{Quad Squad} How We Got Four Babies Sleeping 12 Hours

Sleep training is a very hard thing to do. There is no doubt about it, whether you're working with one child or more. And everyone feels differently about a crying baby. Around these parts, it's a daily slice of life. Generally, our house is pretty quiet—and always has been. Our quadlings are good babies and we haven't dealt with colic or any of those pesky scenarios that can cause babies to cry and wail for hours on end. However, we did get a Kailey Lee and that little girl loves to scream and screech for no good reason! She fills some of the quieter moments with her own "sweet" voice and we've learned to (lovingly) deal with it.

When it comes to sleep training, you have to be prepared to deal with some crying. Now, I'm not writing this post because I'm suddenly an expert on getting babies to sleep at night, no way! I'm just an expert at getting our babies to sleep through the night so I recount to you now what we did to get it that way.

The babies were initially fed through feeding tubes in their mouth or nose for weeks after being born.
The biggest thing we did for ourselves was to keep the babies on a schedule. Granted, they sort of "came that way" since the NICU—where they lived for two months while learning to breathe on their own and, after weeks, to eat from a bottle—kept them on a three-hour feeding schedule. We continued that same schedule at home, feeding eight bottles per baby per day for a grand whopping total of 32 bottles every 24 hours. We fed at 9am, 12pm, 3pm, 6pm, 9pm, 12am, 3am, 6am then started over again. Keep in mind, it took roughly 10 minutes to get all their diapers changed before each feeding and the bottles warmed then it took over an hour to get all four fed. Even with multiple people. They were still learning to eat from the bottle nipple so much of our time was spent encouraging them, keeping them awake, stimulating their mouth and throat to swallow and burping. Then when we were done, we typically had just over an hour before we started the process over. And that hour was for eating, sleeping, cleaning, laundry, making bottles, etc. It was exhausting.

But, as two and three pound babies at birth, this schedule ensured they stayed full throughout the day. They were on Similac Neosure, a high calorie formula, for the first six months and we were adding a few more milliliters to their bottle every two days or so. I remember when we first started feeding them at home, we were doing just two to three ounces. Now they suck down full eight ounce bottles at eight months old!

After the babies were home for just a few weeks, we decided to start letting them wake us up at night to eat. We fed them as usual up to the 9pm feed, then put everyone to bed in their cribs and raced to our own bed to get a little shuteye before the first barrage of demands met our ears. We were so tired and so desperate for more sleep, we really hoped by some miracle they'd sleep for four or five hours straight. But the honesty of the situation is that these little babies were still tiny and plowing through food like clockwork, and we'd trained their bodies to expect food every three hours on the dot. Habits don't die easy! They woke us up at three hours exactly and I wanted to cry. But we fed them all and put them back down. After the 9am feed, we'd take everyone out of their cribs and start our "day" in the living room with pack-and-plays and swings and toys.

Our high tech bottle warmer. :)
I think this went on for maybe two, possibly three, nights. Then something wonderful happened. We pushed through a feed time. It was working! We fed on the four hour mark, meaning we were down to just two night feeds (usually around 1am and 5am) and resumed our three hour feeding schedule at 9am the next morning. Keep in mind, we weren't feeding them just because we heard someone rustle around. They had to wake up and be crying for a couple minutes before we'd go in there and start changing their diapers (I always believed in clean diapers to cut down on diaper rash and help them sleep better). Even if just one had woken up, they were all got up and fed. This ensured we did one group feeding and weren't feeding individual babies all night long. The point, after all, was for our house to get some rest! Once I also got it through my head that the babies weren't going to starve in the 15 minutes it took us to get things ready, I stopped tripping over myself to race in there and scoop them up. They were just as happy to get their bottle in five or 15 minutes every time.

Trystan and Kailey at just a few months old, when we started bottle propping to feed more than one at a time!
Once we hit six straight hours of sleep at night, we started pushing them a little more. They were going to bed at 9pm and waking up around 3am or so for a bottle. When they'd wake up crying, we'd mute the monitor for five or 10 minutes before we got up to start warming the bottles. We really pushed at the 6am mark. They'd wake up and we'd delay 10 minutes, then 15 minutes the next night, then eventually we were pushing them about 30 minutes when they'd wake up to feed and they would start falling back asleep after screaming their heads off for a little bit. That's when we really started gaining more ground and they were going to bed at 9pm, sleeping till around 3am, then we'd feed them and put them back down until 6am, when we'd start our three hour schedule.

Then we took the babies to their four month pediatrician appointment and she readily gave us her blessing to pull out that last night bottle. "They can do it!" she said. She also warned us that it could be a bit trying and to be prepared for them to cry an hour or more but that we did not need to go in there. Let them cry it out. I must note it also helped that we had a video baby monitor the husband installed in the ceiling of the nursery. We could flip on our TV in our bedroom or living room and see all four babies so we knew they were fine.

Our video monitor.
A few days later, we fed them their 9pm bottle and put them to bed with no intention of getting them out of their cribs until 6am. Trystan cried for 15 minutes and that was it. We felt that because we'd been pushing them a little more each night, even by just a few minutes, leading up to that point that it helped A LOT! We weren't trying to make some big leap, instead they just needed to sleep another two to three hours. Hallelujah!!! They were four months old and sleeping about eight hours at night. It was amazing. During the day at this point, we were feeding bottles at 6am, 9am, 12pm, 3pm, 6pm and 9pm. We also began adding rice cereal to their 9pm bottles to give them extra calories and keep them fuller through the night. We started with just one tablespoon, eventually going up to two. We put a level higher nipple size on that last bottle so the thicker formula could pass through and the babies loved it. Success!

By this time, we'd noticed about every two weeks our schedule shifted and the babies were ready for the next step. So about two weeks after we'd reached eight hour sleeps, we dropped to five bottles a day. This also meant the babies began sleeping nine hours at night because they weren't getting up as early. Our daytime feeding schedule morphed into bottles at 8am, 11am, 2pm, 5pm and 8pm. They'd be in their cribs asleep at 9pm. At this time, we introduced spoon feeding with the 11am feeding. We learned the best way was to give them their bottle first (so they'd get all their calories) then we'd feed them rice cereal mixed with formula. After a week of that, we began introducing first foods like bananas, sweet potatoes, squash and pears.

Our liberation: feeding four at once.
The quads after eating carrots.
Three weeks later, we were ready to drop another bottle. It was November 18, the day we had a massive three-hour photo shoot at our house with all four babies plus myself and the husband. I have a penchant for always doing things to the max! Fortunately, it worked out great. The babies didn't seem to notice a bit. We fed them at 8am, 12pm, 4pm and 8pm. But we wanted them to get to sleep a little more since we'd noticed that they were typically still asleep when we'd go into wake them up at 7:45am. (The rule of not waking a sleeping baby does not apply in our house!)

I decided to adapt the same feeding schedule my fellow quad mom, Ashley, was using so we began feeding at 8am, 11:45am, 3:30pm and 7pm and would have them in bed asleep by 8pm. They easily made the transition and now sleep until about 7 or 7:30am then play quietly in their cribs until we come in to begin diaper changes and warm the morning bottles. Three more weeks and we introduced a second spoon feeding, this time working in more vegetables. Our schedule changed to bottle at 8am followed by rice cereal or oatmeal with fruit, bottle at 11:45am with fruit/veggie combo, bottle at 3:30pm then bottle at 7pm with rice cereal mixed in.

I make all our baby food with fresh organic produce and freeze weeks worth at a time.
The quads turn eight months old tomorrow (woo hoo!) and at nine or 10 months, I'll begin introducing pureed meats and some Greek yogurt. We've worked our way through most of the "major foods" and I'm happy to report they are great eaters as well as great sleepers. They love kale and apple, peas and pear, zucchini with brown rice and pear, avocado and banana and many other food combos. They eat spinach, butternut squash, mangos, pineapple and more. Our pediatrician has told us more than once that she thinks they all have such a great disposition because they get such great sleep at night. I agree!

We aren't overly scheduled with naps just yet, that's something I plan to improve on as they get older and it becomes easier to schedule those. For now, they do tend to sleep after they eat, which is fine with me. They take a one hour nap in the morning and then generally two more naps in the afternoon. We keep them very active with jumpers, swings, mat time and interactive toys and they are more than ready to eat and go to bed at night.

Six month pediatrician appointment.
It's amazing to have four babies sleeping 12 hours at night. We definitely worked hard for it and didn't let up and I couldn't be more proud of the husband and myself for sticking to our guns. At the time, our parents were coming and going helping with night feeds as was our night nanny, April. We taught them all how to stick to the schedule and not give in so that everyone was on the same page and it worked! When people out in public (doctor's office, neighbors, etc.) say how tired we must be with four babies and not getting any sleep, we quickly make them aware our quads sleep for 12 hours. Then they tell us how lucky we are that they do and we again quickly tell them we worked very hard to accomplish that.

My crew!
I would imagine a similar schedule could work well for a single infant, if you're in the stages of trying to accomplish less night feeds. Obviously I don't have one infant, so take that with a grain of salt! I do know that if I'd just had one baby, I would've wanted to have some sort of feeding schedule to abide by rather than feed-on-demand since it makes it so much easier to anticipate, prepare and handle feedings. Having a feeding schedule also makes it easier to push the babies to go longer at night in between eating.

I am so happy we did it this way, it was not too painful and totally doable with our high order multiples family. Hopefully this inspires confidence or motivates other parents out there looking to get more sleep at night, and also helps encourage those with multiples that it can be done! Power to the sleep!!

7 comments:

  1. If you can do it, anyone can! I don't know if I told you this---but my birthday is actually May 30th, the same day the quads were born and my own baby (our first little girl) is due May 29th this year! I love when people share their feeding/sleep schedules because I plan to return to work after I have the baby and it's nice to know that as long as you are diligent and stick to the plan, babies can sleep through the night :)

    best,

    -Veronika

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    1. I am so excited for you girl!! So funny your events are all at the end of May. The quads were born May 31, and I was afraid I was gonna have to share my birthday (June 6) with them but obviously they stuck to their own month :)

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  2. It seems so long ago that we were getting up for feeds every 3 hours. I am sooooo glad that we have moved on from that stage. I too love when people tell us we must be so tired and I can tell them that the quads sleep 12 hours. I often am told that they couldn't do it with one! You and Mike are amazing and are doing such an awesome job raising your quadlings.

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  3. Cannot believe those babies are going to be 8 months old, looking at the pictures it seems like yesterday you were posting them.
    It amazes me that ALL four babies are sleeping thru the nite, you dont have one late nighter or early riser in the group;)
    Thanks for sharing

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  4. You are so consistent & I truly think that is such a good thing. My Annalee is a wonderful sleeper. She only gets up once through the night. My Axle is a totally different story though. At 2 1/2 years old he still wakes several times through the night for a bottle. He seriously drives me crazy. He's so attached to his bottle. I should have taken it away before he turned one and didn't. Biggest mistake ever. Keep up the good work friend- your such a good momma :)

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  5. Sleep training is hard, but totally worth it! I do not miss those days of 32 bottles! I agree, a good disposition comes from good sleep. I've finally gotten naps down to a reasonable schedule, hence my fears about the four our schedule we are trying today! They made it 3.5 hours before Harper started a coup and before I knew it there was a full on four baby revolt! I managed a spoon feed and put off the bottles until the 4 hour mark. They are napping now...

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