Sleep is a hot topic and is one of the most popular subjects we get asked about, as well as one of the most discussed in our peer-to-peer support groups.
Having more than one child can make getting into a routine and developing good sleep patterns more challenging.
We have put together some useful information about how to sleep your babies when they get home, what to expect in terms of their sleep needs and patterns, important information about keeping your babies safe during their sleep and how to make the transition from cots to beds easier for everyone.
The Lullaby Trust safe sleep guidance, to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). SIDS is when babies die suddenly and unexpectedly in their sleep for no explainable reason, it is more commonly know as cot death. Babies who are born premature and/or have a low birth weight can be more at risk and so twins, triplets and more are often in the high risk category. Please follow the safe sleep advice whenever your babies are sleeping, not just at night time.
- Use a firm, flat, waterproof mattress in good condition.
- Always unwrap babies and remove hats when you go from a cold to a warm place.
- Make sure the cot is free from toys, pillows and loose bedding.
- Keep your babies in the same room as you for the first 6 months for naps and night time sleep.
- Do not smoke during pregnancy or let anyone smoke in the same room as your babies.
- Do not share a bed with more than one of your babies at a time.
- Do not sleep on the sofa or armchair with your babies.
- Do not use pillows or duvets for babies under one year old.
- Do not leave your babies unsupervised on a bed or a sofa.
For further information, you can download our Safe Sleep fact sheet and visit the The Lullaby Trust website.
It is possible for twins and triplets to share a large sleep space and this is called co-bedding. Research has shown that sleeping similar sized newborns in the same cot does not mean they wake more often, in fact their sleeping patterns become more similar. Generally, multiples that are used to co-bedding do not disturb each other. It is possible to have two or three babies sharing a cot by placing them in the feet to foot position, with bedding tucked in and not loose (see diagrams and guidance below).
- Do not co-bed in a moses basket or bassinette due to the limited space and risk of overheating.
- Do not use rolled up blankets or towels etc to prop up your babies. Often you will see premature babies in hospital using things like this but it’s important to remember that whilst in hospital the babies are very closely monitored. When you bring them home it is important to follow the safe sleep guidance unless advised by your medical professional.
- Do not co-bed them once one of your babies is rolling or travelling around the cot. It is important that they have their own sleep space at this point.
Space is often a massive issue for families of twins, triplets and more, especially when the babies are unable to share a cot anymore. Many families do not have space in their room or in the living area for two or more cots. Twins Trust has worked in conjunction with The Lullaby Trust to provide some alternative solutions.
My babies are 4 months old and are too big to share a cot. I don’t have space for two cots downstairs for daytime naps. What is the safest way to sleep them in the day? Following safer sleep advice like placing your baby to sleep on their back for every sleep is essential to reducing the risk of SIDS. Travel cots, smaller cribs/cots or a combination may offer a good alternative for daytime naps downstairs until they are 6 months old. However, if this isn’t an option, leaving doors open and checking them regularly is important. Using a baby monitor may give peace of mind but shouldn’t replace your presence in the room whilst they are napping.
I’ve read that babies need separate sleep spaces once they can roll and move about the cot. What is the best thing to do if I don’t have space for two cots in my room? Sometimes it may be difficult to follow all of The Lullaby Trust safer sleep advice if you are short of space. If you can’t fit two cots in your bedroom for your twins, make the advice work for you – leave doors open between your rooms, or take in turns with a partner to sleep with the twins in a nursery room. If possible, you may even be able to borrow something smaller than a second cot for a couple of months, such as a crib or smaller travel cot.
It's really important to remember that new born babies will not sleep through the night. Their little tummies need food at regular intervals throughout the day and night. Try and work out a way to cover the nights with the support you have. Some parents take it in turns to sleep away from the babies so they get solid sleep whilst the other cares for the babies. Other families feed a baby each at each feed to make the awake time shorter. Some families bring in extra help in the early weeks as it can become extremely exhausting. Whatever works for your family make sure you are open and honest about how you are feeling and get rest when you can.
It is important to remember that this phase won’t last forever and that throughout the first year your twins, triplets and more will develop and change quickly and often their sleep needs will reflect this. Find out more by reading our Sleep Expectations fact sheet, our Top Tips for Sleep factsheet and watching our Sleep Expectations webinar.
If your babies are aged over one, we have a Sleep Online Course that might interest you.
There are a large number of sleeping products available to buy. However, many of these are not essential and can increase the risk of sudden infant death syndrome. Twins Trust promotes The Lullaby Trust in their guidance around products and would advise you to always check the safety of the product before you buy it. Does it comply with British Standards? Also,if it is something for you baby to sleep on is it firm, entirely flat and does it have a waterproof cover? If the answer to any of these questions is no, then we would not advise its use. The Lullaby Trust has further information about sleep products.
Moving from cot to bed is a huge milestone for your little ones. The key is to do this when they are ready.
When to move your children from a cot to a bed
Around 18 months is usually the time you may start thinking about this, sometimes even sooner. This is often the time your little ones will start to climb out of their cots. If your little ones don’t climb out, try and keep them in their cot for as long as possible. The older they are when you move them to a bed, the better. They will possess more of an understanding, making the transition process much easier.
You may have a difficult first couple of nights, but usually, once they are settled to sleep, they will stay in their bed for the duration. Be consistent with your approach, don’t be tempted to bring them into your bedroom or give into demands of staying for ‘just one more’. The idea is to not create any new sleep associations in which you aren’t happy to continue.
Moving into a bed is an exciting next step for your children. Try and involve them in the process as much as possible, for example involving them in choosing their new bedding.
Tips on how to help your twins, triplets or more transition from cot to bed:
- Initially when your little ones start to climb out, try and teach them to stay in their cot. If you catch them climbing out, pop them back in. Be firm and clear, using a word such as ‘no’ and giving a disapproving look will help them comprehend what is being asked of them. Or simply state firmly ‘stay in your cot’. Sometimes despite your best efforts, things won’t go to plan or the way you had hoped. If trying to teach them to stay in their cot isn’t successful, then it is time to make the transition to a bed.
- Some parents prefer a toddler bed as they take up much less room particularly as you will need 2 or more. Alternatively, some transition straight to a single bed. The choice is yours. A lot of toddler beds have built in safety guards to prevent them from falling out of bed. If you move them to a single bed, it would be a good idea to fit one. You can also put a duvet or pillows on the floor to provide a soft landing if they do fall out.
- Think safety! Make sure the floor area is clear to avoid trips, cover radiators, lock windows and ensure all electrical items are out of reach and plug sockets covered.
- It may sound bizarre, but a good way to check for potential hazards is to crawl around on the floor (or kneel) in your little one’s bedroom. This gives you an opportunity to spot hazards visible to them at their eye level. This will enable you to spot things that potentially may get missed.
- With twins, triplets or more they will likely be sharing a bedroom. As you know, together they can get up to all sorts! Therefore it is essential to secure furniture to the walls to prevent them either climbing on it or pulling it down and toppling over.
- Sadly, research by ROSPA has shown blind cord deaths are most likely to happen in the bedroom with children between the ages of 16 month - 36 months most at risk. If you do have blind cords fitted, ROSPA recommend removing them.
- This transition can be a big deal, you want to make it as smooth as possible as well as making it a positive experience. It’s a good idea to keep their new beds in the same place where the cots were to avoid confusion and wandering in the night if they do wake and get out of bed.
- If your children use sleeping bags, you can continue to use these during the transition to their new big beds to help keep some familiarity there for them.
- Ensure any comforters make the transition with them, this might be a cuddly toy or special blanket.
- Talk to your little ones about their new ‘big boy’ or ‘big girl’ bed. Some children love the idea, although some are not so keen. Getting them involved can help them come round to the idea, such as choosing a new duvet cover and pillow. This also allows them to have a sense of control over the situation.
- Keep the bedtime routine that you have in place the same and try not to develop any new sleep associations. With the newfound freedom of a bed, they may ask you to lie with them. Be consistent in your approach. Installing a stair gate at their doorway is a good idea to stop them wandering out of their room during the night and preventing potential accidents.