When your twins are born, they often look very similar. This is a big question parents of twins ask: How do you tell newborn twins apart?
Keep in mind that even identical twins are individuals, and usually within hours after birth you begin to see some distinct differences in your children.
Having newborn twins in the house will mean you are fatigued, and there may be some momentary confusion. Don’t feel guilty about this as even children born years apart are sometimes called by a sibling’s name. Many an adult has recalled being a child of a large family and having their mother or father call them every single one of their siblings’ names until they hit upon theirs.
Your twins will give you natural indications of which one is which. You shouldn’t have to worry, “what if I mix up my twins?” again.
You can help identify them with a few simple tricks you can put into play. Here are some proven ways of telling twins apart.
Obviously, if you’ve got boy/girl fraternal twins, you will never confuse which baby is which. However, when your newborns are swaddled up in their blankets and all you see is their little faces, don’t be surprised if they look very similar.
Fortunately, if you do mix them up you can always verify who is who with the next diaper change.
Even identical twins will be born with different lengths and weights. For example, one of your twins may have a more round face or chubbier legs than the other.
How to tell twin babies apart by size? Do your twins have slightly differently shaped or colored eyes, different head shape, or nose shape? Any physical trait that is different from one child to another can help you to easily tell your twins apart.
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These subtle size differences may help you tell your twins apart right away. However, your twins will have weight gains and losses as they adjust to the real world and learning to feed. So don’t count on the weight difference always being there.
Your twins’ hair may be different colors or lengths when they are born. Your twins may not have any hair at all! Hair may be a good differentiator in the beginning, but since hair does grow, it isn’t reliable long-term until you can actually cut and style it differently on each twin.
When our girls were born, one had very red skin like she was blushing or hot. Our other daughter was paler. Your twins may have different shades of color as well. In our case, the color difference was temporary. So while it was helpful in the hospital, things soon normalized and their skin color wasn’t that different.
Look for birthmarks or other natural marks on your twins when they are born. One of our girls had a small red patch on her eyelid. I used that mark for several weeks to help tell them apart before it eventually faded.
Sometimes your babies will be born with scratch marks where their sharp little fingernails left a mark on themselves or each other while in the womb.
Do your twins have differently shaped birthmarks, or does one have a distinctive mole?
Mannerisms and Personality Traits
Many parents of identical twins notice distinct differences in their children’s personalities within hours or a few days of birth.
One may sleep peacefully for long periods of time, while the other may awaken every hour. One child may cry more often than another and want to be held constantly, while the other may be quieter and seem more content on its own.
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You’ll notice behavior, personality, and mannerism differences in your twins. Don’t rely on these 100 percent as twins will switch personalities right before your eyes.
Physical Indicators Change
As you can see in the physical ways to tell your twins apart listed above, they all seem to change (except gender, of course) over time.
Use what you can to tell your twins apart but be prepared to supplement any physical differences with some systems or tricks that you put into place.
Dressing your twins in different clothes is my favorite method for telling newborn twins apart. We used different colors with our girls. One of them was always in warm colors like reds, pinks, and yellows. The other was always in cooler colors like blues, greens, and purples.
This color pattern made it easy to tell them apart across the room and was easy for others to remember as well.
Many parents of twins will paint a toenail on one of the babies to help tell them apart. This works great during the summertime when little feet may be exposed. However, when babies are swaddled in blankets or bundled up for winter, this method doesn’t allow instant identification.
As soon as your twins are born, they get medical wristbands in the hospital. These don’t come off until you get home. I even left our girls’ wristbands on for a day or two after we got home just to be sure I could rely on other methods to tell them apart.
Establish a Pattern
However you decide to tell your newborn twins apart, you need to be consistent. Help others tell your twins apart by explaining the pattern to them.
(RELATED: Love podcasts? Check out the entire Dad's Guide to Twins Podcast archive for additional twin tips and interviews with twin dads.)
Additionally, keep the pattern in mind when taking pictures of your newborn twins so you can actually tell them apart years from now when looking at their photo albums.
How to Tell Newborn Twins Apart in Pictures
With all the pictures you are taking of your newborn twins, how will you tell them apart?
When your twins arrive, they will be swaddled up by the nurses at the hospital and whisked away to the nursery to warm up and be measured.
Since the hospital has a standard set of blankets and head warmers, both of your twins will likely be swaddled in the same exact materials.
Yikes! Which twin is which?
Fortunately, as soon as they are born, each twin gets an id tag (typically around the ankle or wrist) with “baby a” and “baby b” printed on it.
This is fine, of course, for identifying your babies in person.
However, when you are taking pictures of your newborn twins, you won’t be able to see that id tag.
Months later, you’ll look back and try to figure out which baby is which.
A trick we used that turned out to be very helpful was to put a visual marker in the background of the picture to help identify the baby. This memory device will help you later.
I used a small yellow piece of paper placed somewhere in the picture with our “baby a”. This way whenever we went back to look at pictures we instantly knew which twin was which.
Eventually, you can move on to using color-coded clothes or relying on distinctive physical characteristics to tell your twins apart in pictures. However, in those initial moments after the twins are born, have a backup plan. Put a memory device in the background of the picture that will help you for years to come.
The Paradox of Telling Identical Twins Apart
As a parent of twins, you will learn how to distinguish your kids even if they are identical.
Others will be baffled at how you can tell your babies or even your identical toddlers apart.
However, this inherent skill as a twin parent only applies to your kids. When I see other identical twins at church, for example, I can’t tell them apart. I have to rely on context clues like hairstyles or clothing colors.
Why is this?
Having twins doesn’t give you superpowers that let you identify any random identical twin.
Having twins gives you time with your twins. Constant contact and interaction help you differentiate your twins.
Look for the uniqueness in each of your twins and write those down in your journal.
You’ll find more tips on managing your twins’ identity in Chapter Seven of my book, the Dad’s Guide to Raising Twins: How to Thrive as a Father of Twins.
Picture by Nate Davis and jiunn kang too.