may not have to resort to any sort of extreme sleep training, such as the cry-it-out or Ferber method which can be harsh on both baby and parents alike. SWEET!
1. Babies need an early bed time. WAY earlier than I initially thought. We start our bedtime routine at 7 p.m. and everyone (well, the babies...) is asleep by 7:30 p.m. This is even a bit later than recommended by most sleep coaches and experts but it's what works for our family. Keeping the boys up any later than that and we risk them becoming over-tired (read: not going to sleep easily and/or waking up throughout the night.)
2. Each baby goes in his crib. Every night. Every time. Forever. I cannot stress this one enough, although I know it is a very controversial topic - especially for those practicing attachment parenting. Yes, putting a 5 pound baby in a large, empty, cold crib by himself is sad and scary... but, for our babies at least, it was the best for them. They learned to sleep in their cribs alone from night one and they do not get to come to bed with us if they wake up in the middle of the night. This is where comfort objects come into play - Wubbanubs, swaddling, small stuffed animals or loveys. Anything baby can grab in the middle of the night for comfort that is size and age appropriate.
3. The crib goes in the nursery. Not in your room. Not in the living room while you sleep on the couch for the first year of your life. Not in the nursery BUT you have an air mattress in there and sleep right next to the crib at night. That's not healthy or comfortable for you (or your relationship with your husband, I'll go ahead and assume!) Babies tend to be light sleepers and mothers who have babies in the same room tend to be even more of a light sleeper. Happy, healthy, well-rested mom = happy, healthy baby.
4. Teach baby to fall asleep on his own. Nursing/feeding to sleep is tempting. Rocking a baby to sleep multiple times a night is just something new moms do. But after a few months, baby needs to learn to fall asleep on his own. Most infants cannot soothe themselves to sleep until after 4 months old, so you'll need to tough it out until then. Make sure you have a solid bedtime routine established. Bath, dry nighttime diaper (super important!), swaddling or sleep sack, white noise - all of those are sleep cues that let your baby know it is nighttime, not nap time!
One of the best tips I have heard is to always put your baby down drowsy, but awake. They will learn to fall asleep on their own. If they fall asleep eating, they will need to eat every time they wake up in order to go back to sleep. Same goes for pacifiers. A well rested baby wakes up super happy in the morning... the proof is in the smiles!
Do you have any questions about gentle sleep training methods for twins or trying to establish healthy sleep habits? I'm not an expert, but I do have 8 months of experience behind me now and would love to help you work through any questions you may have!
Disclaimer: I am not an expert or medical professional of any kind. AAP recommendations suggest that having baby's crib in the same room as mom/dad may help lower the risk of SIDS. My photos and experiences do not reflect practicing perfect AAP recommendations, but it is what works for our family.