Chasing the dream of a routine with twins

Parent led or baby led? That is the big baby routine question.
Parent led or baby led? That is the big baby routine question. Photo: Getty Images

The first months at home with new babies are all about figuring out a daily routine. I don't necessarily mean having a detailed timetable, saying when they should feed, play and sleep, just having a rough idea what time these might occur. It helps in planning the day and makes the parent feel a bit more sane and in control.

However, perfect routines are a bit like unicorns. Amazingly beautiful, often talked and fantasised about, but rarely seen.

It's now more than two months since my girls came home from NICU and my life revolves around feeding them and getting some sleep. Having two little people to look after can make the experience a bit overwhelming at times and having a routine makes me feel like I'm in charge.

As is the way with pretty much everything baby-related there isn't a right or wrong way to do this. Some experts insist that it's vitally important to get the babies onto a parent-led schedule pretty much the moment they leave the womb.

Others say you have to let your babies lead the way and that waking them up or trying to make them fit into your schedule is deeply unsettling for them, and that you're a bad parent if you want to force your ways onto those helpless little mites. Some paediatricians also warn that they might not get enough food and end up underweight if parent-led.

I've read some of the books that promote schedules and they promise that the baby will sleep through in no time. The holy grail! They say that babies love to know what to expect and will soon fall into those regular patterns.

Of course it sounds fantastic. Who wouldn't want to know exactly when their children will be awake and asleep? We could plan to get lots of things done during their naps and be comfortably rested after sleeping all night.

The German in me really liked the idea of a well structured parent-led schedule and thought that with twins it'd be even more important to be organised to tame the madness of having two newborns.  

For a while we started every day with the idea that we'd know when  they're going to be awake and asleep, but pretty soon our strict four hourly regime turned to custard.

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Sometimes one the girls would wake up screaming her head off in hunger before the scheduled feeding time, or one of them would do a poo and then wouldn't settle back without a quick feed. What happens to the routine then?

Another thing that makes sticking to a rigid routine impossible is actually having a life outside the house. If you just stayed at home and dedicated the first six months of your babies' lives to getting them on schedule it might be possible. But on the downside, I'd go stir-crazy.

Right from when our girls came home from NICU we managed to get out of the house most days. We went to our antenatal coffee group, for walks along the beach or down to the supermarket. I try to schedule the things we've planned around the times they'll most likely be asleep but I have since learned that babies are unpredictable and don't sleep the same amount of time each day.

Another major hindrance to having perfect routines is my love of sleep. Some nights we get more sleep than others and who would want to wake up their sweetly slumbering babies early in the morning when there's sleep to be had?

On top of that, I've found that they just don't feed all that well when they're woken up by us rather than waking up naturally themselves. Makes sense really. Who'd like to wake up from a deep sleep and be forced to eat a three course meal immediately?

We're still trying to find some sort of routine that works for us. That of course doesn't mean letting them cry if they're hungry, but it can mean cuddling one of them for a wee while before she's really, really hungry to give her sister a bit more time to wake up. We also try to start and finish our days at approximately the same time and let things flow in between.

I feel that trying to keep to too strict a schedule is probably more stressful than the benefits you'd get. You simply can't tell a starving baby that it has to wait another 43 minutes until it's officially time for lunch.

From the start I've always fed my girls together and so when one wakes up the other has to eat as well. This means that we almost always have one baby who leads and one who is led by her sister. And it's not always the same baby waking up first.

The routine we have in place now is more about the how we do things and not so much about when we do them.

Our girls have good days, and they have some grumpy days when they don't want to sleep that much and want more cuddles. I've learned that you really can't plan your day too rigidly with little babies and there's no point in getting worked up when they don't sleep as long as I want them to.

The Mama bar is always open and our main jobs for the for the first months of their lives is to teach them that we're there whenever they need us and to help them sleep as much as possible so they can be happy babies when they're awake.

Follow Jule's journey through at her first steps of double mummydom with updates on Facebook.

 - Stuff