At Leggy-now-Clover's request, I'm going to share with you all how I got my twins to sleep on (more or less) the same schedule. We all know that the sleep topic is one that can stir up a lot of debate. Let me just say from the outset that I don't expect all of you to agree with what I did, but I do expect all of you to be nice about it and just look the other way if what I did is not your style.
You must all be expecting something really barbaric now. [evil laugh]
Here's how it went down:
From birth to six months, the twins slept in the same room as me and GH. By the six month mark, this was not working anymore for any of us. Riley was waking up screaming almost every hour and required at least ten minutes of walking/bouncing/soothing to get back to sleep, only to get up screaming again an hour later. He was waking up Maddie. They were both still breastfeeding twice a night. I was at my wits' end with exhaustion, things were getting worse rather than better, John was also beyond tired and at that point becoming very ill, and the twins were also exhausted. They didn't really nap well at this point, either; they took three naps/day at of about 45 minutes each time, but it was highly unpredictable and they always woke up cranky and out of sorts.
So one day, we just said, "That's it," and we did our own version of cry-it-out (CIO). We chose to do this when we had the twins home with us over a two-week stretch at the holidays when our daycare was closed, so that we would have total control over their schedule. We also asked our pediatrician about our plan since it included dropping middle-of-the-night feedings.
We decided that bedtime was going to be 7:30 p.m. We got them changed into PJs, did our bedtime routine, and put them to bed. In their own room, not ours. Awake.
Our ground rules:
10 minutes of crying received an intervention, meaning a pat on the back and an "I love you." No picking up.
No feeding in the night.
No getting up for the day before 6:00 a.m.
We had a very stereotypical, by-the-book experience with CIO. It took about 30 minutes (so three interventions) for them to settle down and go to sleep the first night. There were two middle of the night wakings, at 2:00 a.m. and 4:00 a.m. that required two interventions each. Already this was a HUGE improvement from the hourly wakeups. Things got even better over the next couple of nights and by night three they were sleeping through until close to 6:00 a.m. By "sleeping through," I mean that they were not crying for more than 10 minutes at a stretch in the middle of the night. They still sometimes cried, but briefly, and often without even waking themselves up (just me!) When they woke up for the day, they were happy and babbling.
We also did CIO at naps at that time, with the same ground rules. We set clock times for naps: 9:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. When the clock struck those times, into the crib they went. They also usually got a third nap in the car on the way home from daycare, or on weekends we'd plan a drive around 5:00 p.m. The napping followed about the same schedule as the nighttime settling, meaning that it was rocky for the first three days or so, then settled in. Maddie and Riley almost immediately started sleeping longer during naps and waking up happier. I truly think they were sleep-deprived and that this helped them get the sleep they needed.
A key component of our sleep schedule was darkening the twins' room. We put tinfoil over their windows to make the room completely dark, a trick I learned from Dooce. The base to the monitor we use has a night-light to give the room a bit of ambient light, but that's it. They do not wake with the sun because they do not see the sun in their room. They have very cheerful curtains to make up for it.
After a month or so of being really rigid with the routine (and getting daycare on board when they returned after the New Year), we were able to relax a bit. Nowadays, at seventeen months, the twins go to bed between 7:00 and 7:15 p.m. They go to bed without complaint, wide awake, and are asleep within a few minutes of being in bed. Riley sleeps until about 6:15 a.m. and Maddie until about 7:00 a.m.; Riley is content to chit-chat and entertain himself until Maddie wakes up and I go in and get them. They take two naps most days, but we've been between one and two for a few months now, making our way towards one.
One unexpected benefit of doing CIO was that it made me much more aware of the twins' sleep cues. Before we did CIO, the twins were tired all the time, so everything was a sleep cue and they were too tired to go to sleep on their own. Now I can tell when they need to sleep. I no longer put them down for naps at set times, but watch them and put them down when they need it. Same for bedtime. Sometimes they go to bed early because they are exhausted for whatever reason. Now that they are getting old enough to communicate their needs verbally, they will even ask for a nap or to go to bed if I miss the signs.
Like anybody, Maddie and Riley still have their off nights, but overall they are great sleepers, something I never thought I'd say. I know that what John and I chose to do to get the twins on a schedule would not work for everyone—either on a philosophical level or because not all children respond to CIO—but I'm happy it worked for us. And Clover, I hope something in here is helpful to you. Wish I lived close enough to come babysit for you, or take an overnight shift. Maybe I'll just send you some chocolate :).