How to Get Your Twins on a Schedule

Developing a sleeping schedule with twins

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One of the most common pieces of advice that seasoned parents offer to new parents of twins and multiples is to get the babies on a schedule or routine. Many parents credit a schedule with saving their sanity. But what exactly does it mean and how do you achieve it?

Parenting Twins Isn't the Same as Parenting Singletons

Some parents are horrified by the thought of instituting a schedule, preferring a more relaxed, less rigid approach. Many parenting experts that favor a "feeding on demand" model oppose the notion of schedules. This may even have worked great with your other children. But, nearly all parents of multiples will agree that it's different when there are more than one. A different approach may be required in order to meet everyone's needs more efficiently.

A Schedule is a Partnership

View your schedule as a partnership between you and your babies. It's your job to develop the schedule, but it is based on their needs. In general, you are aiming to feed them, change them, play with them, and put them to sleep together. Together, as in both—or all—babies at the same time. But while that's the goal, parents must recognize the individual needs of each child, who won't always be hungry, sleepy, awake, or playful at the same time. Even though they are twins (or more), they are individual children and they do have individual needs.

The best way to meet everyone's needs may be to keep them on a schedule.

In the beginning, a schedule may simply be feeding the babies and putting them to sleep at the same time. As they grow and develop, it may become a routine of sleep time, waketime/playtime, feeding times, and bath time. Many families adhere to a schedule even as their multiples grow into toddlers, keeping to an assigned timeframe for meals, naps, and bedtimes.

Working Towards Unity

Monozygotic—or identical twins—may adapt to a schedule more readily because their shared genetic disposition gives them similar metabolisms. However, even non-identical—that is, dizygotic or fraternal—twins can thrive on the same schedule with a little bit of encouragement and parental determination.

In order to establish or keep your twins on a schedule, you may have to coax one baby to play along. This might even mean waking a sleeping baby to feed her in tandem with her co-multiples. Well-meaning nurses, grandmothers, and friends may express horror at the notion of waking up a sleeping baby, and the suggestion may seem counterintuitive to parents whose goal is to achieve more sleep. However, waking up one baby a few minutes early so that you can feed both babies at the same time will actually be more efficient than feeding them individually every other hour.

Another way to develop a schedule is to create routines. You can't make your babies live by a clock—they can't tell time, after all. But building routines into activities can provide signals to the babies that keep the schedule on track. Aim to do the same things about the same time each day and in the same way. Follow the same patterns and processes as you prepare the babies for feeding, sleeping, or bathing. A familiar routine can give babies cues that it is time to sleep so that they will fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.

A Schedule Is a Guideline, Not a Law

Be flexible, flexible, flexible, flexible. Update and adapt your schedule as your children's needs change. The best schedule is organic and dynamic, responding to your children's natural rhythms and patterns. It evolves over time and accommodates seasonal changes, weekends, and vacations. It is developed with guidance from a pediatrician and medical professionals, particularly if babies were born prematurely. It is based on your babies' cues and requires parents to become intimately familiar with how their children communicate their needs through crying and body language. Finally, it flexes to accommodate special situations, such as when babies are sick, teething, or undergoing other physical adjustments.

Not every family with multiples finds that a schedule works for them. Ultimately, the best approach is what works for you. There is no right or wrong way to do it.

Tips for Putting Twins on a Schedule

  • Try to feed twins and multiples at about the same time. If one wakes up to feed, wake up the other.
  • Be flexible; update and adapt as things change.
  • Talk to your pediatrician for guidance. Also, consult other parents of multiples to see what worked for them.
  • Remember that your children are individuals; you can't force them into the same schedule. Just do the best that you can.
  • While these books aren't specific to twins, many parents recommend "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child" by Marc Weissbluth and "The Contented Little Baby Book" by Gina Ford.
  • Learn to interpret your babies' cues and cries to understand what they need.
  • Give it time. A schedule doesn't happen in a day; it evolves over weeks and months.
3 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Scaglioni S, Arrizza C, Vecchi F, Tedeschi S. Determinants of children's eating behavior. Am J Clin Nutr. 2011;94(Suppl 6):2006S-2011S. doi:10.3945/ajcn.110.001685

  3. Mindell JA, Williamson AA. Benefits of a bedtime routine in young children: sleep, development, and beyond. Sleep Med Rev. 2018;40:93-108. doi:10.1016/j.smrv.2017.10.007

By Pamela Prindle Fierro
 Pamela Prindle Fierro is the author of several parenting books and the mother of twin girls.