Question of the Week:
I have three-month-old identical twin boys. I had always planned on them sleeping together in the same crib but on the day we were discharged from the hospital after their birth, the staff said absolutely no sleeping together. I was devastated but the staff explained it was to prevent infant death. I feel like this has affected my sons’ “twin bond” because they can never nap or sleep together. They’re never physically close unless we lay them on the floor side by side (which is rare). Because they were together for months in the womb but now cannot be near each other while sleeping, do you think this has affected their twin connection or bond? —T.L.
Answer: Many parents cobed their twins as a way to slowly transition their newborns from a positive intrauterine experience where the duo cuddled closely together for many months in the womb to a somewhat jarring post uterine life. According to anecdotal reports, when twins share a crib for the first few months of life, it mimics the intrauterine environment helping to synchronize their wake/sleep cycles and promote development and growth. Furthermore, in Europe where cobedding is often regularly practiced in hospital neonatal units, some practitioners believe it helps to regulate body temperature, respiratory and heart rate, and even decreases the likelihood of apnea.
But as you learned first hand, not everyone believes the benefits of cobedding outweigh the risks. Opponents point out possible dangers of the practice especially in a NICU environment where the nursing staff could accidentally give medication to the wrong infant. Once twins are home, there’s also fear of suffocation or even strangulation if, for example, one baby inadvertently rolls over onto the other or one gets tangled up in the other’s bedding or apnea cords.
Although many parents of twins have used cobedding successfully (myself included), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) published a paper in 2007 concluding that the current research looking at both the risks and the benefits does not support the practice. In other words, since the benefits are not definitive and purely anecdotal, “parents should be encouraged to follow established safe-sleep practices for infants at home.”
But what about the twins bond? Will not sharing a crib affect their ability to connect with one another? Absolutely not.
First, your identical twins share 100 percent of their DNA. They are hardwired to bond. Even fraternal twins who share only 50 percent of their DNA will likely be close friends, too. Yes, the twin bond begins in utero but it doesn’t stop once your twins are born. It continues to grow and evolve throughout their lives by their shared home environment as well as the many experiences they’ll have in common such as developmental milestones, birthdays, schooling, hobbies, and so forth.
Although you may find your present situation frustrating, there are several ways in which you can ease your anxiety. Continue to give your boys “tummy time” together every day. Not only will they love to kick and squirm next to one another but it’s also a form of baby aerobics as it builds their neck and leg muscles. Try nursing or bottle feeding your boys side by side on a nursing pillow where they’ll have the ability to touch as well as sense the other’s presence (Double Blessings Ez-2-nurse Twins Breastfeeding Pillow is a good option). Or, how about putting them both in an infant sling where they both can snuggle next to you?
Remember that the twin bond will take care of itself no matter what you do. As a new parent to twins, focus instead on building their autonomy. Make sure to spend time alone with each baby every day. And as they grow, encourage each to pursue his own interests. This will go a long way in helping them to develop a strong sense of individuality which, in turn, will promote a deeper twin bond between the pair.
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