Pretty much all day we let the girls sleep when and however long they want to. This means that we never know when we're going to bed at night. But whenever we generally decide it's time for bed (between 9pm-midnight depending on when they naturally go down), we swaddle and put them in the crib. This often means an hour or more of crying and fighting off sleep and frustration. I usually end up crying, and we go to bed too wired to go to sleep right away. Then we sleep as much as we can until a baby wakes us up. I prep bottles while K brings them into the living room, changes the diaper of the first baby and puts that baby in the feeding station. I start feeding her while K gets the other one. Once the other one is in the feeding station, K takes over feeding both and I go pump. I get some "me" time on my computer while K wrestles with feeding and burping 2 babies, one of whom spits up pretty much consistently. When I finish pumping, I help with the rocking and putting them back to sleep and then we go back to bed.
K does his best to let me sleep as much as possible for other wake up times until he just can't handle it anymore, and on his days off, I'm still stuck with babies all day because he let me sleep through part of the morning and thus needs to sleep a good portion of the day.
This has been ok for the first few months, but K finally expressed that he kind of resents listening to me merrily type away while he's struggling to burp both babies. I didn't realize he was having a difficult time because he simply never complains. And I've kind of resented his valiant attempts to be kind to me because while I might have wanted to nap during a day that he's home, now I can't because he tried to be nice and let me sleep in the morning, but since I can hear him struggling with babies, I never sleep deeper than dozing during that time. Then I feel guilty all day if I have to ask for his help when both kids go off at the same time because he's exhausted.
What we've been doing kind of works, but there's a lot of stress, frustration, and flailing going on.
When we went out on Monday night for dinner (my parents are now babysitting every Monday evening so we get a night out), we looked over the babies sleeping records in BabyESP and came up with a new plan of attack.
The babies are consistently sleeping approximately 4.5 hours in the middle of the night, they wake for feeding and then go back to sleep for another 3-4 hour chunk. Sometimes we get lucky and they'll go 5 or 6 hours, but that's not very often. We've been patiently waiting for them to take the initiative and sleep through the night and we've been lucky with the occasional and random really long stretch of sleep. But we can't count on that and it's been rare. So at the risk of missing out on when they would naturally sleep through the night, we've decided to take some control over all of this.
We've decided that come 11:30pm, the girls will be in the crib regardless of how much they protest, as long as they are fed and clean of course. They normally fall asleep somewhere between 9pm-midnight so this hasn't been a problem so far. But if there's a night where it is a problem, we will soothe them in the crib rather than taking them out and flailing around trying to quiet them. We know this might mean some torturous nights, but we're hoping the payoff will be that they begin to recognize that at night, they belong on the crib and it's sleep time.
We'll set our alarm for 4 hours after the first one goes to sleep, somewhere between 2am-4am. I'm going to drop my middle of the night pump. We get up and prep bottles and go into the nursery. We keep the nursery relatively dark and quiet and keep the girls in there. We'll feed the one that fell asleep first, only waking her enough to make her eat. If she doesn't really need a diaper change, we'll not bother. The goal is to get her fed and back to sleep before she realizes what's happening. And then we do the same for the other. Then we go back to bed and let them wake us up when they want to in the morning.
In order to start letting us get more sleep, one night I will do the middle of the night feeding (which is now reasonable to accomplish since neither baby really wakes up and we can do one at a time), then he'll do a night, then we'll do a night together, and on night four we'll see what they naturally do (maybe sleep through the night???). For the morning wake up, whoever's night it is to do the dream feed will sleep through it, but if the other parent needs help (like if they both wake up at the same time), no guilt about waking each other up. Maybe both parents will get a 6 or 7 hour chunk of sleep, but if not, at least one should get a solid chunk like that once or twice a week.
We're only a couple of nights into trying this, but so far dreamfeeding is awesome! The stress level has decreased dramatically. It is soooooo much better waking up to an alarm and leisurely prepping bottles than it is to wake up to 2 screaming babies and trying to will the bottles to heat up faster while we get yelled at for not being fast enough. Because the girls never stress out or even fully wake up, putting them back down to sleep is almost instantaneous. No more endless rocking or walking around while we're half asleep.
We're really hoping that by getting more and better rest at night, the girls will be less stressed in general, and going to bed at night will become easier. We might miss out on the opportunity to sleep through a night since we're getting up by alarm, but if every night is less stressful, I think it's worth the trade off of one really great night.
Once we get this pattern established, we'll start pushing the dream feed out by 15 minutes every week or two. Hopefully we'll eventually have it pushed out so far that the girls will sleep a solid 7 or 8 hours. And with all great ideas and plans, who knows how long we'll stick with this, but it's worth a shot.
And now, obligatory recent baby pics!