Transforming Sleep for Twins: A Case Study in Breaking Sleep Associations and Saving Sanity


Welcoming twins into the family is undoubtedly an exciting time, but it often comes with its own set of challenges, especially when it comes to establishing healthy sleep habits for two!  

I was recently contacted by an exhausted Mum of 3. She had a 5-year-old daughter and 5 month old twin boys, Dad was FIFO so Mum was left juggling 3 children and breastfeeding the twins on demand.

The twins presented a classic case of differing sleep associations and differing personalities. One baby relied heavily on a dummy to fall asleep, and he was very “edgy” and 0-100 in nature, the other bub  was quite chilled personality-wise but had developed a habit of feeding to sleep and had horrible colic in the evening, it seemed like everyone was crying all day (including Mum) and she just couldn’t see a way out.

To tackle the sleep issues head-on, I spent a day with the family. The goal was to eliminate the sleep associations and reintroduce a structured routine conducive to healthy sleep patterns. The process involved a combination of gentle, in-room settling methods, adding some white noise so that the boys could share a room, and personalized strategies for each baby as one required more input than the other, and one disliked being picked up to be soothed!

The first breakthrough came with the baby who was accustomed to the dummy self settled, within 5 minutes of being put down for the first nap! This gave Mum the motivation she needed to see that there was a light at the end of the tunnel. As the day progressed, and we increased the boy’s awake time, the routine just slotted into place. There was more space for play instead of Mum feeding every 45 minutes and having one twin always on the breast, we structured the boys’ awake time 15 minutes apart (as one had less tolerance for overtiredness) and increased the wake time to 2.5 hours. Because of the crankiness and extreme protest that was happening at nap time, Mum was assuming overtiredness and putting the boys down within an hour and a half, but in this case, the boys just needed more time awake to settle to sleep easily.

The second baby, who relied on feeding to sleep, required a bit more effort to be able to settle.  However, with consistent guidance and support, by the third nap, this little man was settling beautifully with minimal intervention. This was a dramatic change as Mum had never been able to put him down without a breast in his mouth.

Within 24 hours, a positive transformation occurred in the twins’ sleep routine. Night wakes were reduced from six to just two, providing much-needed relief for all.  Not only did the babies start feeding more productively day and night, but they also immediately started to display increased calmness, and more smiles and were happy to be left to play for periods during their awake time.

A surprising bonus was the resolution of the second baby’s perceived colic issues. It became evident that the root cause of this “persistent colic” was linked to insufficient night sleep, frequent feeds and cat napping, and as sleep improved, so did the colicky symptoms.

This case study highlights the importance of addressing sleep associations early on and establishing a consistent routine for multiples. With personalized guidance these 5-month-old twins not only learned to self-settle, but their overall sleep quality improved significantly. The positive ripple effect extended to daytime activities and even resolved a gassy tummy that Mum was starting to believe was due to dairy intolerance. Mum got time back with her daughter whilst the twins slept peacefully during the day, and the overwhelm and anxiety that was occurring due to a complete lack of routine and constant night waking was alleviated within a matter of days.