The Case for the Floor Bed

Many parents worry how they can get their co-sleeping older babies into their own room and into their own cots. However, there’s another way which can be much easier, much more gentle and less stressful for everyone. The floor bed!

The difficulty of using a cot is having to settle them into it. Contrary to popular belief, many children under the age of 2 do not lie down and go to sleep happily on their own. Many still need a feed or a cuddle to do this. But getting them to go into the cot after feeding or cuddling to sleep can be difficult. As soon as you lower them down and let go, they’re awake again, either almost straight away or at the end of the first sleep cycle.

A floor bed can remedy a lot of the problems. Either just a mattress on the floor, or on a low slatted bed base, or on conjunction with a cot (or two) with the side taken off.

Here are some of the positives:

* Baby is settled to sleep in the bed they are expected to sleep in. Often a baby falls asleep in its parent’s arms or bed as this is the easiest way to get them to sleep. Then when the baby wakes up, they find themselves in their cot, sometimes in a different room. This can be very disorienting as any adult who has awoken somewhere different to where they fell asleep can testify!

* If the baby wakes in the night, the parent can settle them back to sleep in the baby’s own bed easily with a feed or a cuddle. No need to move them out of their environment.

* The fact it is on the floor means it is safe if they roll out or get up and wander in the night. And they will not try to climb out of the cot! Ensure furniture is screwed to the walls for safety and nothing can be pulled on top of them. Parents can also use a baby monitor.

* Parents can co-sleep part of the night in baby’s bed if necessary ensuring a good night sleep for all. This also means that the other parent can remain in the parental bed. The co-sleeping parent can sneak back to their own bed if they are still awake once baby has settled.

* It is a very gentle way to encourage a baby to move into their own room or in with their sibling whenever the parents think this is the correct time for their family.

* Later on the parent can gradually retreat by lying next to the child, lying a bit further away, popping out for a minute, until eventually they are happy with a story, a kiss and a cuddle and then sleep.

So for parents wanting a gentle way to transition a child to sleeping on their own space, this can be an ideal solution.

Photos courtesy of Gentle Parenting Twins and Triplets UK & Ireland facebook group.

Night Weaning Toddler Twins

Babies wake in the night. We know that. Babies like to feed a lot in the night. That’s a given. But sometimes it all becomes too much. Sometimes its exhaustion, sometimes its nursing aversion, sometimes work commitments and sometimes it’s just that mum has had enough. Night weaning is generally not recommended until after 18 months by most Gentle Parenting experts. At this age they have some understanding of what is going on. Sleep is a developmental stage, like walking and talking, and babies and toddlers will do it when they are ready. Some will have large chunks of sleep from an early age and that’s fine, but others continue to wake frequently well into their second year.  There are definite genetic factors at play. And twins do not necessarily do it at the same time. Often one is ready much sooner than the other. Breastfeeding is by far the easiest and fastest way to settle a baby back to sleep when they wake. But there may be a point where mum needs to stop it. This should be for the mum to decide and nobody else. She will know if she is ready to night wean. If she is not sure whether she should, then it probably is not the right time yet. It is nobody else’s decision; not the health visitor, grandmother or even the partner. And just to make sure you understand, night weaning will not necessarily make them sleep any better. They may still wake, and you will have lost the easiest way to get them back to sleep. However with lots of consistent alternative reassurance they will begin to be able to transition from one sleep state to another. Toddlers not being too over tired during the day will also help with this.

tandem feeding in bed

Breastfeeding at night is not so much about nutrition for toddlers. There is a big emotional context to it. Breastfeeding is helping them feel safe, to deal with all the big emotions of being a toddler, to deal with the pain of teething, to reconnect after being separated due to work and child care. There’s a whole load of stuff going on. So it’s important not to take away the other comforts that they are used to whilst you try to night wean. Co-sleeping, bed-sharing, cuddles, using a comforter like a toy. These can help the transition away from relying on the breast to settle back to sleep.

Should you night wean both together? Or should you deal with them separately? This is a difficult one as it really depends on your own individual situation. Is one more settled than the other? Or are they both equally as wakeful? Is either of them happy to settle for your partner?  Are you bed sharing? Do they share a separate bedroom? Do they have separate rooms? There are all sorts of factors to take into account. If one baby is more settled, able to settle for a partner, or they are in separate rooms, then it may be easier to try separately. Otherwise it is probably easier to do both together.

Find other ways to settle your toddler at night. There are many different things you can try as a replacement for breastfeeding; cuddling, stroking, patting, singing, use of a special toy or blanket, music, white noise, whatever works best for you. Some will work better than others and everyone is different. You will find the best option for your family.

One thing to try is to cuddle or stroke back to sleep whilst they’re stirring before properly awake. Toddlers go through sleep cycles from deep, slow wave, sleep to light REM (rapid eye movement) sleep regularly and it is during the REM sleep that they often fully rouse and need help to resettle back into a deeper sleep again. Unfortunately a toddler’s sleep cycle is much shorter than an adult’s. This only really works if you are bed sharing as you will need to be in close proximity to be aware when they are about to wake. But if you can cuddle or rest your hand on their body and settle before they are completely awake, you may find they go back into another deep sleep without fully waking and demanding to be fed. I found turning baby away from me and cuddling tightly from behind worked fairly well.

Try with just one of the night feeds. Try the first wake-up of the night and see if you can settle them in a different way. This is the most likely night feed to be able to drop more easily. As the night progresses and morning approaches, sleep often becomes lighter and toddlers are more difficult to settle back to sleep. They often like to get up very early at this age. The most likely thing to help you stay in bed for a bit longer is to continue to breastfeed in the early mornings!  

Find another comforter. Toddlers often like to have a comforter in bed and these can really help to transition away from breastfeeding being the major comfort. The comforter can be anything your toddler is attached to. It can be a toy or blanket, or sometimes physical touch can replace breastfeeding; my toddler would slide his hand up my sleeve for comfort. The replacement comforter should be introduced well before the night weaning process is begun as it should not be seen as a replacement for breastfeeding but a separate comfort. Then slowly you can encourage your toddlers to become more dependent on this and less dependent on breastfeeding.

Debra's twins cudding

Twins also have a built in comfort; each other! One of the plus points of having more than one baby is that they do give comfort to each other. In the early days many parents co-bed their twins or triplets and find this can help with settling them to sleep. However a lot of mums separate them later as they start to disturb each other. But sometimes as they get older, they may like to sleep together in a large cot or floor bed or even just in a standard toddler bed. I often found mine had climbed in bed together when they had gone to bed separately.

Shortening feeds. This can be especially effective if you are experiencing nursing aversion. Nursing aversion is a negative feeling some mums get when feeding. It is often hormonally driven, ovulation and menstruation can be a trigger, and pregnancy is a major culprit. So in order to continue being able to breastfeed, shortening the feeds can work well. You can talk to your toddlers about having “a little bit”. To start with, tackle the bed time feed, pull off the breast by sticking in your little finger and breaking the seal just before your toddler is about to drift off to sleep and encourage them to do that last bit on their own. You can always re-latch them if it doesn’t work. Once the toddler is used to this you can gradually unlatch sooner and eventually they may settle to sleep from awake on their own. Some mums like to sing a song during this feed and when the song is finished, the feed is finished. If you are having a particularly bad day you can sing faster! Once they are good at settling to sleep without the breast they may be more able to move between their night time sleep cycles without feeding. They may settle for the song. Or they may settle with just a few of sucks.   

Talk to your toddlers throughout the day about how boobies will be asleep tonight and how they can have some in the morning. Let them choose which comforter they would like to use. Remind them again just before bed time. Try to keep it positive. When will they be able to feed again, you can feed once the sun shines, boobies have gone to bed and will be back in the morning. Try not to focus on rejecting them. On saying no, not now. Some parents find a Gro-clock can be a great visual aide for this method. The Gro-clock can be set to go from day to night at a certain time and you can explain to your toddler that they can breastfeed once the clock says it is morning. You can set an early time to begin with and extend it later on, once they get the concept. There is also a lovely book called “Nursies When The Sun Shines” by Katherine C Havener which focusses on night weaning and explains to the toddler that she will be able to nurse when the sun comes up.  

Dad sleeping with babies

The partners in a twin or triplet family are often much more hands on than your average family, as there is much more to do! If your toddlers are happy to settle with your partner, and they must be truly happy, sometimes this can be a good technique to night wean. Your partner can go in first and see if they can settle them. If it doesn’t work then you can go in and breastfeed back to sleep. Some babies are more receptive to this than others. You may find one of your babies is fine with your partner and so this may help night wean one of them easily and you can concentrate on the other. Sometimes you can split them up and the non-breastfeeding parent take one of the toddlers and sleep with them and the breastfeeding parent can sleep with the other. But often only the breastfeeding parent will do and if this is causing further distress it may be a good idea to stop.  Remember for a toddler breastfeeding is a way to connect with you, their mum. So keeping the connection is important.

Night weaning is often a very gradual process. Aim for small goals and baby steps. And don’t be afraid to stop if it does not feel right. Teething, illness, changes of circumstances, can all increase night waking and sometimes it may just be easier to go back to breastfeeding in the night again. Then once the unsettled period has passed you can try again. Also don’t be afraid to stop at a certain stage if you are all happy. Sometimes mums find that one or two night feeds are actually quite doable and continuing with these can actually make night times easier. Each journey is very personal between mum and her toddlers and what will work for one family will not necessarily work for another.d and j in bed

www.isisonline.org.uk/twins/

www.parentingscience.com/baby-sleep-patterns.html

www.feedsleepbond.com/how-to-stop-breastfeeding/

www.emmapickettbreastfeedingsupport.com/twitter-and-blog/weaning-toddler-bob-and-pre-schooler-billie-how-do-you-stop-breastfeeding-an-older-child

“The No-Cry Sleep Solution”; Elizabeth Pantley

“The Gentle Sleep Book”; Sarah Ockwell-Smith

 

Kathryn Stagg, IBCLC and ABM Breastfeeding Counsellor, Dec 2017

Sleep tips for multiples

Sleep tips for multiples are not always the same as those for singletons. I’m not saying that multiple babies always bring exponentially more sleep problems! In fact, some people find that their multiples were easier than their singletons! But many families find that general sleep books contain tips that don’t always work very well with multiples.

Lyndsey Hookway, paediatric nurse, health visitor, IBCLC and gentle sleep and behaviour coach works at http://www.feedsleepbond.com as well as for the NHS and as an independent lecturer and trainer, teams up with the Kathryn Stagg, breastfeeding counselor, soon to be IBCLC and mum of twins as well as singletons to bring together our collective wisdom on sleep tips for multiples.

In the early days

The best time to lay the foundations for good sleep with multiples babies is in the newborn period. Prevention is better than cure after all! There are several strategies for families of multiples that are simply not an option for singleton newborns.

  1. Multiples are often smaller and born a little earlier than singleton babies. For these reasons, they often stay a little longer in hospital. Use this time to access as much support as possible for feeding, especially getting breastfeeding established. Many of the problems with low blood sugars, excessive weight loss and jaundice can be minimized or even avoided completely by frequent, effective feeding.
    • Plan to feed your babies at least 10-12 times in 24 hours
    • Try to not allow your babies a gap between feeds of any longer than 3 hours to avoid them dropping their blood sugars and becoming sleepy, cold or jaundiced
    • Ensure your babies are drinking effectively at the breast, and not just latching on and then having a nap! Watch this video to see what really effective feeding looks like.
    • Ask for help from the infant feeding team, peer supporters, a breastfeeding counselor, or IBCLC – check this interactive map to find your nearest.
  2. Very young babies are not great at maintaining their body temperature. Dress your babies in thin, 100% cotton layers, but remember to avoid using a hat indoors unless you have been advised to use one by your baby’s medical team.
  3. Consider placing your babies in the same crib for sleep, ensuring that they are still in the back to sleep and feet to foot position. Twins and triplets are often comforted by being near their sibling(s). for more information click here.
  4. If your babies fall asleep feeding on a feeding cushion, then provided you are awake and watching them, just leave them where they are! Lots of babies wake up when they are transferred. At first, the priority is getting your babies to sleep simulataneously, rather than get them to sleep in their cot.
  5. If your babies like to take their time feeding, consider tandem feeding, where you feed them at the same time. Try watching this video for some inspiration with positions and how to manage more than one baby for feeds.
  6. Use a variety of sleep cues from the very beginning to encourage your babies to associate several cues with sleep. These could include shushing, patting, white noise, and a small thin muslin cloth with your scent on.

What sleep problems may occur?

To some extent, multiples are no different than singletons – they still enjoy being close to their parents, being cuddled, rocked, and fed to sleep. Nothing new there! The specifically tricky thing with more than one baby is managing the logistics!

Problem Consider:
Babies not sleeping at the same time ·      Review feeding needs, weight gain·      Try to feed babies at the same time

·      Consider babies individually, to see if they have different needs that need to be met in different ways

·      Prioritise when babies sleep over where or how – try pram walks or baby carriers to get babies to sleep

One baby wakes the other ·      Try white noise to help the sleeping baby to ignore the breakthrough sound·      First try briefly separating the babies to establish good sleep habits. Then return them to the same room once they are both sleeping well
Hard to settle more babies than there are adults to help ·      Consider enlisting the help of others just for bedtime·      Consider tag-teaming at bedtime – one baby to one adult

·      Place one baby in a bouncer whilst settling the first baby

·      Place both babies in the crib and shush and pat both at the same time

Remember your sleep basics ·      Initiate a bedtime routine from the beginning·      Prioritise naps – watch your babies’ early sleepy cues and put them down for naps at the first sign of tiredness

·      Try earlier bedtimes to minimize overtiredness

Points to remember:

You gave birth to two, three or more completely individual little people. They may share many characteristics, features, and parents. However, that does not mean they will have the same sleep requirements, or go to sleep in the same way. Just as with a single baby, it is not your responsibility to make your babies sleep. It is only your responsibility to keep them loved and safe and provide the right environment for sleep.

If you do reach the utopian scenario when your babies are sleeping at the same time, in spite of the excitement you will feel at having achieved such a miracle, try to sleep! Resist the urge to catch up on your social media, laundry or batch cooking. The babies can sit in a bouncy chair watching you while you do those things. Sleep is a precious commodity – guard yours with your life!

Learn how to wrap your babies in a sling/baby carrier – this can be a lifesaver for when you need to get chores done, or you want your babies to sleep whilst you’re out and about. It’s well worth going to a sling library or asking a trained sling consultant to help you find the right sling – not all babies and mums get on with the same slings.

Remember the basics:

  • Bedtime routine (do 3-4 calming activities that are predictable before each and every sleep, and do a mini-version of the routine for naps as well)
  • Good sleep hygiene (uncluttered sleep environment, dim lighting, regular bedtime, bedtime routine)
  • Avoid over-tiredness – watch for early sleep cues: losing interest in toys, avoiding eye contact, becoming quiet. Later sleep cues include yawning, eye rubbing, crying, back arching and high pitched squealing. Putting your babies down after you see late tired cues may make it harder for your little ones to fall asleep.
  • Stay calm! Babies are masters at knowing our psychological state. You have to be wise to this and plan to mentally ‘park’ your baggage prior to trying to get your little ones to fall asleep. If they sense your frustration or desperation, chances are they will get worked up and be harder to settle. I often recommend a thought or mood journal to dump any unhelpful or negative thinking patterns.

Some gadgets that may help:

The choice of baby equipment can be overwhelming, but here are some favourite gadgets from mums of multiples:

  1. Feeding pillows can be really useful – not only for feeding babies, but also to use for support, playtime and sitting up in bed. Check out Kathryn’s blog on feeding pillows here.
  2. Large side-car cots. There are loads on the market, and they facilitate breastfeeding and easier nighttime settling. If you don’t want to buy a specific co-sleeper crib, your other option is to buy a standard cot. Then take one of the long sides off, so that the cot only has 3 sides. Your babies can then sleep together in the cot.
  3. Bouncers – these can be a lifesaver as a safe place to put one baby while you attend to the other(s). There are lots to choose from – pick one that has head support so your baby’s head is not slumped, which can cause flat head syndrome.
  4. Twin buggies with carrycots. This is probably your most expensive purchase! However, if you have a pram with easily removable carrycots, your babies will be more portable.  You can then meet friends out and about whilst your babies nap. If they only nap in their cot you may have a tricky situation where you are forced to be housebound for all their naps – not great for your social life or mental health!