If you've ever been pregnant with twins (or are now), you're well aware of the close confines in which your two little ones spent their every fetal moment. But should they share the same sleep space once they're out of the womb?
It depends who you ask. Supporters say cobedding maintains the closeness the twins had in the uterus and is an intuitive choice for many parents. "It makes sense that because the babies are together in the womb, they would be comfortable together in the nursery," says Pat Hiniker, R.N., infant development coordinator of the neonatal intensive care unit at Phoenix Children's Hospital. "What a traumatic experience to be taken away from the only support person you've had."
Cobedding may also offer some health benefits. Suzanne Touch, M.D., a neonatologist at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, in Philadelphia, says the increased contact in a hospital incubator or crib may help premature babies (as twins often are) gain weight faster. Plus, in her ongoing study of preemie twins, Dr. Touch has found a decline in apnea, or sleep-related pauses in breathing, when babies slept in the same incubator. "Because they're touching each other a little bit, it's like they're reminding each other to breathe," she says.
But not everyone thinks cobedding is a good idea. One reason: The effects have not been thoroughly studied, especially in the home. Moreover, the SIDS Alliance recommends that babies sleep in their own secure bassinets or cribs. "Having two babies in a single crib creates an overcrowded sleep environment, which could conceivably increase the risk for SIDS and possibly accidental suffocation," says Phipps Cohe, the group's spokesperson.
So what's a parent to do? Due to the lack of research, it may be best to err on the side of safety and put your babies in separate cribs. Dr. Touch cautions that whichever sleeping arrangements you choose, it's crucial that you follow the guidelines for safe sleeping: Put the babies to sleep on their backs; use firm, tight-fitting mattresses; and avoid putting toys and soft bedding in the cribs.