Sleep and multiple babies

Updated: Jan 18, 2019

Becoming a new parent is challenging for most people, becoming a new parent of more than one baby at the same time is even more challenging. When looking at trying to establish a sleep routine for multiples the most important thing to begin with is looking at their corrected age and not their birth age. Many multiple births occur preterm, the babies are generally born smaller and they are not as strong as a full term baby. Developmentally they are not at the same stages or phases as a baby born full term (you can refer to my blog on premature babies for more information on this). Also it is important to understand that your babies may have differing sleep needs to each other.

Below you’ll find my advice on managing the day-to-day schedules of multiples.

SLEEP ENVIRONMENT Often parents like to have multiples sleeping as close to each other as possible, sometimes in the same cot as each other. As soon as babies become more active and begin to roll, for safety reasons, you would need to have your bubs sleeping in separate cots. Sometimes it is easier to do this sooner rather than later. My recommendation is to have their cots as close to each other as you can, even if this means that the cots are touching each other, this way your babies are still close together and can see each other.

NOISE DISTURBANCE Many parents worry that one baby will wake up the other baby. In most cases multiples sleep well in the same room and they learn to sleep through the noise of each other, they adapt to this environment. Low level white noise is also a great option to fade out any noise disturbances.

ROUTINE Establishing a routine is important for all children. For parents with multiples having a routine established early on makes it easier for the parents to juggle the day-to-day needs of their babies. A feed, play and sleep routine works well with multiples. To make it easier for you to manage your day with your babies I recommend having staggered wake, feed and sleep times. See sample table below. It is important to keep your babies awake times in line with their age appropriate wake lengths and individual needs. Avoid trying to keep one baby up longer than they can manage to keep in line with the other baby, this will make it more difficult for your babies to sleep well.

SETTLING TECHNIQUES By nature of having multiples and only having so many hands and arms it can be easier to support babies to learn how to self soothe and sleep more independently. This is a personal decision for parents but for many parents, especially if one is at work, it is impossible to offer fully assisted naps and aid both babies to sleep for all sleeps. By learning to self soothe babies are able to fall asleep and return to sleep between sleep cycles, this is so positive for your baby and will also allow you to get the rest you really do need.

FEEDING AT NIGHT Although it can be more tiring for parents to feed their babies at different times in the night I recommend doing it this way. Treat your babies as having individual needs overnight. By feeding your baby in line with their own feed needs and hunger you will find they will learn to sleep for longer stretches at night as opposed to waking them to be in line with your other baby.

SELF CARE When your babies are having a nap during the day make sure you get some rest for yourself. Take any help offered from family and friends and have some personal time. Even if you only set aside 30 minutes a week to have some time out, it is important to do it.

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