Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Evolution of Sleep

Moviedad and I bed share with our twins.  Gus and Jack are ten months old, and have been sleeping in the big bed with us since they were seven months old.  I love it.  My husband loves it.  My babies expect nothing less.  Who wants to sleep alone?  But it wasn't always this easy*.  

What follows in a factual words-and-pictures journey of how we got to where we are today. This is our story, what worked for us.

I'll try to keep the emotional writing to a minimum (during most of the early months I was devastatingly sleep deprived, and probably depressed.  But that's another post).  

It is my hope that other twin parents will see this and know that it is possible to share sleep with twins, even after a rocky start.

When Gus and Jack were born, they were six weeks early.  Gus spent the first 12 days of his life in the NICU, eating and sleeping when he wasn't being poked and prodded and monitored.

Jack stayed in the hospital for 21 days, with much the same schedule.

So, for 9 days we had Gus at home by himself.  I am not actually sleeping in either one of these pictures.  I knew I should be, but I couldn't.  I was too keyed up, wracked with guilt that Gus was home and his brother wasn't.  Every peep Gus made caused me to bolt up and check him.  And there were lots of peeps.  His first nickname was "Squeaker".

We side-carred the crib, but due to as-yet-undiagnosed reflux, Gus couldn't sleep well laying down.  Skin to skin was a huge part of our lives in the NICU, so I decided to keep it up at home.  Gus slept better that way, but I was afraid to breath deeply for fear of disturbing him. 

During this time, I had my husband and mother home with me to help care for one baby.  But I was up feeding and pumping, day and night.  Gus' mouth was very small, and he couldn't latch.  So we bottle-fed him expressed breast milk.  I was tired.  Moviedad was tired.  My mom was tired.  Gus slept just fine.  

Finally, both babies were home.  We set them up in the crib. 

This picture makes me sad.  I had this thought, this assumption, that they needed to be in the crib, and Moviedad and I needed to be in the bed.  All together.  All sleeping for undetermined stretches at a time.  So, when this didn't happen-- which was basically all the time-- I was disappointed.  

There are two distinct times, in my mind, during the immediate post-partum period.  First, when Gus and Jack were preemies.  They slept a lot.  Second, when the babies officially become newborns.  This was after their original due date.  After that time, they "woke up".  And started crying... and crying... and crying.  They were colicky.  They had acid reflux.  They only slept well when they were on someone.   So that's how we did it.


Sometimes Gus and Jack would sleep in their bouncy seats.  I would set them up on the floor right in front of the couch and doze fitfully while they slept.  We had to angle them sideways so they didn't slip down in their swaddling blankets and so there was no additional pressure on their tummies from being bent at the waist. 
When they were seven weeks old, we transitioned from feeding them with expressed milk from a bottle to straight-from-the-tap nursing.  Then, their favorite place to sleep was on the nursing pillow, nipple in mouth.  (This is actually where the name of this blog comes from... we were attached at the nip for most hours of every day.)

When the babies were two months old, we moved to Ohio to live with my parents while Moviedad finished his job and packed up our apartment in Nevada.  I learned to sleep in the wingback chair, but it wasn't big enough for the nursing pillow, just the boppy.  During this time, at night, I would sleep propped up in bed with one baby and my mom would sleep propped up in a recliner with the other (this was not safe sleep-sharing, but I didn't know that then).  The babies' reflux was still quite bad, and they needed to be upright after every
     nursing session.

When Gus and Jack were four months old, I bought two second-hand side-to-side swings.  Those swings were life savers.  The babies could sleep in them for longer stretches of time.  Combined with the pure magic that was the microwave vent fan, those swings were little battery-operated miracles.  Mom and I had both spent nights in a rocking chair in the kitchen with the vent fan running so Jack could be calm enough to sleep, but the swings were much better for everyone.

This was the time that Moviedad made it to Ohio.  He would have Gus in a swing up in our bedroom, and bring him down to me whenever he needed to nurse.  I slept in the daybed in the dining room (which had been converted into baby central) with Jack in the swing by my head.  Jack woke frequently, but was just beginning to tolerate sleeping prone.  Sometimes I would bring him into the bed with me and he would nurse and sleep while I learned to sleep through it.  At this point I had started researching sleep sharing and was able to make the daybed a safe sleep space for him.

The six-month mark was when we decided to try the boys in the side-car crib again.  This time it worked!  They were able to sleep laying on their backs!  I would nurse them to sleep, lay them in the crib, climb into bed with my husband, and fall asleep myself.  It was delicious.  When a single baby woke, I would pull him into bed with me, nurse him down, then pop him back in the crib.  When both boys awoke, I would nurse them both on the pillow.

When Gus and Jack were seven months old, Moviedad and I moved into our apartment.  The single best investment we made was a king-sized bed.  The boys were too big to share the side-car crib, and getting a bigger bed for everyone made infinitely more sense to us than buying another crib.

Now, we have a family bed in every sense.  It's the only bed in our apartment.  We made it into a safe sleep space for all of us:  it's on the floor, up against two walls, with pillows softening the edges of the window sill.  Moviedad and I sleep on the outer edges.  The babies go in the middle.  Everyone has their own blanket.  When a single baby needs to nurse at night, I arrange myself next to him-- which often entails Moviedad and I switching sides.  When both babies need to nurse at the same time, I pull one next to me, do a half-side half-back lean and lay the other baby on top of me, nestled in the crook of my arm.

We are all sleeping peacefully and securely.  Until it's time to wake up and play peek-a-boo, that is.

*It's important to note that throughout this journey, it was my husband and I who needed to change.  As soon as we realized-- through research and listening to our own intuition-- that our infants were displaying completely normal night-time behavior, and that we needed to parent them the same way at night that we did during the day, everything clicked and became easier.  Nothing changed but our expectations, but it made all the difference.

Update!  As the boys grow and change, so do their sleeping needs. Check out The Evolution of Sleep Part 2 here.


  1. Alas! To find another mom and dad who bed share is refreshing! We have two children and weve been doing it from the start. TO my parents dismay and horror we didnt even buy a crib when we were pregnat with our first. I got alot of horror stories to try and scare us out of it, but we do it safe and we do it for love.
    I enjoyed reading your story! I really like reading about your double blessings! Isnt the king size the best? and when you sleep beside them when they wake, sneaking the boob in thier mouths is almost like hitting the snooze button! lol

  2. My husband and I have been sharing a bed with our little one who is 15 months. We recently tried to lay her in a crib to sleep at night because i thought that she might sleep better versus sleeping with me and i flip-flop around all night. turns out she just wasn't ready for it and that's ok. i love snuggling her and rubbing her belly in the middle of the night.

    Just the other day i was wondering to myself how nightime looks to a parent that doesn't cosleep/bed share... i couldn't with twins too!

    Thanks for this post - i really enjoy your blog! Hope you are enjoying this great Ohio weather!!

  3. Yay for fellow bed-sharing mamas!

    @clumsymummy, I didn't want the crib at first either, but my mom insisted I would need it as a place to hold clean clothes, or to put one baby while I changed the other. She was right on both counts! It also came in very handy before we got the big bed :-)

    @AmandaRuth, middle of the night snuggles are so nice! It's a quiet time to reconnect and keep up the bonding without the craziness of the day. Also, I wouldn't say I'm enjoying the Ohio weather right now... more like I'm in awe of it. Three years in the desert made me forget what real winter is like!

  4. ohio weathers i hear are feirce! embrace the hot cocoa! :)
    we use our pacnplay for the most unconventional uses lol ....most recent...door gate!

  5. I just discovered your blog today and love it! I appreciate your story about sleep sharing and the point you made about how often times it is us parents who have to do the changing, not our infants. We love bedsharing with our 2 month old and I couldn't imagine him being down the hall in his room, which he's never even been in except to be rocked in the rocker from time to time!

  6. I love this post! I wish I had evolutionary photos like those! I am also a twin mama. My mz girls are now 4 years old and we still co-sleep. We did from our first night home from the hospital. We did it safely, I read all the guidelines, as I made a conscious decision to cosleep as part of my attachment parenting philosophy. I'm glad I found this blog (through Natural Parents Network). Come visit me sometime!


  7. @Adrienne, I'm so glad you stopped by! Thanks for reading :-) I'm looking forward to bedsharing with our next baby on purpose, from the beginning!

    @Temagami Tribe, hooray for natural parenting twin mamas! Our community isn't nearly large enough, I tell 'ya... thanks for stopping by, and I look forward to reading your blog, too!