I have 19 month old twin girls, and I really need is some help with their nap routine! I have no idea how to successfully get two toddlers into bed and asleep on my own without rocking them. Right now, one child watches TV while the other one gets rocked, but that is becoming dangerous because now she feels free to wander the house while I'm out of the room with sister.
The girls go to bed at 8:00 at night although Amy stays awake and chats and plays for 30 minutes or so and, as far as I know, Cate goes straight to sleep. They both wake up sometime between 7:00 and 8:15 in the morning although I'm working on waking them both up around 7:30 every morning. Naptime is around 1:00 and varies widely. So many sleep blogs neglect us moms-of-multiples—please help me out!
Unfortunately, your girls are nearing an age where naps start to become "optional" (in thier toddler minds, anyway). They still need to nap, of course, but they have the power to stay up if they choose. They're just not as tired at naptime as they were as infants, because toddlers can stay awake for longer stretches. I don't think they're preparing to drop their nap quite yet, since they're not yet two. But when they start skipping naps for more than two days in a row, they may be headed in that direction. For tips on how to handle that transition, see my guest post at Abby Off The Record on handling toddler sleep challenges.
To encourage a good nap, your best bet at this point is to make sure they are awake at a consistently early time each morning. I recommend waking them at 7. You may not relish this thought, (though many parents would kill to have their children sleep that late!) but waking them earlier in the morning is truly the key to making sure they are tired enough to take a nap.
As far as nap timing goes, you're doing the right thing by not letting them sleep too long. Continue waking them after two hours maximum to ensure they're tired enough for bedtime.
But you mention that their naptime “varies widely.” This variation probably isn’t making naptime any easier—for them or for you. As I mentioned, toddlers are notorious for resisting naps, and one of the best ways to prime them for a good nap is to offer it at the same time each day. This gets their circadian rhythm cued up to help them feel tired at the same time each afternoon. Which is exactly what you want, right?
But to answer the heart of your question: Yes, you can help your girls learn to nap without rocking. Fortunately, rocking is one of the easiest sleep associations to correct. For info on getting them to sleep without rocking, I think you'll find my last blog post, He Only Naps in My Arms, quite useful. In it, I walk a reader through the process of helping a child learn to fall asleep in her or her bed, without being rocked, held, or bounced to sleep.
Simply take each girl through the process I describe. With twins, the process may take you a bit longer than it would if you had one child (perhaps a full month instead of two to three weeks).
In the beginning, you will be working on this process individually with each girl. But once they are able to fall asleep without rocking, you should be able to put them down for a nap at the same time and leave the room. Hooray!
I think you would find my ebook Ready Set Sleep very useful, because it covers multiple ways to support your girls' sleep, so you can attack the problem from multiple angles.
Thanks again for the question!
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