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  Establishing Routines to Make Your Days More Manageable

You may have heard it from other twin moms: Get your twins on a routine. A schedule. Find a way to structure your day to make it easier for yourself and your twins.

But how?

If you already have an older child, you know how beneficial a routine can be for kids. So you can imagine how much more necessary a routine and schedule will be for your twins.

But what are routines and schedules, exactly? In this lesson, I want to share how both are important for structuring your day.

So, what's a routine? A routine is doing the same things around the same time in the same sequence.

Lots of sameness there, but bear with me.

You'll hear people talk about a bedtime routine, or a bath time routine, or a meal time routine. Each of those periods in the day include a series of things you do over and over.

But for newborns? You might wonder. Newborns and babies benefit and thrive from routines just as much if not more so than older children.

Why routines are important

As overwhelming as welcoming twins can be, we forget just how confusing it can be for our twins as well. All this time, they've been cocooned in your womb with little change to their days. They don't know night from day, or when to eat, or even that other people exist.

To go from that environment to ours is a big change.

So we help them along by bringing regularity into their lives. We make things as predictable as possible. Your babies respond well to cues in their environment.

They learn that darkness usually means sleep, and that laying on a mat means play. While they can't communicate as well as you and I do, they can learn to expect a certain rhythm to their days.

And we help them do that with routines.

Routines are also important for you. Think about all the things you do right now on autopilot. You have a morning routine of waking up, using the bathroom, then washing your face. After that, you put on your contacts, apply lotion to your face, and head to the kitchen for breakfast.

You do all these things in the same sequence without thinking about them too much. That saves you a ton of mental energy and time than, say, you switched things up every morning. Consistency allows you to focus on other things that may need your full attention.

When your twins arrive, your routine will benefit you in the same way. You won't have to think about what's coming up next, or whether you feed them first or put them down for a nap. Because of your routine, you'll know without thinking too much about it what to do next.

Routines are two-part:

  • The first is that routines are the structure of your day. With babies, this revolves around eating, sleeping, and being awake. They're like markers that segment your day into chunks and categories.
  • The second part is routines as a sequence of things you do within each of those chunks. So within the sleeping part of your day, you have a series of little activities you do each time your twins sleep.

We'll talk about both structures as well as routines as rhythms below.

Routines as the structure for your day

When you think of routine, you might think of activities you do by the clock. Maybe you wake up every morning at 6am. You eat lunch at 12pm. And you take a shower at 8pm. All these activities depend on the clock.

With your twins, however, think of routines as more like rhythms or flows to your day. One follows the previous activity instead of following the clock.

You won't put your newborn twins to nap at 9am and eat at 11am every day. Instead, you'll base nap time from how many hours it's been since they woke up for the day. And you'll feed them not always at 11am no matter what, but whenever they both wake up. That could be 11am, or it could be 11:30am.

How do you go about structuring your day with two babies?

Use the Eat-Awake-Sleep rhythm I learned from the book, The Baby Whisperer by Tracy Hogg.

The big premise with this routine is that it's much easier to feed your twins after they wake up, not before. And it seems silly to do it this way, when, after all, babies fall asleep so easily and quickly from feeding. The sucking motion is a comfort, and with a full belly, it seems obvious to feed your twins to sleep.

The problem though is that they'll rely on feeding and only feeding to fall asleep. Set them up with good habits by allowing them to fall asleep without feeding. Instead, give them milk after they wake up.

Giving them milk when they wake up also gives them energy to tackle their awake time. They're more alert and ready to stay awake with the energy they just consumed after waking up.

So here's an example cycle for newborn twins:

  • Wake up for the day
  • Eat
  • Awake time
  • Nap
  • Wake up
  • Eat
  • Awake time
  • Nap
  • Eat
  • Awake time
  • Nap
  • Wake up
  • Bath time
  • Eat
  • Bedtime

See a pattern?

Notice I didn't put any times, or even how long each nap or awake time should be. Your situation will be different. One morning, your twins might only be able to handle an hour of awake time instead of their typical hour and a half. A nap can go for as long as three hours, while another lasts for an hour. You might have four or five short naps throughout the day instead of three.

You're basing their routine more on what just previously happened.

However, a few areas where you should watch the clock are:

  • Awake time: Generally newborns should only be awake for an hour or an hour and a half at most at a time. If it's been an hour and a half, it's worth a shot to put your twins to nap.
  • Bath and bedtime: Stick to a consistent bath and bedtime every night. Your twins might nap anywhere from three times or five in a day. Adjust their naps and awake time so they can take a bath and sleep for the night at the same time.

After all this talk about consistency and routine, here's a final bit of advice about this topic: It's okay to be flexible too.

Sometimes we focus so much on getting it right that we beat ourselves up if things don't go as planned. But guess what: your twins won't always nap in two-hour chunks. They might completely skip naps completely. Or they'll nurse longer than you anticipated.

The consistency of your routine will cushion any unexpected changes that pop up. So don't feel bad if your twins won't nap or you stayed later than you anticipated at a friend's house. You and your twins will adjust, thanks to the consistency of your routine.

Routine as a sequence of activities

Next, let's talk about how to use routines as sequences.

Along with the familiarity of the general flow of your day comes the same things you do within each chunk. There are countless ways to create different routines. Your routine will be unique to you and your family. And this will change once you meet your twins. But here are a few examples you can try:

Bath time routine

Here's a typical bath time routine with two adults. Once you get a hang of bath time, it's possible to do this alone. For the first few weeks though, try to get as much help as you can.

  1. Lay out the twins' sleepwear, from onesies to pajamas to swaddles. Have the diapers ready to go.
  2. Fill the infant tub. Have the washcloth, bath soap and towel nearby.
  3. Undress and bathe Baby A while your partner undresses Baby B.
  4. Hand Baby A to your partner to dry and dress.
  5. Refill the infant tub and grab a new washcloth and towel.
  6. Pick up and bathe Baby B.
  7. Hand Baby B to your partner to dry and dress.

Sticking to the same bath time routine makes it much easier on you to know what's next.

Bedtime routine

For every set of twins is a unique bedtime routine just for them. Still, many bedtime routines are a mix of the following activities conducive for sleep. Your routine can include:

  • Bath
  • Changing into nighttime pajamas
  • Reading books
  • Playing a song on a mobile
  • Holding a special blankie
  • Singing nursery songs
  • Saying good night to things in the room
  • Wearing a swaddle
  • Using a pacifier
  • Nursing or feeding
  • Turning on white noise
  • Drawing the curtains and turning off the lights

Following the same routine can be a comfort for your twins and prepare them for a night of sleep.

Your nap time routine can be a simplified version of your bedtime routine. You might want to do most of the things you do, but drop the bath, or reading one book instead of four. But the same idea is true for naps: Do the same sequence of things so your twins know it's time for sleep.

Speaking of sleep, let's talk about putting your twins to sleep in the next lesson. You'll learn rules to follow and best practices of getting your twins to sleep.