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!

Where It All Began

I decided to start a blog to share the struggles and triumphs of being a single mother of twins. Although becoming increasingly common, multiple births are still a rare blessing.  A blessing that leaves the world as you knew it a glinting memory and brings a new world of double the work, double the chaos, double the stress, but double the love and joy!

Even more rare than a mother of twins is the mother who does it all on her own!  It’s rare, yes, but after reading various forum posts online, I do know that I am not alone!  There are quite a few woman out there doing the double duty of child raising and doing it solo!  So I decided to share my experiences as my children and I grow together in our crazy little family where the parent:child ratio is reversed from the norm!  And this is where the journey started:

I was 23 when my life started falling into place.  I started dating the man that would become my husband and started my career as a Correctional Officer all within three months of each other.  Due to work circumstances, I was forced to live two hours away from my new boyfriend and we maintained a long distance relationship for the first year and a half of our relationship.  After nine months, even though we were carrying out a long distance relationship, we were engaged.  We moved half way between our two homes and shared an apartment together while I commuted an hour each way to work every day.  While living in this apartment, we were married four years and one day after we had started dating.  Shortly after we were married, I finally received a transfer back home and we moved back to our original stomping ground.  This is when we decided to start a family, and where my heart started to break.

I had always wanted children very much.  I can remember as early as nine years old wanting to be a mother.  It seemed, however, now that I was ready to be a mother, it just wasn’t happening.  It took a year before we could even get an appointment to see a fertility specialist and that is when I received the biggest blow of my life – I had Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and it was not likely that I was going to be able to become pregnant and in the rare event that I did, it would more than likely end in a miscarriage.

All was not lost, however, because 22 months after initially trying to conceive, I received my first and only cycle of Clomid, which is a medication that induces ovulation.  It worked!  And boy did it ever work!  25 months after initially trying to conceive, at just eight weeks pregnant, I had my first ultrasound and received the news that would forever change my life – there were two babies!

The pregnancy was not an easy one!  I seemed to have every pregnancy symptom in existence at about double dose.  I felt like I went straight from the first trimester sickness to the third trimester discomfort with no glowing second trimester in between.  I also became very ill with pre-eclampsia (formerly known as toxemia.)  I gained 80lbs in the blink of an eye.  My entire body swelled up, my blood pressure went through the roof, I could barely breath because my sinuses swelled, and I developed sleep apnea.

As if expecting twins and being very ill wasn’t stressful enough as it is, one month before my babies were born, my husband was fired from his job because the company did not want to pay for his parental leave.  This was a really hard blow to take when we are about to face the most economically straining time of a couple’s lives!

At 35 weeks, my body had had all it could handle and was shutting down.  My OBGYN admitted me into the hospital and three days later, on Friday, April 13, 2012, my two beautiful boys were born via emergency cesarean section.  The older of the two (will be referred to as Esau throughout this blog) was born at 8:26am (on the right in photo at top of blog) and his little brother (to be referred to as Jacob) was born one minute later at 8:27am (on the left in photo at top of blog.)  I was extremely ill from the pre-ecampsia that had developed into eclampsia and the boys, although fairly healthy, were sent to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), also called the special care nursery, while they were monitored for Jaundice and blood sugar levels.

We began life as a family of four and my husband received his grade 12 diploma soon thereafter and began college when the boys were five months old.  When the boys were six months old, he moved his stuff out of the house and went to live with his mother and never looked back and I began my new adventures with my boys as a single mother.

It has been four months as a single mom now and it has definitely required a lot of planning and tactics, learning how to do things differently and just surviving the days, but even though I wish we could still share the generic family structure, I have enjoyed every minute of my boys’ lives so far single mom or not and it’s just getting started, so feel free to enjoy this wonderful ride with me!