Pregnancy and baby

Multiple babies and sleep

How do I cope with twins? (from birth)

Media last reviewed: 28/02/2013

Next review due: 28/02/2015

Getting twins or multiples into a sleeping routine will help make sure everyone gets the rest they need.

A lack of sleep can be a problem for any new parent, but for mothers of multiples trying to get two or more babies into a sleeping routine, it can be even harder.

There are several reasons why two or more babies may be more difficult to get into a good sleeping routine.

Twins and triplets are more likely to be born prematurely and spend time in neonatal care, where they're used to being touched and nursed frequently. They may miss this contact and find it hard to settle when they come home.

If you're still visiting one baby in hospital, it can be hard to establish a good routine with the other baby at home.

Advice on multiple babies and sleep

  • Premature newborn babies have tiny stomachs and need to feed every two to three hours. By the time they're four to six months old, they should generally drop their night-time feed.
  • Coping with two babies is harder than coping with just one, so it may take you longer to get into a routine that suits you.
  • More than one person may be caring for your babies, which can be unsettling for them, and they will take a while to get used to being handled in different ways by different people.
  • You may want to comfort a restless baby faster than you would a single baby, as you are worried they may wake up their twin.

However, there are plenty of ways to encourage a good sleeping routine so that everyone gets enough rest.

Techniques to help twins sleep in the first six months

  • Put your babies down in a safe sleeping position, on their backs with their feet touching the bottom of the cot or Moses basket.
  • Make sure they don’t get too hot, particularly if they're sharing a cot, and that blankets are securely tucked in.
  • Have a bedtime routine and stick to it. This will help the babies get into a good settling routine.
  • If your babies have been sleeping together, you can try to put them in separate cots if one is waking the other. You need to be flexible as one may prefer a cot while the other is more comfortable in a Moses basket. You can place cots next to each other so the babies can still see and touch each other.
  • In the early days, try to synchronise night feeds so if one wakes up you can feed the other at the same time. Be prepared for one twin to sleep through before the other.
  • Don’t rush to cuddle a baby if they cry. Normally, the other twin will sleep through their twin’s crying.

For more advice on creating a soothing night-time environment, see Getting your baby to sleep. The Multiple Births Foundation produces a book called 'How do you get twins (or more) to sleep?', which contains lots of useful tips and can be bought for £3 from their website.

Can my twins sleep together in one cot?

You may put your twins to sleep in a single cot while they're small enough, either because they slept together in hospital or because space is tight. This is called co-bedding and is perfectly safe. In fact, putting twins in the same cot can help them regulate their body temperatures and sleep cycles, and can soothe them and their twin.

If you put your twins in the same cot, follow the same safe sleeping advice as for a single baby. They should be placed on their backs with the tops of their heads facing one another and their feet at opposite ends of the cot, or side by side on their backs with their feet at the foot of the cot.

If you want to use a barrier to separate your twins, use a fixed cot divider, not rolled up blankets or towels.

Because you can use a single cot for co-bedding, it can allow you to keep your babies with you in your room for longer. Having your babies in a room with you up to the age of six months is known to reduce the risk of cot death.

With triplets, you can sleep them next to each other across a cot while they're still small enough to fit. They should be laid on their backs with their feet touching the side (effectively the foot) of the cot.

When your twins are older, you may choose to put them in separate cots placed close together so they can continue to comfort each other. It's recommended that babies sleep in the same room as their parents for the first six months, but if older twins are disturbing one another, you may decide to give them separate rooms if you have the space.

Page last reviewed: 10/07/2012

Next review due: 10/07/2014

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