Sleep guidelines for multiples

Settling multiples into a good sleeping pattern

Not everyone gets the joy of experiencing multiples. You may have had friends tell you that getting their baby to sleep was hard and challenging, but when you have two or more to settle and establish a good sleeping routine for, it can feel overwhelming and daunting. The important thing to remember is that no two babies are the same, so what might work for others might not work for you and your multiples. 

Establishing a routine early on is really beneficial to you and the babies. Multiples on different feeding and sleeping schedules are going to be extremely taxing on you, both mentally and physically. An established routine will not only make your day more predictable and help you understand what your babies need (e.g. whether they are hungry or tired), it will make having multiples a lot easier and you will be able to enjoy them more. The more sleep the babies get, the more rest for mummy. Remember: happy babies = happy family!

And don’t forget that every baby is different, so with multiples you need to find that happy medium that works for you as well as for both (or all) babies. As a mother, father, or primary carer you need to guide your babies into a routine. The routine doesn’t always need to be regimented, but it does need to be consistent. Your babies will be unsettled at times, but they will sleep at some point, which means so can you. It is all trial and error and everyone makes mistakes, so don’t beat yourself up. You will find a way that works for you, maybe just not on the first try.

Here are some tips and ideas designed to save your sleep and happiness.

Tip #1 Sleep signals

A successful sleep routine starts with established sleep signals. All babies and toddlers respond well to routine. The sleep signal should be an ongoing sign that you repeat each and every time you put your multiples to sleep. It helps your babies to recognise when it’s time for sleep. Some examples of sleep signals are: a dark room; singing a song; wrapping babies in a grow bag; placing a comforter near the babies in bed; a white noise CD; a teddy bear; etc. Remember that you want to choose a signal which you can use anywhere and which does not limit you to your house. Use the signal every single time you put your multiples to sleep (day and night time sleeps).

Tip #2 Swaddling

We are firm believers in swaddling. It is well reported that babies respond very well to swaddling and we suggest to swaddle babies from day one. During pregnancy, babies are used to the confined space in the womb, so swaddling and making sure they are tight and protected is comforting and calming to them. The swaddle is designed to be firm but not too tight; it is also used to stop their reflex actions from waking them up. In addition, it helps with regulating their temperature. Swaddling can also be a sleep signal, which you can use anywhere and anytime.

Tip #3 Self-settling

Try to put your babies down whilst they are awake. Self-settling is very important – even more so in the world of multiples. It is unrealistic to think that you will be able to rock two, three or even four babies every time you want to put them to sleep. Some of our members have told us that they feel guilty putting their babies to bed awake. Take a step back and look at how you go to bed yourself: we all put ourselves to bed awake and then fall asleep. Leaving the room is perfectly fine and is another way to signal sleep to your babies.

Co-bedding multiples

Co-bedding means placing siblings from a multiple birth on the same sleep space (cot or incubator).

Below are the Red Nose recommendations for sleeping twins safely. For higher order multiple births (triplets, quadruplets, quintuplets), please refer to your health professional for advice on providing a safe sleep environment for each baby.