Every twin mom wants to know when her twins will sleep. When will they sleep through the night? When will they take good naps? And when will they sleep at the same time? Just as you are settling into a routine you are hit with one of the most frustrating events in baby sleep: the 45-minute intruder. All you want is for your babies to be taking two-hour naps, and they wake up after 45 minutes. It is so annoying! The one important thing to know is that this is normal. There is nothing wrong with your babies or how you are parenting them. But you don’t have to just wait this phase out. Here is how to conquer the 45 minute intruder with twins.
How To Conquer the 45 Minute Intruder with Twins
Why Is There a 45 Minute Intruder
Like I said, the 45 minute intruder is exactly what it sounds like. 45 minutes into a nap (approximately, of course, it can vary from 30-60 minutes) your babies will wake up. It’s hard to say definitively why this happens because of course, every baby is different. And they can’t tell us exactly why they woke up. With twins, you have to figure out why one baby is waking and not the other, or why two babies are waking.
Traditional Ways to Beat the 45 Minute Intruder
Short naps can be annoying overall, and there are some good reasons to check in on for why naps are too short. If you follow Babywise or a lot of other sleep methods you will see there are 2 big reasons to check first if your babies are waking early. These are concrete fixes and work really well with singletons. Sadly, I found with twins they came with extra complications.
One of the first things to check according to the Babywise book is if this waking is a hunger issue. Babies go through so many growth spurts it is entirely possible that your baby is just hungry. And, as Babywise says repeatedly, feed your baby if she is hungry! When it came to my twins though, I thought harder before just feeding them if they woke early from naps.
Hear me out on this. I am not saying do not feed your hungry twins. I am simply saying that I didn’t automatically assume hunger. Keeping twins on the same schedule is so helpful so life isn’t chaotic. So I always aimed to feed my babies at the same time. If one woke early I had the choice to feed her alone, and probably alter her schedule for the day, or wake up both girls to eat. I didn’t want to do either.
Before I would feed one or both of my twins I would think carefully about their recent eating habits. If they had been eating more than normal it could be that they were having a growth spurt. That meant I would attempt to feed whoever woke up. If you think your babies are hungry then, of course, feed them! But for me, this was rarely the case. (We fed more frequently in order to stay on top of any hunger issues. No one wants two hangry babies!) And since feeding twins can be a bit of a to-do, it was not my first choice of handling the 45 minute intruder.
Learn more about breastfeeding twins here: Breastfeeding Twins FAQ
Consider Wake Times
Another reason for a short nap is having a wake time that is either too long or too short. Yeah, helpful, right? If your babies are under tired or overtired they will have a hard time staying asleep for a full nap. For a singleton, this can be an easy trial and error fix. Give your baby a longer or shorter wake time and see if that helps the situation.
Once again, with twins, it isn’t always that simple. Identical twins are more likely to have similar sleep patterns due to their being genetically identical. Fraternal twins are normal siblings who happen to share a birthday, which means their sleep needs can be completely different. And quite honestly identical twins can be different too as personality plays a part in sleep needs.
Keeping my twins on the same schedule was key to me. (It’s basically the theme of the first year. Keep them on the same schedule!) So while I could nudge wake time around, I would not make any drastic changes with my girls right away. This is again a time to carefully consider what has been going on with your twins recently. Do they seem like they need more time awake? Maybe less? Check your notes before diving into a major change.
How Can You Help Twins with the 45 Minute Intruder?
I outlined two big reasons why the 45 minute intruder can hit and explained why those reasons need to be considered carefully when dealing with two babies at once. But the truth is sometimes sleep disruptions just happen. Babies have a 45 minute sleep cycle, meaning they are transitioning from light sleep back to heavy sleep during this time. While in light sleep it is easy to wake them. And with all things baby, it is possible to just not know why your twins are waking early. But there are some things you can do to help.
Have a Good Bedtime Routine
Having a good nap and bedtime routine is key throughout childhood. The routine signals to your babies that it is time to transition from fun awake time to restful sleep time. I have found there are 4 core parts to a quality bedtime routine. (You can read what those are here: The 4 Core Bedtime Routine Parts You Need For Success) Naptime routine is understandably a bit shorter, but you can still add consistency in. We would always follow the same pattern of a diaper change, swaddle, and song.
Your specific routine can be whatever you want, but the key is to let your babies know it is time to rest. I even go so far as to only sing their goodnight song at sleep times. Solidify that these actions mean sleep. Don’t be afraid to tell your babies that it is time for sleep too. Sure, newborns probably don’t understand what you are telling them, but kids learn fast. They will quickly catch on to the cues that sleep time is coming.
Aim For Sleepy But Awake
The old sleepy but awake advice. It can be so frustrating to hear, but the thing is it holds a lot of truth. Imagine falling asleep on your couch and waking up in your bed with no memory of how you got there. It’s a bit disconcerting. Newborns might not notice such changes, but after a few months, they start to.
Do your best to put your twins to bed sleepy but awake. They won’t be startled by being in a new environment if they wake slightly mid-nap if they are where the nap started. I found that sleepy but awake was a lot easier with twins. Even if I fed them right before nap time there was no way I could get both girls off the nursing pillow and into bed without waking them up. Even doing something as simple as having to go from one room to another can be enough to rouse your twins so they see where they are falling asleep.
Be Firm About Nap Times
This can be tough. But you have to fight for your twins to get and stay on schedule sometimes. Again, with one baby you can adjust times a bit and still make things work. When you have twins you need to be strong if you want to keep the schedule in place. (And trust me, you do. I had days where one girl was awake while the other was asleep. It was a disaster.) This means nap times happen. You as the parent decide when nap starts and when it stops. And it doesn’t stop at 45 minutes.
There are a few ways to make nap time happen. If you are comfortable with cry it out this is the perfect time to use it. I have found that twins generally aren’t disturbed if their sibling is crying, even if they are right next to each other. If you have space you could have your twins nap in separate rooms so they don’t disturb each other if they hit the 45 minute intruder.
We didn’t have room to split my girls up, and I wasn’t really into cry it out. I didn’t let my girls cry too long when they hit the 45 minute intruder. Instead, I found it more helpful to address any real crying right away. That means peeking in the room (or checking the video monitor) to see if one of my girls was truly waking or if they were just making noise. If they were waking I would go in and try to help.
Be a Nap Ninja
The goal is to basically be a nap ninja here. Spend as little time as possible in the room. Yep, your presence will often perk them up because yay! Mommy’s here! So how do you do that?
Don’t Make Eye Contact
Yes, you love your twins and they are so cute. Don’t look them in the eye. Even a little glance can cause your twins to wake up more. I found that staring at their bellies worked best. I could see everything I needed to with peripheral vision, but I didn’t make direct eye contact.
Do As Little As Possible
The goal is to get your babies to learn to fall back asleep on their own. This means interfere as little as possible. Address anything that needs fixing of course. Are they stuck somehow or uncomfortable? Did they break out of the swaddle? Gentle shushing can work as well. Make the small fix and get out.
Try A Pacifier
I know not everyone likes a pacifier, but to me, this is the perfect time to utilize them. Pop that bad boy back in before your twins fully wake up and they won’t even notice they are awake. This can actually help your twins make the sleep cycle transition better because their bodies aren’t learning to wake all the way up, instead, they stay mainly asleep. (I know not everyone is pro pacifier, but read my arguments on it: Pacifiers: Are You Ruining Your Baby?)
Trust Your Mama Gut
At the end of the day, you need to use your mama gut to know what is best. We all know times when your babies just need sleep. They have been waking a lot, they are fussy, probably overtired, and nothing is working. That is the time to do what you need to do to get sleep in those precious little bodies. A bouncer or swing can work well for this. The first goal is for babies to get enough rest, then to get the rest in the right place. (Learn more about sleep hierarchies from the Babywise Mom herself: Sleep Hierarchy for Babies.)
There were times when just one of my girls would be having a hard time with naps. It can be tough to get one on one time with newborn twins. (In fact, it can the hardest thing: The Hardest Part of Having Newborn Twins.) As such every so often I would take whichever girl was having a hard time out of the nap and let her sleep on me. I know, this goes against every piece of advice for long-term quality sleep! But that’s okay.
I called it sneaky snuggles. Just me and one twin snuggled together. It did not hurt my twins long-term sleep. They won’t develop bad habits from the occasional nap out of their bed. And it did wonders for my mama-heart. I got the chance to really just be with one baby, as all babies need. That time is so hard to find with twins. It did all of us good when we had sneaky snuggles.
Give Your Twins Time
At the end of it all, the 45 minute intruder is a phase. It is a maddening time, especially with twins. Two babies having nap issues! No! But no matter how hard it is, it will end. Stay strong. Do your best. And give your twins and yourself grace. Do not be afraid to ask for help during nap time. Get your husband to handle a nap, or ask a friend or loved one to come and handle it while you get a break. Your twins will sleep for full naps. You’re a twin mom, you know you were made tough.
Do you need help tracking when your twins eat and sleep? There are a lot of apps out there, but it can be tough to find tracking methods for twins. And I prefer good old pen and paper. So I made my own and they really worked for us. You can grab copies by signing up below. I’ll send you the password and you can get your free printables. This also gives you access to all the science and learning activity printables as well! Signing up also means you are signing up for the Team Cartwright mailing list, which you can, of course, unsubscribe from at any point.