There comes a time in many a parent's journey, when they find themselves in such a sleep-deprived state they develop a strange eye-twitch and start pouring their coffee into an orange juice glass. This is also around the time most parents start considering crying it out (CIO). For parents of multiples, however, they likely reach this point much quicker than the rest of us. But is CIO even a thing when you have twins? And how do you cry it out with twins, anyway? One would imagine it is like a never-ending game of whack-a-mole where you, the parent, end up looking and feeling like the mole the next morning.
Unfortunately, there isn't a heap of reliable information out there on the secret to getting twins to simultaneously sleep through the night. There are, however, some tips on how to approach sleep training multiples safely.
First off, let's clear up the misconception that CIO means letting a baby cry for hours on end without providing any comfort until they fall asleep. This is one sleep-training approach of CIO, yes, but it is not the only approach. The idea of listening to not just one, but two babies crying alone in a dark room is enough to make a parent want to hide under the covers forever, but the website Baby Center offers a different, more comforting approach. According to Baby Center, CIO "simply refers to any sleep training approach — and there are many — that say it's OK to let a baby cry for a specified period of time (often a very short period) before offering comfort."
So when it comes to sleep training multiples (or just one baby, for that matter), crying it out does not have to be an all-or-nothing deal. That means there are ways to do it that will not make you want to peel off your own skin while it is happening. As The Baby Sleep Site outlines, some common, gentle sleep training methods include (but are not limited to) the Fading Technique, The Chair Technique, The Pick-Up-Put-Down Technique, and The Check-And-Console Technique.
There's even more good news about those aforementioned two crying babies. If your twins have been sharing a room from the beginning, they likely won't be bothered by the sound of the other twin crying. According to Healthy Children, babies become accustomed to their sleeping environment and "accept the presence of their twin as part of the environment of the room."
Baby Center recommends waiting to sleep train until babies are between 4 and 6 months old, which is typically when they've developed a regular sleep-wake cycle and have dropped most of their night feedings. Once you've reached this growth milestone with your multiples, the next thing you'll want to do is start to develop a night time routine (if you haven't created one already). Routines are important for both you and your multiples in establishing cues to help you remember the sequence of events that will eventually lead up to the final moment (i.e. going to sleep). An example of a helpful bedtime routine might include bath, bottle, book, song, and bed. The American Sleep Association (ASA) cautions against feeding babies right before bed lest they associate food with sleep. One of the goals of sleep training, the ASA says, is to help break the wake and eat cycle.
Another important component of sleep training is consistency in your bedtime routines, as noted by The ASA. When sleep training your multiples, start your twins' bed time routines at the same time (more or less) every night, and to try not to skip nights, especially in the beginning of sleep training.
Keep in mind that relapses do occur, so try to be realistic and temper your expectations. Sleep training does not happen overnight, and there can (and most likely will) be setbacks.
Ultimately, the goal of sleep-training (or CIO) is to help your babies teach themselves how to self-soothe, so that they hold the tools to calming themselves back to sleep. The "crying" part of crying-it-out is just the means to an end. Of course, babies cry when they don't get what they want (i.e. you picking them up and comforting them). The hope is that your babies will learn what you know to be true already: going to sleep is a most precious and wonderful thing made even better when you don't have any obstacles in your path to getting there.