Parents of twins often receive conflicting advice about when to feed their babies. Feeding on demand, that is presenting the breast or bottle when a baby signals that he is hungry, can result in chaos. One’s eating, one’s sleeping, and then they switch.
Certainly, you should never ignore or neglect a child who needs you in the night, but you’ll get more rest if you learn to transition back to sleep as your baby settles back down.
AAP. 2013. Colic. American Academy of Pediatrics. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/crying-colic/Pages/Colic.aspx
Do whatever it takes to streamline the process and get your babies and yourself back to bed as quickly as possible.
Of course, keep your babies’ individual needs in mind. Talk to your pediatrician to develop an appropriate approach.
Developing a regular sleep pattern often depends on your babies’ weight, not their age. This means identical twins tend to sleep through at almost identical ages. Fraternal twins’ sleep patterns may be more independent, especially if they’re different in size or temperament.
For more advice on creating a soothing night-time environment, read our page on Getting your baby to sleep. The Multiple Births Foundation produces a book called “How do you get twins (or more) to sleep?” that can be bought for £3 from their website.
What should we do if one of our twins cries while the other is sleeping?
It’s natural to be cautious and concerned over their condition, but many parents lose sleep because they are too in tune with every cry and snuffle as their babies sleep.
Often the best advice comes from people who have been in your shoes. Here are some tips from BabyCenter parents:
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Use a soft, soothing voice during nighttime feedings and other interactions to give your babies the message that nighttime is the right time for sleep.
So if one starts fussing, check on the other one first to make sure she’s happy and settled. This makes sure that no one is overlooked, and both children feel secure and loved.
Use a baby monitor to keep an eye or ear on your sleeping sweethearts, but don’t jump at every noise. With time, you’ll learn to interpret your babies’ cries and respond only to those that require your attention.
The confines of swaddling also prevents the babies’ natural startle reflex from waking them up. It also reduces the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).
Another way to sync up your babies: As soon as one cries to be fed, wake up the other one and feed him, too.
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.
Teaching two babies to sleep through the night may sound more complicated. But generally speaking, the same rules apply.
Accept that multiples sleep through the night when they’re ready
Swaddling works best with newborns. After a month or two, your babies will outgrow the comforting effects.
Twins born prematurely, or with low birth weights, have a higher risk of SIDS, and having separate cribs can lower their risk. Your twins may find it comforting (and can sleep safely) if you place the cribs close enough for them to see one another.
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Use a single cot for co-bedding, but not a Moses basket, as it’ll be too small for two babies. Co-bedding means you can keep your babies with you in your room for longer.
If you’re still visiting one baby in hospital, it can be hard to establish a good routine with the other baby at home.
That shot of sleep will do wonders for your well-being and make for a much happier family.
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 your babies are at least 12 months old, you can encourage self-soothing by giving each a special soft toy or blanket to sleep with. These so-called transitional objects are comforting and can help soothe them back to sleep.
Caring for newborn twins or multiples takes time, help, training, money, and emotional backing.
There’s no evidence that sharing a crib benefits twins, though many do it – and some parents say their babies seem to sleep better. But the American Academy of Pediatrics advises against crib-sharing, saying there is added risk of overheating, accidental suffocation, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
If one baby is typically fussy and the other usually calm, you may be tempted to spend more time with the loudest one. Alexander Golbin, M.D., director of the Sleep and Behavior Medicine Institute, strongly advises against this. The problem, he explains, is that your quiet baby will miss out on the same level of attention.
Many parents of twins carry over a lot of worry and anxiety about their babies, especially if they were faced with pregnancy complications or recuperating from a premature birth.
If bottle feeding, prepare bottles and formula in advance so that they’re ready to go when babies wake to feed in the night. Keep diapers and supplies nearby so that you can change babies and get them back to bed faster. Consider having the babies sleep in a bassinet (or bassinets) in your room so that you don’t have to travel far in the middle of the night.
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Mindell JA, et al. 2009. A nightly bedtime routine: Impact on sleep in young children and maternal mood. Sleep 32(5):599-606. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19480226
Don’t try to be productive when the twins are taking a daytime nap. Take a nap at the same time so you will be more rested. When you have newborn twins, you have permission to let things go. Let someone else do the dishes, run the errands, or clean the bathrooms. For the first few weeks of your twins’ lives, your main priority is to feed and nurture them. Catch a few winks when you can.
Many multiples are comforted by the act of swaddling. Being wrapped up “burrito style” may give them a sense of safety and security that helps them fall asleep and ensures a sounder sleep.
Develop a soothing bedtime routine – maybe a warm bath, bedtime story, and a few minutes of cuddling or singing – and make sure it’s simple enough to include both babies. Stick to the same activities and your babies will soon learn these signal it’s time to settle down.
Also, don’t worry too much about one baby waking up the other: Many twins and multiples don’t seem bothered by their sibling’s crying, even when they’re in the same room.
Task Force on Sudden Infant Death. 2011. SIDS and other sleep-related Infant deaths: Expansion of recommendations for a safe infant sleeping environment. Pediatrics 128(5):e1341-e1367. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/128/5/e1341.full?sid=bd9574fb-4575-4d35-a46e-a63394e68331
It is sometimes more effective to use a more scheduled approach and coordinate your babies’ schedules by feeding them both at the same time and putting them to bed together.
Learn how to deal with the challenges of nursing more than one baby at a time.
AAP. 2012a. Getting your baby to sleep. American Academy of Pediatrics. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/sleep/pages/Getting-Your-Baby-to-Sleep.aspx
There are several reasons why two or more babies may be more difficult to get into a good sleeping routine.
If you can afford it, hire a night nurse. Most charge by the hour (expect to pay $20 to $50 an hour), but with two babies, you’re getting double for your money. If you can’t afford it regularly, considering having a weekly or monthly respite. Or call on grandma, aunts, sisters, or neighbors to pull a night shift.
It’s recommended that babies sleep in the same room as their parents for the first six months, as this is known to reduce the risk of cot death.
The idea is simple: Put your babies to bed at the same time, and they’re more likely to develop a synchronized sleep pattern. If you don’t, one or both of them will be awake at any given time – and you will become very tired, very quickly.
Don’t underestimate your need for sleep. Being a supermom (or dad) just makes you exhausted, not a better parent.
However, there are plenty of ways to encourage a good sleeping routine so that everyone gets enough rest.
AAP. 2012c. Twins: 2 cribs or 2 bedrooms? American Academy of Pediatrics. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/sleep/Pages/Twins-2-Cribs-or-2-Bedrooms.aspx
Cuddle and talk to your babies all you want during the day. But at night, keep interactions to a minimum so they’re more likely to fall back to sleep. When they wake, don’t make eye contact, keep their room dimly lit, and put them right back to bed after feeding them.
With a little bit of communication and planning, you can set up a structured schedule so that each parent gets a restorative shot of sleep. Maybe Mom is on duty from 9:00 p.m. until 2:00 a.m. Then Dad takes over from 2:00 a.m. until the morning. Take into consideration your family’s lifestyle, habits, and preferences, and work out an approach that meets both parents’ needs.
Advice, information, and tips for parents of twins, higher multiples, adopted children, and children with special needs
So we are attempting all naps in the crib. My son wakes up at 30 minutes on the dot. He used to go longer…
Perhaps start the routine with a bath, a soothing activity that physically relaxes your babies. It’s never too early to introduce your babies to books by reading to them. Or spend a few moments cuddling in the rocking chair before settling them into their cribs.
What’s the worst thing about having baby twins? Most bleary-eyed parents would agree that it is the lack of sleep. Any newborn is likely to keep odd hours, but balancing the demands of two newborns means that sleep is a scarce commodity for parents of twins. Use these 10 tips to get more sleep when you have baby twins. Getting them to sleep means you’ll get more sleep, too.
Repeat the multiples mantra, “This TWO shall pass…this two shall pass…this two shall pass.”
Create an appropriate environment in their nursery or sleeping area. Keep things dark and quiet. If you need lights, make them soft and low. A dimmer switch works great for this. Reduce noise, or use background “white” noise like a fan or quiet music. A fan is also an easy way to reduce the risk of SIDS.
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 not need 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’ll take a while to get used to being handled in different ways by different people. You may want to comfort a restless twin faster than you would a single baby, as you are worried they may wake up their twin.
Get your baby ready for the perfect sleep with these three simple swaddling styles.
This is my second who is 3 weeks old. My first was Terrible at sleeping and sleep training him at 9 months…
Zero to Three. Undated. Sleep challenges in infants and toddlers: Why it happens, what to do. https://www.zerotothree.org/resources/331-sleep-challenges-why-it-happens-what-to-do#chapter-237 [Accessed 2013]
With two babies, both parents will have their hands full. Soon enough, you’ve got a situation. Either both parents are exhausted and overwhelmed by the lack of sleep, or one parent is sleeping soundly, and the other is simmering with resentment. It’s time for a tag team approach.
Help your babies fall asleep on their own by letting them drift off in bed, rather than in your arms. This can mean putting each to bed after a joint bedtime activity – maybe a quick cuddle after reading a book together or singing a song. Resist the urge to rock or nurse each to sleep because babies who are put to bed while still awake learn to settle down on their own.
Newborns are accustomed to the close confines of the womb, and sharing that space with their co-twin.
With triplets, you can place 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.
A consistent pattern of activity signals the approach of bedtime, giving the babies a clue that it’s time to sleep. These rituals will become a cherished part of the day for both you and the babies and can be an excellent opportunity for sharing some one-on-one time and bonding.
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Employ your best strategic planning skills to maximize your sleep time. A little bit of preparation and planning will pay off in extra snatches of sleep.
Take care of yourself during these tough times and give yourself some credit. You’ve got two babies to care for, and you’re managing it quite well. Tomorrow is another day and maybe, just maybe, you’ll get some sleep then.
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 limited. 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.
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This works especially well with monozygotic (identical) twins or babies that are approximately the same weight, who often have similar metabolisms and are more likely to be hungry at the same time.
You can also read our advice on sleep and tiredness after having a baby.
The age-old custom of swaddling, or tightly wrapping each baby in a thin blanket, may help them feel safe, secure, and ready for sleep. Be sure to stop swaddling at about 2 months, before your babies can roll over. (You can then switch to a wearable blanket to keep them warm at night.)
Encouraging twins to sleep 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.
Keep blankets 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 co-ordinate 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.
When the sleeplessness and utter exhaustion seem too much to bear, remember this: It’s temporary.
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Getting twins or multiple babies into a sleeping routine will help make sure everyone gets the rest they need.
I have learned that my twins are independent souls, and they sleep better in separate rooms. One sleeps through the night, and the other gets up in the middle of the night to eat. One waking up is better than two waking up.
Blackout curtains and white noise are a must for twins! No cute little night-lights, etc. I separated my twins for sleep training at 5 1/2 months, then put them back together in the same room once they were sleeping well on their own and dropped their last middle-of-the-night feed around 7 or 8 months.
My twins didn’t sleep well in the same crib, so they went to their own cribs but shared a room (and still do at 3 1/2 years). To help them sleep, I used a white noise machine. The sooner you get your twins sleeping in the arrangement that you want long-term, the better.
Our twins have shared a room since birth. Sure, there have been rough nights, but they needed to get used to one another. Sleeping has never come easy for my twins. We co-slept for a while because it was the only way anyone got any sleep! Then here’s what worked for us: We separated our twins the first half of the night – 7 to 10 p.
m. Then after a dream feeding, we put them in the same room. It’s been working for us. The next step is to put them in their room together starting at their 7 p.m. bedtime. My twins had a major sleep regression around 6 months, which culminated in their scooting and teething.
They had another regression around 10 months when they started cruising. When this happens, I recommend you give it time. Things should normalize again. Think of naps as practice – disrupting each other is inevitable, but they’ll learn to sleep through the other’s wakings.
Also remember that every new day is a fresh start. My twins are 8 months old, and they have to share a room. I have a great sleeper and a terrible sleeper. Life totally changed when I hooked an iPod up to speakers and played lullaby music softly while they sleep.
They are totally sleeping through the night since the first night I did it! I think it just reassures them if they happen to wake up in the night, which they were doing up to this point at least three times a night.
I did not separate my boys into different rooms. They got used to each other’s cries, and now it’s a piece of cake! I’ll rock one twin until he’s really drowsy, then I lay him down and let him fuss for a little and get situated.
Then I start with the second one. This means their naps and bedtimes start 15 to 20 minutes apart. With twins, you have to learn to be flexible and let go of expectations. Patience is very important. I just do everything one baby at a time.
That’s all you can really do.
As your infants grow and develop, they’ll start to sleep and stay awake for longer stretches of time. To help develop healthy sleep habits, you can start to develop bedtime rituals.
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Whether you bring in some reinforcements to get you through the tough times or make regular use of helpers, having help on hand can literally be a sanity saver.
Your babies will learn to sleep through the night. You will again sleep through the night. These precious few months of twinfancy are but a moment in time, not a life sentence.
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. If older twins are disturbing one another, you may think about giving them separate rooms if you have enough space.
AAP. 2012b. A parent’s guide to safe sleep. American Academy of Pediatrics. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/sleep/pages/A-Parents-Guide-to-Safe-Sleep.aspx
In the womb, there was no distinction between night and day. Now it’s up to you to help them adjust so that they’ll learn that nighttime is for sleeping and daytime is for waking and playing.
Set the same bedtime for both Try two beds for two babies Establish a bedtime routine for two Settle your calm baby first Put your babies to bed when they’re still awake Swaddle your babies Discourage nighttime waking Accept that multiples sleep through the night when they’re ready Tips from BabyCenter parents