If you are reading this, you are likely wondering how to get your babies on the same twin schedule. Bringing home newborn twins is life-changing. You will find yourself in a never-ending cycle of feedings, changing diapers, putting babies to sleep, and perhaps pumping. Frequently your twins will fall asleep, wake up, and be hungry at different times. It will feel like you never get a break, and the mere idea of getting out of the house for something as simple as a walk will seem overwhelming.
This is why so many parents of twins strongly recommend adopting a synchronized twin schedule. While an on-demand schedule (meaning you feed your baby whenever it is hungry, and let it sleep when and however long it wants to sleep) can work perfectly fine with a singleton child, twins are different.
The concept of keeping twins on the same schedule means that your goal is to feed them, play with them, and put them to sleep at the same time. In this article, I will discuss when you can expect to adopt a twin schedule, and 5 tips for successfully making this happen.
How Long Does it Take to Adopt a Twin Schedule?
You can start encouraging a routine as soon as you bring your twins home by feeding them and putting them to sleep at the same time. But realistically, you may not “feel” like you’ve fallen into a synchronized twin schedule until your twins are 2-3 months old. This is when two key things start to happen: their wake windows begin to lengthen, and they start to develop a circadian rhythm.
In the early days, your twins will likely either be eating or sleeping. This is because feedings can take a LONG time for newborns (especially preemies). It is not uncommon for feedings to consume the entire time they are awake, and then they will fall asleep again right after – if not during – the feeding. However, as babies reach 2-3 months old, their wake windows lengthen enough that they will be awake for a bit between the feeding and falling asleep. This becomes the “play” window and it will continue to lengthen as the baby ages.
Additionally, 2-3 months old is when infants typically begin to develop a circadian rhythm. This is what allows their bodies to distinguish between day and night, and it is not something humans are born with. You can read more about this in Chronobiology’s article, Development of the Circadian Rhythm in Infants, including ways that parents can help infants develop a circadian rhythm.
So, now that you know when it is realistic to expect your newborns to be capable of adopting a twin schedule, let’s look at ways you can help them get in-sync.
#1 – Feed Your Twins at the Same Time
Ideally, this means feeding your twins literally at the same time, whether you are breastfeeding or using bottles. If that is too daunting, then feed them one right after the other in succession. Let’s dive a little deeper into both options.
Feeding in Tandem (aka at the same time)
If you plan to feed your twins at the same time, you’ll likely need some specific baby gear to help you.
If breastfeeding, I highly recommend getting a nursing pillow designed specifically for twins. The TwinZ Pillow and the My Breast Friend Twin Plus Breastfeeding Pillow are the two most popular products.
Feeding in Succession (aka one right after the other)
If feeding your twins in tandem is too daunting, then you can try feeding them one at a time. Just make sure to feed them directly after each other to keep their schedules as closely aligned as possible.
Remember though that preemies take a long time to feed (20-60 minutes is not uncommon). So, if you are feeding in succession, you realistically may not be able to get their schedules synced until they are a bit older and more efficient at feeding.
#2 – Put Your Twins to Sleep at the Same Time
Just like with feeding, your goal should be to put your twins to sleep at the same time. Or, as close to the same time as possible. If you wake them at the same time, then (hopefully) they will get sleepy around the same time too.
Some parents run into the challenge of one twin falling asleep well before the ideal time, such as in the middle of a feeding. There are a few tricks you can try to keep the sleepy baby awake to finish the feeding and stay on the same schedule as the other twin:
- If your baby is groggy upon waking, try changing its diapers before starting the feeding. This frequently helps pull them out of their sleepy state.
- If the above does not work, try completely removing their clothing when you change the diaper. The difference in air temperature and various textile textures against their bare skin will often do the trick.
- If your baby is initially alert, but then tends to fall asleep in the middle of a feeding, wait to change its diaper until she/he starts getting sleepy. And then finish the feeding.
#3 – Follow Recommended Wake Times
Wake times are the number of minutes or hours that a baby is awake between naps. This window starts as soon as a baby wakes up and ends when the baby falls asleep. As infants get older, the wake time lengthens. If you are trying to embrace a twin schedule and avoid having overtired babies, try following recommended wake times by age.
Below is a chart from My Baby Sleep Guide that outlines the ideal sleep averages for babies from birth to 8 months old. The website also has a similar chart for 9 months to 4 years old. You can print the charts from the website for easy reference.
Keep in mind that these are sleep averages and babies’ individual needs can vary. But this is a good starting point, and you can adjust as needed as you figure out what works best for your twins.
#4 – Adopt a Sleep > Eat > Play Routine
In the early days, your twins will likely either be eating or sleeping without much (if any) wake time in between. After a couple of months, babies’ wake windows start to lengthen and they will be awake for a short time between eating and falling asleep. This becomes the “play” window, and you can now start to adopt a Sleep > Eat > Play > Sleep routine.
Most babies (and older children) thrive on having a routine to provide consistency and allow their bodies to establish a regular metabolism. Having a routine can also help parents become more familiar with their children and their body language, such as the difference between their tired cry and their hungry cry. This makes it easier to determine if something else is affecting your child if they begin to cry outside of the typical times based on their schedule (e.g., in pain, teething, growth spurt, etc.).
Finally, having your twins on a synchronized sleep > eat > play routine makes it SO much easier for you to make plans for getting out of the house!
#5 – Keep a Daily Twin Schedule Log
During the first several months of having your twins home, you are going to be exhausted, sleep-deprived, and operating in survival mode. Most likely you are not going to remember the countless specific details for each of your twins, such as: when they last fed, how much they drank (if using bottles), how long they nursed and which breast each baby used (if breastfeeding), when they last slept, peed, had a bowel movement, or was given any required medications, etc.
Believe me when I say that tracking this information in a daily twin schedule log is going to help your sanity.
As your twins get older you may decide that you don’t need to track all of these details quite as closely. But, still tracking your babies’ sleep and feeding habits is very helpful in keeping your twins on a common schedule. It will be easier to ensure you stick to your ideal wake time windows, as well as noticing developing trends. For example, if your babies are taking longer to fall asleep then they might be ready for a longer wake time.
Be sure to check out my FREE printable: Twin Feeding & Napping Daily Tracker.
It is important to also keep in mind that twins are individuals. Although most parents will agree that adopting the same twin schedule was essential, this is not necessarily the case for ALL parents of multiples. If despite your best efforts getting your twins on a common schedule is just not working, or it is creating additional stress or challenges, then let it go. There are plenty of parents of multiples that follow a more flexible schedule, and it works for them. You can always try again in a few months when your twins are at a different stage developmentally; perhaps getting them on a synced schedule will be easier at that point. Or, you could discover that a flexible schedule works fine and decide to stick with that. Find what works best for your family and lifestyle. You got this!