Here in England, this grandma has been immersed in the brand new world of twin newborns. Although I had seven children, they all came as singletons. I longed for twins, fantasized about raising twins, loved thinking of coordinated twin names and dressed my close-in-age children in twin outfits. But never have I been in the twin-trenches until now.
Katy and Hans, parents of Evelyn and Thomas for all of three weeks, are handling the situation with aplomb. This is due partly to instinct and partly to the expertise of others, but the philosophy that’s working for them is to get both babies highly scheduled. The theory is that babies can be taught to remain awake and go to sleep according to set times, as long as the timetable is adhered to carefully during the first months of life.
Years ago I’d heard about scheduling newborns and had read a book called “My First 300 Babies” by Nanny Gladys W. Hendrick. She established rules like daily outdoor exposure for babies of at least an hour, including during the winter. She also advocated alone-time in their rooms for all children to learn to entertain themselves, whether newborn or older. Well defined sleep and awake times were part of the schedule, as was private time for mother, which was the part that motivated me to read the book.
Although I lifted several ideas from Gladys’ counsel, most of it didn’t work for me because I wasn’t willing to comply with one of her hard and fast rules: awake time. My motto was, “Never wake a sleeping baby.” She would have called that a slippery slope.
She was right. I paid a big price for not bringing some form of routine into mothering my infants. Because of my dread of night time and the unpredictability of our new babies, my stress during those first weeks grew daily, and the 20 pounds I put on after each pregnancy testified to the crisis-mode of those post-partum months.
Katy and Hans are extraordinary. They both studied a book they got during their pregnancy, “A contented House with Twins,” by Gina Ford and Alice Beer. When they arrived home with their two-day-old babies (and 15 month old Nicholas), they started immediately on Gina’s recommended timetable. They’ve found, in only three weeks time, that these tiny babies are beginning to “get it.”
Part of their regimen is to follow the rules, such as never going less than two or longer than three hours between feedings, putting them to bed by 7:00 pm, refusing to let them sleep more than five hours during the entire day and allowing them three feedings during their 12 hour night.
Katy and Hans have not allowed themselves to be put off by even the roughest parts of the schedule. As Katy puts it, “The hard bit it keeping them awake during the prescribed times.” And yet she does it.
I marvel at her determination during the day. If one of our little charges dozes off when he/she should be awake, baby gets patted, then head-stroked, and if still snoozing, the sleeper gets taken off. If that doesn’t work, the undershirt comes off, too. If still asleep, the little one’s face gets washed. By then he/she is crying, but awake. And all of that is why my weak efforts to schedule my own newborns always failed. I had refused to do the hard part.
Now, however, I see this system bearing fruit. Although there are setbacks, overall Thomas and Evelyn are gradually complying. It has meant clock-watching, record-keeping and high-decibel crying when awake-time is needed. But two invaluable treasures are emerging:
(1) Katy and Hans have three hours of quiet togetherness from 7:00 to 10:00 pm (with occasional exceptions, like last evening).
(2) During the night they’re up to change and feed babies for only two 45 minute periods.
So here I am, advanced in years, understanding that my mothering mantra to “never wake a sleeping baby” wasn’t a very good one. And most remarkably, I’m seeing how God gave brand new babies the ability to learn difficult concepts. Children truly are his miraculous creations.
”No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:10)