– I had 2 stacks of diapers and I wrote their names across the butt! No shame in labeling babies! They’re 10 now and I still confuse them sometimes.
I have identical twin boys who are almost 7 weeks old. How can I identify them easily, without me having to undress them to look for the birthmark one of them has? It’s hard to tell my identical twins apart.
If you’re not comfortable with accessorizing your babies, you can create another small sign to identify them. Some just use a marker to make a small dot — or perhaps an initial letter — in an out-of-the-way yet accessible spot, such as the bottom of the foot. Be sure to choose a location that won’t end up in the baby’s mouth and a marker with ink that’s safe for baby’s skin.
Perhaps that is why this fear resonates with parents. Recognizing and knowing your child is a deep-rooted, primal instinct. To not recognize your child, even if the form of a temporary amnesia like mixing up twins, would be to admit a failure at that basic parenting trait.
Parents of multiples have many worries before their babies arrive—how to care for both babies at the same time, how to get enough sleep, how to pay for everything. Telling twins apart is actually one fear that can be taken off the list. Most parents find that mixing up their babies is the least of their concerns. After only a few hours or days at most, they are distinguishable as individuals. Even if they look alike, parents just know the difference.
While some twins embrace the mystique of being indistinguishable, others will strive to make themselves known as individuals. A mom of three-year-old identical twin girls lets her kids set things straight. She explains, “My girls have made it easy for me to tell them apart. First, Emma is very adamant that nobody gets her confused with her sister, and will correct you if you get it wrong (and they are only three-years-old!) Second, their personalities are polar opposites of each other, so this has also made it easy on everyone in the family to tell them apart. There are subtle features I can point out to strangers, but they usually shrug their shoulders and say, ‘I can’t see any difference’.”
Tiny toenails are easy to target with a small dab of distinctive nail color. Toes are a better option than fingers, which spend too much time close to baby’s mouth — or in a twin sibling’s mouth.
Many expectant parents of twins worry about how they will tell their twins apart. They feel concern that they will mix up the babies and won’t know who is who. Sleep deprivation and the chaotic demands of caring for multiple infants exacerbate the fear.
– Different color pacifiers and parted their hair to the opposite sides
One of the characteristics of twins — particularly monozygotic (identical) twins — is similarity in physical appearance. When twins look remarkably alike, it can be difficult to tell them apart. For families with twins, or for those that know them well, it’s not much of an issue. Somehow, each twin takes on an individual persona that makes them immediately recognizable as themselves. But twin mix-ups remain an item of concern and so here are ten tricks for telling twins apart.
– I kept the hospital bracelets on my identical girls for as long as they fit. Then I painted their nails. Once they started sucking on their fingers I had to rely on their birthmarks. One has a spot on her foot and the other has one on her back. Eventually Twin B shoved Twin A into a table and Twin A has a scar on her forehead (like Harry Potter!) as a result.
– They were dressed in different colors, we also looked for the slight differences. One was 4lbs 7oz when born the other was 5lbs 2oz so one was slightly bigger and one had a slightly rounder head.
Of course, you’ll have to reapply the sign as it wears away, or washes off in the bath. If you’re seeking a more permanent solution, try this trick from Jessye: “My twins are now four months old, and it’s really hard for everyone else to tell them apart, but I just know. I don’t need little things but their dad and the rest of the world do, so in the beginning, I painted one’s toenail.”
– I have identical boys and one has a freckle by his lip. They’re now 8 months old and I can finally tell them apart by their facial expressions.
If color-coded clothing is too complicated, try some other quick color clue. Some parents paint a toenail with nail polish as an identifier while others use hospital bracelets or jewelry. Just be sure that any accessories you use are safe for babies or children, with no toxic materials or small parts that could present a choking hazard.
So maybe you have no problem telling twins apart when you’re face to face. But pictures tell a different tale. Even parents who think their twins look nothing alike in the moment will get confused when they go back and look at pictures from previous years. Fuzzy memories make it hard to distinguish who is who in the picture. In the old days, parents were encouraged to make a note on the back of photographs. But digital photos are another story. Unless you’re diligent about tagging every shot, you’ll never remember who is who. Make it easier on yourself by including some clues in your pictures. We used a left/right system. The baby that resided on my right side in the womb was Baby A. Her middle name starts with R, and we tried to situate her on the right side of pictures. Baby B, from the left, has a name that starts with L, and took the left-side spot.
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– My identical girls are 7 years old and I still mix them up. Although having different colored glasses does help until they decide to swap. Couldn’t use the birthmarks either as they were identical!
Mirror image twins have reverse asymmetric features, almost like two individuals looking in a mirror. For example, they may have a hair whorl or cowlick that swirls in opposite directions. They may have birthmarks on opposite sides of their body. Minor physical characteristics such as these can serve as clues to help tell individuals apart. Once you have determined a distinguishing physical feature, you can utilize it when trying to tell your twins apart. When others inquire how you do it, you can let them in on the secret.
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Mai Neng Vang explains that she tells her twin friends apart by differences in their height and smiles.
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– We did things like painting our girls toe nails (piggy paint is non toxic), or used soft baby hair ties on their ankles.
“I have seven-year-old identical twin daughters called Harper and Hayden and it is very hard to tell them apart. Harper, who is older by a minute and twenty-six seconds, has a tiny scar next to her right eyebrow that helps us but mostly we just dress Harper in pink, red, and white (which are her favorite colors) and we dress Hayden in black, blue and green (her favorites).” Thanks for sharing that, Parker! Of course, this trick only works as long as the twins cooperate and don’t change their favorites! If both have a preference for purple or orange, it’s time for a new strategy.
Raj is a dad of identical twin sons, Mani and Sairam. Now that they’re twenty years old, he and his wife — as well as close relatives and friends — can tell them apart, but it is still confusing for many. But there’s one distinguishing difference between them. Like many twins, one is left-handed and one is right-handed. However, it’s still impossible to know who’s who on the phone unless they identify themselves. Here’s his tip from back in the baby days, “During childhood days, we were counseled by my wife’s gynecologist to NOT try to make them look similar by dressing them up in similar clothes. We took that advice seriously and used different color clothes for them.”
The problem with color-coded clothing is that the system can be burdensome to maintain. It requires parents to shop more carefully and only purchase items that meet the color code. It also requires diligence in keeping up with laundry so that everyone has access to wardrobe options in their color.
– We got little bracelets with their names in it for my identical twin boys on Etsy.
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– We bought letter stickers for our girls and placed it on a outfit we also put their names on a pacifier and had it clipped to them.
Some parents utilize color coding. They consistently dress each twin in a designated color. For boy/girl twins, the color combination of choice may be blue/pink; for two girls, perhaps purple and pink, and for two boys, blue and green. You can have fun with it. One parent of boy twins named Nick and Patrick used red and green. Nick wears red for St. Nick and Patrick wears green for St. Patrick. This system is invaluable for helping others tell twins apart, especially in daycare or school situations. It is also helpful to use a color coding system when you take photographs of your twins. Looking back, you’ll always know who is who.
However, a person’s identity is more than just what they look like. Personality, expression, communication, emotions—all of these traits vary among individuals. And while DNA controls many characteristics, even monozygotic multiples that look exactly alike are unique individuals who will quickly differentiate themselves to their parents. As they become familiar with their infants, parents will quickly grow to recognize and appreciate each child’s unique imprint. Likewise, those that know and love the multiples will learn to distinguish them also.
While boy/girl twins are not identical twins, most babies — regardless of gender or whether they’re even a twin — look pretty much the same. Think about it. Can you look at a picture of a newborn baby and tell whether it’s a boy or a girl, especially without clues from clothing or hair? If you’re worried about mixing up fraternal boy/girl twins, don’t worry. You can always take a peek at what’s under the diaper and instantly recognize who’s who.
Accessible and informative, What to Do When You’re Having Two is the must-have manual for all parents of twins.
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Accessories are adorable, and a fun trick for telling twins apart. Hats, socks, or headbands designed for infants are a perfect way to distinguish twins, even if you choose to dress them in matching outfits. For a more permanent option, consider tiny bracelets or anklets to adorn your twins’ wrists or ankles. Earrings are another choice for parents who elect to pierce their babies’ ears.
However, mistakes do happen. It is true that exhaustion characterizes the first year of parenting twins, and being overtired does cloud judgment. It is important that you keep track of who is who, especially if you are administering medications, monitoring feedings, or tracking developmental milestones. If you are an expectant parent of twins and are worried about telling them apart, there are some steps you can take to prevent a mix-up. Employing these strategies will ensure that mixing up your twins results merely in hilarious hijinks and not any serious consequences.
Even identical twins have some physical characteristics that aren’t exactly alike. In fact, environmental circumstances can produce identical twins that don’t really look alike at all. Twins with twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome (TTTS), for example, may have a size disparity. Labor and delivery may produce infants with different head shapes. And even identical twins have differences in their epigenome, chemical modifications within a person’s genetic material. Birthmarks, moles, and freckles also differ among individuals. As you get to know your twins, you’ll identify physical clues that will help you distinguish between them.
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Maureen is a mom of twin girls and explains her system. “My daughters are now eight years old and since they were born we have color-coded them because they look so much alike. Kate has four letter and we have dressed her in pink (4 letters). The other defaulted to purple or yellow. Color coding remains a great way to help their teachers tell them apart today.” This is a great idea, especially for helping others tell twins apart at school. The secret to success with this strategy is to come up with with a key that is consistent and easy to remember, connecting the twins’ name and identity with a visual sign.
Personally, this was our trick for telling our twins apart. One of my twin daughters was born with a birthmark on the side of her head. It was a quick and easy way to distinguish her from her sister until her hair grew over it a few months later! But I often think of it as God’s little wink … a gift to help us tell them apart during the hazy, crazy baby days with twinfants.
– Although one had a little blue vain visible in his face, we put a different colored bracelet on them and later continued with the assigned colors. They are 3.5 now and are still “color-coded”, they are used to it, and family and friends count on it, we don’t need it anymore.
– I have identical boys. We did colors (i.e. Liam wore blue & Henry wore the other color) and/or pacifier clips. Liam always had a pacifier clip with lines on it.
Idgey is an identical twin. She says that as babies, she and her twin were so much alike that no one could tell the difference. Using a name band wasn’t effective because they kept slipping off due to their small size. She jokes, “I may have been born as Erin, rather than Imogen!” She explains her parents’ attempts to tell them apart. “It got to the point that they were going to tattoo a small blue dot on one of our heels when Erin got a freckle on her leg! Saved!”
On the other hand, monozygotic twins aren’t called identical twins without reason. Forming from a single zygote (sperm/egg combination) that splits into two, the two individuals share the same genetic makeup. They can have remarkably similar physical characteristics.
Elle has best friends that are identical twins. Here is her strategy. “My best friends are identical twins. The way I tell them apart is by how they act around other people and their voices. The “older” one is shyer and has a slightly higher pitched voice, while the “younger” twin is more social and bubbly, with a lower voice.” Thanks for that tip, Elle! If you spend some time observing twins, you’ll notice subtle differences such as these and can use them as cues.
– Most people suggest painting a toe nail. But eventually babies like to put their feet in their mouths, so I would suggest the pinky toe. As time goes by you’ll know who is who without having to look for an identifier.
Another strategy suggested by a clever dad of twins was to plant a marker in the picture — in his case, a small piece of paper with the letter “A” on it to designate Baby A. If you don’t want to be that obvious, you could use more subtle clues, like a favorite toy, colored pacifier or accessory.
– ID bracelets. Mine have worn gold bracelets with their names since they were newborns.
– We have identical boys that are now 17 months old. At first we kept their hospital bracelets on as long as possible. Then we assigned Benjamin blue or strips and Jacob green/grey/red or prints depending on the outfits.
Of course, not every picture can be staged and that’s when you have to get creative.
– My mom crocheted bracelets and we assigned colors to each twin. They wore them as ankle bracelets over their pajamas.
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Look hard enough and you’ll find subtle physical variations in twins. Birthmarks, freckles, or moles appear in different spots. Mirror image twins may have hair whorls or cowlicks that spiral in different directions.
What to Do When You’re Having Two is the definitive how-to guide to parenting twins, covering how to make a Birth Plan checklist, sticking to one sleep schedule, managing double-duty breastfeeding, stocking up on all the necessary gear, building one-on-one relationships with each child, and more.
– I assigned colors. I have identical girls with no type of birth marks. Lilly would be in something with pink and Leona would be in something with yellow. Actually, most of the time I would just remember who I put in what. I still do it at almost two years old.
– We did a color coded cotton string that made sense to us (Greg=Green) since the boy color nail polish just looked like bruised fingertips and concerned the doctor. Once they went to school or change classes at daycare we put the string back on to avoid confusion
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For families of dizygotic (fraternal) twins the worry is generally unfounded. Dizygotic twins develop from two separate egg/sperm combinations and are no more similar than any two siblings born at separate times. However, don’t discount the strength of family resemblance. Fraternal twins can still look very similar, just as siblings can. With distinctive features—eye color, hair color, facial features, body size, or head shape—fraternal twins are usually pretty easy to tell apart. For boy/girl twins, that only requires a quick check of the diaper area to confirm.
– Mabel’s Labels makes washable fabric labels, and you could put them on the outside of their clothes. You can put whatever you want on the label, so you could just use the first letter of their names. The labels are not cheap, but they last forever. I bought some fabric labels (for items brought to school) and some dishwasher safe labels (for sippy cups) for my boy/girl twins.