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Fitting two new cots into your home isn’t absolutely necessary, at least at first.
Many parents find that sleeping their babies in the same cot (co-bedding) works well for at least the first few weeks or months. Research has shown that sleeping similar-sized young twins in the same cot does not mean they wake more often; in fact, their sleeping patterns become more similar. Multiples who are used to co-bedding do not disturb one another.
Reducing the risk of cot death
Sadly, we don’t know why some babies die suddenly and for no apparent reason from what is often called ‘cot death’ or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Nobody likes to talk or think about it but we want you to have as much information as possible so you know you have done the best you can.
What we do know is that placing a baby to sleep on their back reduces the risk, and that exposing a baby to cigarette smoke or overheating a baby increases the risk.
All the advice that we now have for reducing the risk of cot death and other dangers, such as suffocation, is listed below. Remember that cot death is rare, so don’t let worrying about it stop you enjoying your babies’ first few months. But do follow the advice below to reduce the risks as much as possible.
To reduce the risk of cot death:
- Keep your babies in the same room as you for the first six months
- Place your babies on their back to sleep, in a cot in a room with you
- Do not smoke in pregnancy or let anyone smoke in the same room as your babies
- Do not share a bed with your babies if you have been drinking alcohol, if you take drugs or if you are a smoker
- Never sleep with your babies on a sofa or armchair
- Do not let your babies get too hot – keep their heads uncovered
- No pillows or duvets for babies under one year old
- Place your babies in the ‘feet to foot’ position
The Foundation for Sudden Infant Deaths (FSID) has no evidence that putting twins in the same cot in the early months increases their risk. With FSID’s help, we have put together some suggestions on co-bedding multiples which you may find useful.
- Never put them in the same Moses basket or crib – in case they overheat
- Only place them side-by-side in the early weeks, when they can’t roll over on to or over each other
- It might be good to start sleeping them at opposite ends of their cot from the beginning - this means they’ll both be feet to foot that way with their own bedding firmly tucked in
- There’s no need to use rolled up towels, pillows or anything else between their heads and the use of cot dividers is not recommended
- Follow all the same advice for single babies - it applies to multiples, whether they are in their cot together or not
- It is particularly important that for babies who are born at a low birth weight (under 2.5kg or 5.5lbs) or were born before 37 weeks (multiples can often fall within this category), that all the advice on reducing the risk of cot death is followed
- There has been no specific research undertaken on co-bedding triplets and higher multiples. If you choose to co-bed triplets and higher multiples, it is important to ensure that they are kept a very close eye on and moved when they get more mobile and to make sure that they do not get overheated.
Top Tip - If your bedroom is not big enough for two cots, you could use a cot bed and co-bed your babies (following the feet to foot advice). Cot beds are bigger than normal cots and you can adapt them to become a toddler bed later on. Of course you still need to be careful that they’re not rolling on top of each other. Think about taking furniture out of your room for a short while to make more space.
As your babies grow bigger you may want to put them in separate cots, although some babies sleep together in a single cot for a year or more. You may want to experiment to see if they sleep better in the same or different rooms.
What if one wakes earlier than the other?
It’s perfectly possible to teach babies to sleep (although this may involve a lot of crying you may prefer to avoid), but it’s also true that some babies need more sleep than others. If one baby is sleeping less, you can continue putting your babies to bed at the same time and hope that the shorter sleeper learns to sleep longer.
However, some parents decide to develop individual routines for their babies, which can mean the babies sleep better and also allows individual time with each one. It may also mean that the one who sleeps longer has the chance to go into deep sleep and is therefore not disturbed by the arrival of a sibling or siblings. If you start this from an early age, you are less likely to experience protests when the children are older.
Coping: you and your partner
Broken sleep makes it harder to carry out tasks and puts a strain on your temper. But there are things you can do about it.
Recognise that caring for more than one baby is work. If one parent stays at home to look after the babies and the other goes out to work, you are both working. Neither parent should be expected to deal with the nights alone. Share the burden of broken nights as much as possible, or find a relative or ‘night nanny’ who is specifically responsible for sharing the night-time care when adequate sleep is vital for one or both parents to function safely at work.
If you are bottle-feeding, you and your partner could take responsibility for alternate nights. Some couples operate a shift system for the first few weeks or months when there is a lot of getting up in the night. An example of this would be one person sleeping from 7pm till 1am while the other naps when they can but is on hand to attend to the babies; you then swap roles from 1am to 7am. This way both parents get a guaranteed chunk of sleep.
If you are a lone parent, ask a friend or relative if they would stay for a night and attend to the babies so you can get some proper rest. Tamba’s members-only messageboard has a section for parents bringing up multiples alone which can provide valuable support and advice.
For mothers who are breastfeeding, you may want to have your babies’ cot next to your bed so you don’t have to get up to feed. Many mothers breastfeed their babies lying down so they can doze and then return the baby to the cot. If you think you may accidentally fall asleep with your baby (or babies) in bed (and many breastfeeding mothers find they do so) make sure you have thought about how to bed-share as safely as possible.
Tamba’s tips for good sleep
1. Establish and follow a flexible routine for sleeping during the day and at bedtime.
2. Allow babies to get to sleep on their own rather than rocking or cuddling them to sleep.
3. Try not to rush and pick up your babies if you hear them stir. As babies sleep they go through cycles so will stir and seem to be waking at various times. If left alone, they will learn to get themselves back into a deeper sleep.
4. Take your babies out in the fresh air every day. Research has shown that babies who go out sleep better.
5. Some parents find that once their babies reach six months or so, they will entertain each other when they first wake up.
6. Once your babies have reached nine or ten months old, you can try a number of sleep training methods. For example the ‘Checking Method’ or ‘Controlled Crying Technique’ to build good sleep patterns, or Pantley’s No Cry Sleep Solution.
7. Visit ISIS, a research based infant sleep website for more information.
Read Tamba’s free guide Twins, Triplets or More: The First Year for more on how to get your babies sleeping well, or Tamba’s members-only messageboards are also a good source of tips, information and parent-to-parent support on sleep and multiple children.
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