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Resources Centre / Twins Tips Introduction / Twins Tips / Co-Bedding Twins in Special Care
Co-Bedding Twins in Special Care
Co-bedding is the term used to describe putting twin babies down to sleep together in the same cot. Most parents co-bed their babies for at least part of the time once the babies arrive home. Our twin girls shared a cot for 3 months until they began to disturb each other. Co-bedding for multiple birth babies just seems to make sense and there are some practical reasons to do so.

Some parents of low birth weight (LBW) or premature multiples wish to co-bed their babies right after birth in the Special Care Baby Unit (NICU/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/cots may not be big enough to comfortably accommodate two 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 regarding their experiences resulted in the following comments regarding the co-bedding of their babies in NICU:

  • takes less room by your hospital bed. which is important if you are sharing a room;
  • there seems to be 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
  • may help them get over the trauma of their births and take comfort in being together again
  • continuity of their being together from the womb
  • 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 cots. 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 or 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;
  • cots are not large enough to hold two babies;
  • one baby may interfere with the tubing of the other baby; and
  • there could be temperature instability between the babies.

There may be a specific time when NICU hospital staff would decide. or it might be 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. e.g. disturb their sleep. thus impeding healing. In such cases. a co-bedding decision is based on the best possible outcome for each baby.

Once the babies are home. most parents of multiples. have co-bedded their twins (and sometimes triplets or quads) for various ranges of time. What usually brings co-bedding to an end is when one baby or toddler continually disturbs the other. as in one likes his sleep and the other likes to play and may be looking for a playmate. 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 = separate beds. maybe even separate bedrooms. and pronto!

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;
  • 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 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.

P.S. They do. indeed. take great pictures when they are snuggled up together in the same cot !

Resources: Lynda P. Haddon - Multiple Birth Educator. Past President of Multiple Births Families Association in Ottawa. Canada. as well as of Multiple Births Canada. Canada's National support organization.

Please follow the link for more information on Premature Twins & Triplets

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