Co-Sleeping With Twins/Multiples

Is a Family Bed Right for Your Family?

Sleep is Sacrificed with Newborn Twins. Nino H Photography/Moment / Getty Images

Co-sleeping, or sharing a family bed, can be a controversial topic in parenting circles. Proponents argue that sleeping with an infant is a time-honored custom, practiced in other cultures for centuries, and claim many benefits, including healthier self-esteem for children who sleep with their parents as babies. They insist that it promotes breastfeeding, by giving mothers easier access to their babies for nighttime feedings, and making it easier for her to rest between feedings.

However, parents will also find some very persuasive arguments against the practice of co-sleeping, including the American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP).

What about co-sleeping with multiples? Is a family bed simply too crowded when you have twins? Or is co-sleeping the secret solution for actually getting some shut-eye during the exhausting first year with multiples? Like many parenting issues, there is no clear answer. It's a deeply personal decision that each family will have to make for themselves.  

Latest Developments

In October 2005, the American Academy of Pediatricians revised its recommendations on co-sleeping, encouraging parents to put their babies to sleep in a crib to reduce the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). However, in late 2005, rumors that a leading child sleep expert had softened his opposition to co-sleeping in a new book (released March 2006) fueled the controversy.

Parents felt vindicated that Dr. Richard Ferber reportedly reversed his stance that co-sleeping was unhealthy.


Historically, co-sleeping with infants was a customary practice. Parents shared their bed with young children, and as the children grew, they slept with siblings. But in modern times, Western society's parenting priorities emphasized a more independent approach to sleep habits.

But, a trend towards Attachment Parenting prompted a return to the family bed. However, some medical and parenting experts frowned upon the practice, citing it as a risk for SIDS and claiming that it could generate sleep problems for children as they grew up.

The mixed messges left parents in a conundrum: was co-sleeping beneficial or harmful? The issue was even more complicated for parents of twins and multiples. Although their instinct might draw them towards the idea of co-sleeping, the logistics of managing multiples might make it impractical. Co-sleeping appeals to exhausted parents of multiples, seeking any strategies for getting a few more moments of precious sleep. Yet, with many twins, triplets and other multiples already at risk for SIDS, would co-sleeping present more danger?

Reasons Not to Co-Sleep

Experts advise against co-sleeping for many reasons, including:

  • Increased Risk of SIDS: The American Association of Pediatrics claims that the safest sleep position for babies is on their backs in a crib environment. Parents of multiples, whose babies are already at increased risk for SIDS, may wish to take extra precautions by following this guideline.
  • Sleep Disturbances: For individuals who don't sleep soundly when they have "visitors," co-sleeping can be destructive to their sleep patterns.
  • Lack of Parental Intimacy: A family bed does not promote marital relations. Parents who are looking to resume their sexual activity after pregnancy won't find the bed a particularly romantic location when their children are in it.
  • Future Sleep Problems: There is little scientific study to support this theory, but there is plenty of anecdotal evidence of parents who can't get their children to sleep on their own when they get older. Once established, co-sleeping can become a commitment of many years if children are reluctant to transition out of their parents' bed.

Benefits of Co-Sleeping

Proponents of co-sleeping claim many benefits:

  • Promotes Breastfeeding: Breastfeeding produces many benefits for both mothers and babies. Mothers of multiples may find it more challenging to breastfeed twins than a singleton baby, so any advantage that makes the process easier is helpful. Co-sleeping gives mothers easier access to their babies for nighttime feedings.
  • Sense of Security: Sleeping in close proximity to an adult gives babies a sense of security, which is thought to promote a healthy sense of self-esteem. Dr. Sears observed an extra level of thriving in his patients who slept with their parents, claiming that they were "growing to (their) full potential, emotionally, physically, and intellectually."
  • More Sleep for Parents: Nighttime waking is a given when you have infants, especially multiples. But because they don't have to be up and about in the night, parents who co-sleep are able to fall back asleep faster with fewer sleep disturbances.
  • More Sleep for Babies: Evidence suggests that babies who co-sleep with their parents transition more smoothly through nightwaking phases of the sleep process, perhaps reassured by the physical presence of their parents. They also spend less time crying, and put more energy into growing and developing, according to Dr. James McKenna, a pediatric sleep specialist.
  • Family Bonding: Parents feel more nurturing and babies feel more nurtured when they share a bed. For parents of multiples, the additional opportunity for family bonding can be a blessing. Working parents who are away from their babies during the day may also find that co-sleeping provides an opportunity for extra bonding.

Where It Stands

Ultimately, the right decision is one that works best for your family.

Here are some thoughts to help you guide your decision.

  • Both parents should agree on the arrangement; discuss the issue with your partner before your babies are born.
  • Smokers should not co-sleep with infants.
  • If you or your partner are extremely obese, you should not consider co-sleeping.
  • Some experts discourage parents from co-sleeping with their babies if they are overly exhausted. That may rule out most parents of multiples!
  • Discuss the issue with your pediatrician or a medical professional that supports your parenting perspectives.
  • Be open and flexible -- don't make up your mind based on the issue, but do what works best and feels right for your family.
  • Finally, as an alternative, consider a co-sleeper bassinette. Arms Reach - Original Co-Sleeper® Bassinet provides the best of both worlds -- a safe environment for the babies within a close proximity to the parents' sleeping environment.

    Safe Co-Sleeping Tips

    Create a safe co-sleeping environment by:

    • Removing any overly fluffy or weighty bedding.
    • Avoiding the use of electric blankets.
    • Never co-sleeping on a water bed, sofa or in a chair.
    • Positioning the bed to minimize any possibility that the babies would get wedged between the bed and wall or other furniture.
    • Not allowing siblings or pets in the bed.
    • Never co-sleeping if you have consumed drugs or alcohol.
    • Making co-sleeping part of your routine, not an occasional event. Most accidents occur when the parents and babies are not accustomed to sleeping together.

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