I wrote a few days ago about how we're going to try to get some structure around here in terms of sleep. And as if they were reading my mind, EMOMs (Eastside Moms of Multiples) had a sleep consultant as the guest speaker yesterday who did a speech on the basics and then opened the floor to questions.
Perfect timing! The girls are 4 months old, with an adjusted age of 12 weeks. They are old enough to learn habits, but still young enough that bad habits won't be that hard to break. I learned a couple of things that I'm thinking will make our household a ton happier.
First and foremost, I learned that motion sleep (sleeping in a vibrating bouncy seat, in the car, in a swing) isn't really sleep. It's just dozing. I had no idea! So here my girls have been napping in their swings all day and I'm having no clue as to why they are so over tired when we try to put them to bed at night! To break this habit, I'm still going to start them in their swings, but once asleep I'll turn them off so they go into a deeper sleep. I'll work on transitioning them into the crib for their naps over the next few weeks.
A couple of nights ago demonstrated our problem perfectly. The girls got up from a nap around 8pm, we ate, changed wardrobes, interacted, and I saw a yawn right on cue at 9:30. So we swaddled and put them to bed. Tina only slept a few minutes before the night of torture began. She was so overtired and I couldn't figure out why since every indication told me that we put her to bed at the right time. She was screaming as if in pain a lot of the night, but every so often she would calm down, smile at me, give me some giggles, and then when she got bored, she would start screaming again. Since she was feeling fine enough to giggle, I knew she wasn't sick or in pain, just over tired. Well now I know she was over tired because all of her daytime naps were full of crappy sleep.
Second, we're gonna have to bite the bullet and become morning people. It's just not going to work to try to have a late bed time and late wake time. This sucks because K usually works at night and will be coming home after their bed time. Not to mention, we're naturally late night people. But the babies need to start learning that life is really boring when the sun is down, so our interaction with them is going to fade with the sunlight. Bed time routine will start around 8pm with a goal of having them in bed by 9pm. Dream feed when we're ready to go bed (probably around midnight) and then see how much sleep they give us. If they wake up before sunrise, they get a very boring bottle and stay in the crib to go back to sleep. Whenever they wake once the sun is up, our day starts.
Third, day time and night time wake ups need to be very different. At night, we only tend to their needs, not necessarily their wants. So no talking, no bouncing, only enough cuddles to induce the drowsies, if we do cuddles at all. During the day, it's "good morning!!!!" and "yay life!"
Fourth, I was doing dream feeds wrong. I thought you could pick them up and rouse them a little to eat. Nope, a dream feed is just leaning over sleeping babies in a crib and sticking a bottle in their mouths. Then you kind of move the bottle around to summon the sucking reflex. Not sure what to do about burping if I'm not supposed to pick them up at all. Just not burp them? That doesn't seem right. Anyone have an answer to that one?
Fifth, we need to allow them to fuss for a few minutes to teach themselves that they can get themselves back to sleep without us. We've decided that our tolerance is 5 minutes so now we have stopwatches next to the bed. When they wake up with night nurfles, we set the countdown for 5 minutes. If they haven't gone back to sleep when the countdown ends, we go and soothe them. That's enough time for them to try to put themselves down, but not so long that they rile themselves up with being upset if they can't. It's amazing how long 5 minutes actually is when you're timing it and not just guesstimating it.
Sixth, they are now old enough to sleep with little loveys. Those wash rag sized blankets with a soft toy in the middle of them. So I've been stuffing loveys in my bra all day to get them mama scented.
That's what I learned last night! Now to try this stuff and see if some patterns start to emerge so we can create a proper schedule.