- My twins were having trouble sleeping and nothing was working so we decided to try the sleep school.
- Despite the sleep schools touting a 99% success rate, they failed in three installations.
- It took 18 months to find the solution, and it was the one everyone said we shouldn’t try.
I had always planned to have just one child, a plan that was quickly ended when our obstetrician told us to expect “double the joy” at our 12-week scan. There was no history of twins in the family, so this was a big surprise and meant we would quickly go from a family of two to four.
My wife and I always knew that being a new parent would be difficult, but that may be especially true when you have twins. To prepare for the arrival of two babies, I bought a variety of parenting books. The most common advice was to get babies to a predictable routine since the first day. We soon discovered that this was easier said than done.
The first few months, it was impossible for any of us to sleep.
Our baby boys, Charlie and Thomas, were born a month ahead of schedule and had some initial health issues. They spent a week in the hospital receiving additional care before we were allowed to take them home.
Fortunately, they were deemed healthy enough to leave the hospital after seven days. The next few months flew by in a blur of lack of sleep for the four of them. We could never get either of them to calm down, and it seemed like one of them was always crying. Every time Charlie fell asleep, Thomas would cry and wake him up, or vice versa. We were prepared for this to last a few weeks, as it does with many newborns, but it continued for several months.
Our nights were constantly interrupted and we never managed to sleep more than an hour or two without interruption. As there were often two screaming babies, my wife and I had to get up, which meant neither of us could fully rest.
To complicate matters, he had started a new job, and the lack of sleep It made it hard for me to adjust. I had spent my 32 years without drinking coffee, but soon became addicted to caffeine to get through the workday and the stress of a new job.
We kept hearing the same advice over and over again about the importance of routine.
The advice to establish a strict routine kept coming from friends and family, as well as from the books we were reading. They told us to set one up and stick with it, no matter what. My wife and I received books that were said to be “foolproof” but this made us feel more frustrated and foolish as nothing worked.
amazon is full of routine books for babies, and I felt like we read them all. Most made it sound like babies needed to sign up for some kind of newborn military service. Unfortunately, Charlie and Thomas weren’t old enough to read the same sleep books as Mom and Dad and didn’t want to stick to a set sleep schedule.
Along with tips on establishing routines, we hear all the well-meaning platitudes most parents hear, like “It’ll get better.” But to tired, barely functioning parents, phrases like that made us feel like failures.
One cold winter day at 3 am, I was walking two crying babies in a stroller around the neighborhood when I realized we had to try something radical or my wife and I would collapse. I started googling sleep solutions and found that there were facilities known as sleep schools.
We decided to give the dream school a try.
We researched sleep schools in our town and learned all we could, having never heard of them. Basically, sleep schools offer programs that provide intensive support and care to families experiencing difficulty getting their babies or infants to sleep. Most are internal programs that run for about a week.
My wife and I decided to try one that our pediatrician recommended. Fortunately, the cost was covered by our health insurance, saving us several thousand dollars. At our orientation, we were told the program had a 99% success rate, giving us the biggest smiles we’d had in months. The definition of success varied, but we agreed with the team that it would mean achieving an established routine that allows children to sleep through the night at least half the time.
My wife spent five days and nights living on the premises full time. She liked having more support with the children, as well as three meals a day for herself. She would visit him before and after work and she would attend evening classes before coming home late at night.
There were sessions with qualified paediatricians, nurses, sleep specialists and psychologists. They did a lot of testing and the children wore wires at night to monitor their sleep patterns. I was hoping the boys would throw their nightcaps into the air at a graduation ceremony. Unfortunately, nothing the experts had tried was working, and little had changed after the week ended. charlie and thomas still refused to sleep.
3 strikes, and we’re out of dream schools
Our pediatrician said we should try again and recommended another sleep school. This time, our insurance wouldn’t cover it all and we had to pay half the price of $3,000. It was expensive, but for us, the idea of a good night’s sleep was priceless. However, they let us down again, and then once again.
Each of the three schools had different methods and programs, but none of them worked. The biggest disappointment was that none of the specialists from the three schools could pinpoint why the children were not sleeping. Even separating the kids for a night or two in different rooms within the sleep school didn’t work.
Whether they were together or apart, they both refused to sleep. I guess a 99% success rate still means a 1% failure, and it turns out that we had two babies that fell within that small margin three times.
At the time, Charlie and Thomas were almost 18 months old and still couldn’t sleep through the night. When people asked me how I was feeling during this period, I would tell them that I felt like I was permanently jet lag. I had a fuzzy brain, was constantly tired, never seemed to know what time it was, and felt irritable.
I wondered if I would ever sleep well again. For me, “sleeping like a baby” meant irregular rests followed by loud crying and tears.
We decided to forget all the advice we had heard and throw our schedules out the window.
The last resort was to get rid of the advice of all the books and experts. Instead, we would implement the “routine without routine”. Charlie and Thomas didn’t need to be on the same schedule or even follow a schedule at all.
When one of them was tired, he would go to bed, no matter what time it was. They ate when they were hungry and played at a time that suited them.
We stop trying to fit them into our schedule. They all told us we were crazy to let them dictate our lives, but the truth was, they already were. If a routine works “99% of the time”, it doesn’t work 1% of the time. So we changed our mindset and let the guys tell us what worked best for them.
It took some time, but this was the solution that worked. After 18 months of listening to so many people’s advice, we found that there were only two people we should have listened to: Charlie and Thomas. Without a schedule, the children’s sleep improved, and by the time they were 2 years old, they began to sleep through the night. I held a small graduation ceremony for them.
People constantly told me that I would get better. While it took months longer than he expected, he finally did it. Best of all, now I’m getting my revenge on Charlie and Thomas. It has taken me 16 years, but it has been worth the wait.
The boys are 16 now, and like many teenagers, they like to sleep, perhaps even more than I would prefer. On days they don’t have school, they stay in bed until noon. But this is where, after many years, I get my revenge.
These days, I get up early, making as much noise as possible. Sometimes I go to their bedrooms and open the curtains for them. Often, I go in and sing. The joy I feel waking them up now almost makes up for all those lost hours of sleep.
Now if only I could kick the caffeine addiction they gave me.