Newborn babies, regardless of whether they are singletons, twins, triplets, quads… or sextuplets (those Mums are A-M-A-Z-I-N-G) sleep, on average, about 16-18 hours per day, broken by feeds. The main difficulty, and joy, with twins is that there are two babies.
There are two ways to tackle newborn twins sleeping patterns:
• Getting your twins on the same sleeping pattern;
• Going with the flow.
Same sleeping pattern
This involves the, at times, controversial notion of waking one twin if the other is awake and hungry; and establishing a routine whereby your babies sleep at the same time, feed at the same time (or thereabouts) and play at the same time.
Doing this may allow you to have time during the day, however miniscule, to shower, eat and maybe even brush your hair! The twin that needs to be woken does not need to be roused immediately, but try keeping the gap to a maximum of 20 minutes; this way the babies are not too "out of sync" with each other.
Just a wee note however, make sure that it is hunger that has woken bub number 1 and not the fact that scary Aunt May is making Skippy the Kangaroo clicking noises at him/her while they sleep.
Going with the flow
This involves allowing your babies to do whatever they need to do, whenever they need to do it. If one needs to be fed, they are fed. If one needs to sleep, they sleep.
Taking this approach demands a lot of patience and support networks in the form of extended family members or friends to be on hand so you can get some sleep! There is the potential in this approach for you to never have a decent amount of "time off" as you are essentially handing control over to the babies' needs; an incredibly selfless act for which praise is in order!
Where to catch some zzzzzs
You? Wherever and whenever you can!
During the first three or so months, your babies are likely to fall asleep anywhere, just make sure that the anywhere is a safe place.
Your doctor will be able to give you further information on SIDS and the guidelines for creating a safe sleeping environment.
After a feed, newborns are likely to doze off in your arms as they have exhausted themselves from all the effort required to guzzle their milk. At this time they can be placed on a rocker, in a sling, in their pram or in their cots.
Establishing a sleep routine in the early days can be beneficial later on as your babies will come to expect to wake up in, say, their cot. However do not over-think the situation and panic if they sleep elsewhere; the goal of the first 3 months is to survive…then you can think about establishing routines.
This is whereby your babies sleep with you in your bed until a certain age and does have many benefits that experts agree on - such as the ease in which breast feeding can be conducted - if you are breast feeding.
Co-sleeping with a singleton does contain certain risks, however, and with two babies…these risks are doubled. There won't be much room left in the bed and such things as accidental smothering or getting lost in the blankets can occur.
Your babies will also become accustomed to falling asleep with you and this may become difficult for you in the long term as they are not learning how to fall asleep alone.
If you want your babies close to you but not in the same bed, you could sleep them in their own bassinets that are situated in your room. This way your bed wouldn't be too overcrowded but your babies are close to you, can hear you breathing/snoring/sleep talking/lying there not being able to sleep wondering when they are going to wake up.
Cot sleeping and sharing
Some parents of newborn twins choose to have their babies sleep in the same cot; whether this be because they believe twins should be kept together or to save on the initial outlay of money.
Much research suggests that twins, when slept in close proximity to each other, settle easier and sleep better by helping to regulate each others body temperature. Newborns do not move around in their sleep so cot sharing does not come with the same accidental smothering risk that co-sleeping does.
Also, twins that sleep together generally do not wake each other up - unless of course one baby is having a big big big tantrum right in their brother or sister's ear.
Place your babies on their backs with their little feet touching the end of the cot; either having them at the same end or opposing ends. Firmly tuck them in with a sheet or a blanket depending on the season. If you are going to put a divider up in the cot so each baby has their own side (just in case one feels like tugging on the other's ear in the middle of the night), use a proper divider that can be bought from baby stores. Never use a pillow or rolled-up blanket as this can create a suffocating device. A baby's room should be between 16 degrees and 20 degrees and overheating can be a cause of SIDS.
Vicki Morris is an author, a teacher and self-taught mother of identical twins Zake and Kaeleb. Her book Double or Nothing! A Guide to Twin Pregnancy is due for release next year. Discuss twins & multiples in the Essential Baby forum.