Twins ‘happier together,’ finds award-winning IWK sleep study

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A veteran neonatal nurse in Halifax has published an industry-applauded study that may improve twin sleeping, as well as the health and happiness of twins and their parents.

“Having twins is stressful, but a lot less stressful if they’re not crying all the time,” Kathryn Hayward told CBC’s Information Morning in Halifax.

The study looked at putting twins to sleep together, instead of in separate beds. It may seem obvious — or at least easier — but the method called co-bedding has had little to no research done on it before, Hayward said. And some parents were worried about the safety of it.

Her study, done with a team based at the IWK Health Centre and Dalhousie University, found twins sleep longer, more deeply and regularly when put to bed together. They also would fall asleep at the same time, she said.

“They weren’t happy when they were apart,” Hayward said.

Strong infants, more alert parents

The infants became stronger, having more time to rest and spending less time crying, which also helped parents, she said.

“While that one’s awake, the other’s asleep. When do you get your rest? Having them awake at the same time is really important,” Hayward said.

“You’ll actually have an opportunity to rest and do those things you need to do.”

Award-winning research

Her study, Effect of cobedding twins on coregulation, infant state and twin safety, won a prestigious award for being the best in the Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic and Neonatal Nursing.

She said more studies must be done because the practice is considered not proven safe nor unsafe. Her study looked at babies in incubators before they were taken home.

Kathryn Hayward

Kathryn Hayward and her award from the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses. (Kathryn Hayward)

‘Just made sense’

Hayward said she would suggest parents seriously consider co-bedding. It also feels natural, she said.

“It just made sense to me that, if they spent all that time in the womb together, that getting to know one another — and [then] they’re born into the harsh reality of life,” she said.

“To rip them apart just seems so cruel, especially since we’re already separating them from mommy to put them in this incubator.”

Kathryn Hayward

Kathryn Hayward attended the award ceremony in Texas. (Kathryn Hayward)

‘Happier together’

Hayward worked 17 years as a neonatal nurse, a job which sparked her interest in twin health.

“We would sneak them together in the middle of the night because they looked cute, and they seemed happier together,” Hayward said.

In 2003, she started formally studying twin sleep, around the same time her sister became pregnant with twins.

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Twins ‘happier together,’ finds award-winning IWK sleep study

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