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Resources Centre / Twins Tips Introduction / Twins Tips / Co-sleeping Twins and Multiples
Co-sleeping Twins and Multiples
Co-sleeping is the term used to describe putting your twins, triplets or even quad babies down to sleep together in the same cot, also referred to as co-bedding. Most parents co-bed their twin babies for at least part of the time once the babies arrive home. Co-bedding for multiple birth babies seems to make sense and there are some practical reasons to do so as well.

Some parents of low birth weight (LBW) or premature (pre-term) twins and multiples wish to co-bed their babies from right after birth in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) / Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU) but not all hospitals have a co-bedding policy. It's a tough call and hospitals have some valid reasons for not co-bedding, not the least of which is that the beds may not be big enough to comfortably accommodate twin babies. Thankfully though, some hospitals are rethinking co-bedding issues and as a result, there could soon be some good news for parents of multiples.

A quick poll of parents with twins (not carried out by TwinsUK) regarding their experiences resulted in the following comments regarding the co-sleeping of their babies in NICU/SCBU:
  • takes less room by your hospital bed, which is important if you are sharing a room;
  • there is less confusion in the nursery as the staff only has to worry about one cot;
  • helps the babies conserve body heat, regulate their temperatures;
  • helps the babies settle better as they seem to comfort each other;
  • one mother felt it helped them get over the trauma of their births as they took comfort in being together once again;
  • continuity of their being together from the womb;
  • sometimes the babies have been placed in their own cot in different rooms within a hospital setting, making it difficult for the parents to split their time between the two babies; (this can also happen in large hospitals where the SCBU may have different levels of intensive care)
  • parents generally felt better themselves that their babies continue to be together, as they were in the womb;
  • one family reported that one of their sons was too sick. It just wouldn't have worked for them; and
  • it is very cute in pictures!
Healthcare professionals have some valid concerns regarding co-bedding:
  • if one (or both) babies are sick and are co-bedded, there could be a mix up with their medications. In separate bassinets, the potential for medication error is minimized;
  • if only one baby is ill, there could be cross-contamination to the other baby;
  • if one baby has a birth anomaly, e.g. spina bifida, Downs, it would be better for the babies to be in separate cots;
  • there could be unnecessary exposure of a baby to oxygen;
  • there could be sleep disturbances which may impact on a baby's ability to become healthier; and
  • there could be temperature instability between the babies.
There may be a specific time when hospital staff would decide (or it might be a hospital policy) not co-bed multiple birth infants. Such a decision occurs when one, or both babies, is ill (usually due to their prematurity) and to be in close proximity might have an adverse affect on one or both of their health. In such cases, the decision is based on the best possible outcome for each baby.

Once the babies are home, most parents of twins and multiples, have co-bedded their twins (and sometimes triplets or quads) for various ranges of time. The Arm's Reach Co-sleeper Cot is a perfect solution for the first 6 months as it actually attaches to the parents bed, making caring for your twins or triplets much easier. Extremely useful for twins or triplets, the babies can be positioned side by side. You can then transfer your twin babies into separate cots or a double cot like the Shanticot Double Bunk Bed which is more compact than two single side-by-side cots. It gives both babies their own space but the comfort of being close to their co-twin.

What usually brings co-bedding to an end is when one baby or toddler continually disturbs the other, as in one likes to sleep and the other likes to play and may be looking for a playmate, whom is desperately trying to get some shut-eye. At the end of the day in this scenario, there are at least two cranky babies and two cranky parents, which makes for a very cranky household. The solution is separate beds (and maybe even separate bedrooms) and hey pronto, a more peaceful life is had by all! Our Video Monitors and Camera Kits are ideal for use in the nursery, playroom or other rooms in the house and allow you to keep your eye on your babies and toddlers who are in the same room or even if they are in two separate rooms.

Co-bedding at home offers some other distinct advantages for both babies and parents:
  • the babies usually enjoy being together and will often settle down quicker and more easily.
  • as the babies grow, parents may continue to have their multiples share a room, each in their own beds, because they enjoy being with each other. Don't be surprised to find them sleeping in one bed together when you go to get them up in the morning;
  • co-bedding cuts down on the amount of laundry with washing only one set of sheets and blankets at a time instead of two or three; (I recommend using sleeping bags but check the recommended weight before using them).
  • you can go to one spot in the room and attend to a baby while the other still has full visual contact with you;
  • initially some parents keep one& ;cot upstairs and one downstairs (for the daytime naps). Not having to go up and down the stairs several times a day helps preserve energy levels; and
  • even parents with triplets have co-bedded their babies, initially lying each baby across the cot. A bonus is easy access to each baby as needed.

If you want your premature or LBW twins co-bedded while they are in the hospital, check out your hospital's policy before you deliver. Ask your attending consultant or mid-wife to make the corresponding note in your chart indicating that you want the babies co-bedded if at all possible. The more often we ask for what we want or need, the more often the hospitals will listen and change will be implemented.

Looking for more information on Sleeping and Co-Bedding for Twin Infants, follow the link to the research studies on sleeping arrangements in hospital and at home.

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