Twins and Sleep – Part Three: Co-Sleeping

*This is Part Three of a Six Part Series.  Please take a moment and read Part One, which covers bedtime routine and Part Two, which covers sleep training.*

Co-Sleeping in an incubator in the NICU

Co-Sleeping in an incubator in the NICU 5 days old (Jacob front, Esau back)

Holding hands sleeping at 11 days old (Jacob left, Esau right)

Holding hands sleeping at 11 days old (Jacob left, Esau right)

Co-Sleeping at 10 Months (now)

Co-Sleeping (napping) now – 10 months (Esau front, Jacob back)

Co-sleeping is a very important decision that needs to be made by all parents of twins.  This post will explain the pros and cons of either decision and which decision I made.  This post does not by any means suggest that either decision is better than the other and I am not advising for or against co-sleeping. That decision must be made by each parent of twins.

What is Co-Sleeping:

Co-sleeping is a term given to several different methods in relation to sleeping babies. Some people refer to having your baby sleep in your room in their own crib or bassinet as co-sleeping, others consider co-sleeping to be sleeping in the same bed as the baby (also called bedsharing), but with twins when we talk about co-sleeping, we are talking about both babies sharing the same sleeping structure; be it a crib, bed, bassinet, etc.

There are many different ways you can co-sleep twins. They can be placed head-to-head, feet-to-feet, or side-by-side. Some opt to not co-sleep at all, either putting their babies in separate cribs or putting a divider in a single crib between the two babies.

Benefits of Co-Sleeping:

There are many benefits to co-sleeping and you will see in any nursery or NICU where there are twins, they will be in the same bassinet or crib or even sometimes the same incubator.

Twins have already spent nine months in close quarters with each other. Nearing the end of that nine months, it’s a really tight space and researchers have actually discovered that twins can and often will touch each other while in the womb.  It would make sense, then, that after they have left the womb, being next to their twin sibling is very soothing and comforting to them.

Newborn twins when put together will instinctively move towards each other, touch each other, and even suck on each other’s hands.  It was not uncommon to see Jacob and Esau holding hands while sleeping even when they were just a few days old.

Research has shown that twins who sleep together have better vital signs, breath better, sleep better, grow better and if one is not as healthy, he/she will recover better when beside their wombmate.  Twins will also regulate each other’s body temperature when next to each other.

There have been studies that have also shown that twins who sleep together are less likely to wake each other up.  I am not sure if this is true, but I do know that when one of my boys wakes up, he could be whaling right beside the other’s head and the other will not even stir!

There are also theories that twins who co-sleep have better social skills as older children, but this has not been studied closely enough as of yet to determine validity.

Reasons to Avoid Co-sleeping:

Despite the many physical, health, and emotional benefits to co-sleeping your twins, there are also some serious elements to consider against doing so.

Firstly, it is important to note that the AAP (American Academy of Pediatricians) advise strongly against co-sleeping twins as there are increased risks to the safety of the babies and they believe that there is an increased risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) when babies sleep together.

There are also concerns that one baby can suffocate the other either by being too close or by rolling on top of their sibling.  Also, although there are studies that prove that infants sleeping side-by-side regulate each other’s temperatures, I have also read that they can increase each other’s temperatures to dangerously high levels, however have seen no actual studies to support this.

Ways to Compromise:

Some parents of twins chose to compromise between the two options.  This is generally done by co-sleeping twins until they are approximately three months of age, when they begin to become more mobile by rolling.  Others have kept them in the same crib, but placed a divider between the two of them.

Our Own Sleeping Arrangements:

I have co-slept my twins right from day one.

I started with the plan of keeping them in the same basinet in my room until they were six weeks old and then moving them to separate floor beds in their own room.

At six weeks, I did initially follow through with this plan, but my boys would not sleep unless they were together, so I compromised and pushed their beds together and they always end up right beside each other to fall asleep.

Yes, there are risks that I am taking and yes, I have had to respond to a couple muffled cries now and again, which usually means one is lying on the other, but it has never been a serious issue for me.  I move them, they cuddle back up together and go to sleep.  I find that the benefits have much outweighed the occasional having to go in and roll one off the other.

There is no question when you see my boys sleeping together that they enjoy each other’s company and they are distraught if I try to separate them.  They will be sleeping together until they day they tell me they want to sleep separately and I am okay with that.

I would love to hear from others about what you thing.  What are your sleeping arrangements and how do they work for you?

Next week I will talk about twins and napping, so please make sure you follow my blog and you will receive the post right in your emails!

*This is Part Two of a Six Part Series.  Please take a moment and read Part One, which covers bedtime routine.*

Jacob sleeping

Esau Sleeping (when he still had stork bites)

Jacob (top) and Esau (bottom) sleeping at two months (Esau still had stork bites then)

Sleep Training:

Sleep training is the act of teaching a baby to develop the skill of falling asleep on his/her own.  This is skill that we are not born with and must be learned.  To understand why sleep training is so important, let’s first look at why babies wake up throughout the night.

Why Babies Wake Through The Night:

Let’s look at why the average baby wakes up during the night.

Almost all babies are rocked or fed to sleep.  Most parents feel that this is the only way to get their babies to sleep because otherwise their babies will cry when put down in their crib or bed, sometimes to the point of making themselves sick.

Rocking or feeding to sleep may work for some people when initially getting their babies to bed, however it will mean that you are going to have to do this several times throughout the night and here is why:

Humans, including you and I and everyone else from birth to death, wakes up many times every night during the transition between sleep cycles.

This is the time that we will roll over or maybe even talk in our sleep (it is a common belief that you talk in your sleep because of a dream you are having, but actually you are never dreaming at this time, because you are between sleep cycles and not in a REM sleep cycle), but we generally don’t even realize that we have woken up, because our bodies know how to fall back to sleep immediately.

The reason why most babies will wake up and cry for you throughout the night is because they do not know how to fall back to sleep on their own.  If they only ever fall asleep by being rocked or fed, they are never learning that skill and will rely on you to continue to aid them to sleep.

Our Sleep Training Method:

After a lot of research, I decided to use the FERBER method for sleep training my sons.  There are a lot of different sleep training options available which will work better for different families, but the Ferber method to me seemed to be the most reasonable, combining the tough love and effectiveness of what most people consider “cry it out” with the nurturing and reassurance of other less effective sleep training methods or lack thereof.

With the Ferber method, you put your baby in their bed/crib and give them lots of love and reassurance.  Then you leave the room for a set small duration.  (I use three minutes)

If the baby is still crying after the set duration, you go back into the room, but don’t pick him/her up.  You just pat him or rub his back/stomach, reassure him with soft words and then leave again for a slightly longer duration (I use five minutes).

You continue waiting for slightly increased duration (for example, I use 3, 5, 10, 20, 37, 63, etc but they have never made it past the 20 minutes before), returning if the baby is still crying, patting, reassuring and then leaving.

What this does is reassure the child that you are still there and they are not abandoned, but that it is seriously time to go to sleep and that crying and carrying on will not manipulate you into giving into them.

This can be very hard to do for the first little while, and I know there were nights I cried more than they did, but it gets easier very quickly and before long, there won’t even be any crying at all and your baby will have learned to fall asleep on his own.

Next week I will cover the tough decision that any parent of twins face – to co-sleep or not to co-sleep!

Twins and Sleep – Part Two: Sleep Training

Twins and Sleep – Part One: Bedtime Routine

 

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I decided that I’m going to start my blog on a positive note, because it is inevitable that some topics regarding the life of a single mom with twins may be a bit on the negative side. 

I will be beginning with one of the things I am most thankful for which has made my life as a single mom of twins much easier.  Believe it or not, this topic is sleep!

Now, you wouldn’t believe that sleep would be a positive subject with two babies in the house, but both my babies have slept through the night since they were three months old!  A solid twelve hours from 8pm to 8am with the very odd exception due to colds or teething.  They also have two one-hour naps during the day like clockwork at 11am and 3pm.

When I tell someone about their sleep habits, I get many comments about how I am lucky or blessed, and although this is more than true in many respects, I credit their good sleeping habits to a bit of tough love and a very solid bedtime routine.  

This will be a six part series on Sleep. There will be information here that can help any parent, single or not, with any amount of babies, singletons or multiples, on how to get your babies to sleep through the night.  Please note that before three months of age, babies will still need fed throughout the night, so although you can start these habits earlier (I started at six weeks) to build a solid foundation, you should still feed your baby when he/she wakes up before three months of age.

Bedtime Routine:

One of the first and most important aspects of good sleeping habits is a solid bedtime routine.  We start every bedtime with a strong routine.  You can created any bedtime routine on your own, but there are some important factors to ensure are included in this routine for it to be successful:

  • It begins at the same time every night
  • It lasts the same amount of time every night (preferably an hour)
  • It includes only activities which allow winding down (quiet, relaxing activities)
  • It includes at least one activity in their room while they are in bed so you aren’t just putting them in their room and leaving them.

The Twins’ Bedtime Routine: 

Our bedtime routine starts at 7pm every night after the boys have had their last feeding.  

1) The boys have a warm bubble bath for about 20 minutes.  They are allowed toys, but it is still a fairly quite and relaxing time for them to wind down. As you can see from the picture, sometimes our dog, Zeddicus, likes to help with this step.

2) Bath time is followed by a baby massage with Johnston’s Bedtime Lotion.  Refer to this video to learn how to massage your baby.  Massage is a wonderful way to bond and allow your baby to relax.

 3) I dress them in their sleepers.  It is important that babies are put in clean, dry sleepers that are not too tight and allow their legs to fully bend and straighten and their toes to be completely flat.  They should also be appropriate for the temperature of the bedroom (warm, thick sleepers for cooler temperatures and short sleeve, footless sleepers or even onsies for the warmer nights)

4) I brush their teeth and have done so every night since they came home from the hospital.  At the beginning, I used a baby cloth and warm water and rubbed their gums down until they cut their first tooth and then began using an infant brush and infant toothpaste (make sure it’s fluoride free!)

5) We then go to their bedroom and while they are in bed, I read them two stories (alternating between regular children’s books and their children’s bible).  It is never too early to begin reading to your baby (many start while they are in the womb!) Even though they cannot fully understand what you are reading, it will encourage vocabulary and cognitive development.

6) I sing them a song (usually All Through The Night or From This Moment) and lately they have been trying to sing it with me and are pretty good at matching notes to me!

7) Then we say our prayers, have hugs and kisses and I leave the room.

At this point, they will usually just fall right to sleep, because they know now that it is bedtime after their routine is over and they have learned by now how to fall asleep on their own, but it hasn’t always been this easy once I have left the room.  It has taken quite a bit of sleep training that took from when they were six weeks old until they were three months old.

Next Post will cover sleep training and insight on why babies wake up through the night.