How do you help other people tell your multiples apart?

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Our Little Girls Wearing Pink and Yellow Dresses

Last weekend, we were at a family wedding and some other related family events. Of course, everyone wanted to know which baby was which.  This is a common question since we have identical twin girls, who look very much alike. Friday night, one baby was wearing a pink outfit, and I knew she’d have a pink dress on Saturday for the wedding, and it would be easy to dress her in pink on Sunday morning so I let people know she’d be the baby wearing pink all weekend. Her sister wore yellow and green. They are only 8 months old, so they couldn’t complain about my clothing choices. But, it raised the question of how you help other people identify your multiples.

Right now, we (Mom, Dad and the few other people who can tell them apart) have a few ways to tell the girls apart but they are based on:

  • Comparisons – when both babies are together you can see that one is a little bigger, but when they are separate this doesn’t really work
  • Context – at mealtime one of the babies is usually more interested in food than her sister, so this only works when they’re eating and it isn’t really reliable
  • Temporary characteristics – right now one baby has 2 teeth and her sister doesn’t have any yet, but that will change soon
  • Artificial characteristics – we painted one baby’s toenails pink when she came home from the hospital so we wouldn’t mix them up

I rely on the girls’ birthmarks to help me tell them apart, but those are starting to fade and are only visible from some angles.  So, we’re thinking about assigning each girl a colour (probably pink and yellow) and then making sure we dress them in those colours, at least when anyone else is around.  I’m concerned that doing this will make it easy for people to rely on their outfits to tell them apart rather than focusing on what makes them unique individuals.  But, I also want the girls to feel they are welcome and included and that people know who they are. Maybe assigning them colours will make it easier for people to focus on the babies as individuals because they will know who is who.

I do see some potential problems with this approach:

  • Most of the girls’ clothing was received as gifts or hand-me-downs so I don’t have a lot of control over what is in their dresser
  • I think I’d have to assign groups of colours to each baby (pink/purple/blue and yellow/green/white) because they have lots of clothing that isn’t pink or yellow, which could get confusing
  • The feminist in me has problems with dressing baby girls only in pink clothing
  • At some point they are going to want to make their own clothing choices

I guess the biggest issue is that really have problems making my parenting decisions based on what’s best for everyone else rather than what’s best for my children. So, is assigning each baby a colour a decision that will be good for them or not?  Can anyone share their experiences with this issue or other ways to help family and friends tell your multiples apart?

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21 thoughts on “How do you help other people tell your multiples apart?”

  1. I think you hit the nail on the head “parenting decisions based on what’s best for everyone else rather than what’s best for my children. ” I have identical twin girls also, and I don’t intend to dress them with color codes or name tags. My thinking is that might hear comments like “oh, she’s the pink one” and identify herself in the same way instead of recognizing that she can be defined more than a color (which is not even her name). Imagine being called “the pink one” without anyone stopping to know your name! I ran into a set of identical twins in the park the other day, the one that I met first introduced herself and her sister and “Paige. Chloe. Paige. Chloe” while pointing between between herself and her sister. I got the impression that she didn’t want to be labeled by anything else other than her name.

    I could tell mine apart because one would suck her thumb, while the other one would suck on 2 fingers. Plus one had a birthmark, but it is usually covered by clothes.

  2. I have one son whose name starts with a B, so we dress him in blue (b for blue) on occasions where it will be important to tell them apart (for example, extended family events, first few days of preschool, with a new sitter, etc).

    However, my boys, while similar looking, are not identical. So by having a quickie way to distinguish between them as people are first meeting them, it helps people learn their differences so we can quickly phase out the color-coding.

    I guess I’m saying I’m not opposed to color-coding as a short-term solution, especially for situations where it’s important for strangers to be able to tell the kids apart (like for the joint EI evaluation my boys had), or as a short-term tool for new people in their lives to learn to tell them apart. I don’t think I’d be up for assigning a full-time “signature color” to each twin, though!
    .-= WhatACard´s last blog ..Discrimination against new moms =-.

  3. My twins are about as unalike in their appearances as you can get so obviously this isn’t a problem in our home. However, if it were I wouldn’t waste my time color coordinating the two. I would simply make them a bracelet. I spent many hours as a teenager in the 80’s tying knots with embroidery floss making bracelets. Once those get wet, they never come off. It’s easy for someone to glance and see which baby is which.

  4. My girls are supposedly fraternal, but they look so much alike, that most people confuse them. I’m not organized enough to assign them colors, but someone suggested giving people something specific to remember about ONE of them. Like, I often introduce them to people as Emmy and Olivia, Olivia has a rounder face like the “O” in olivia. It seems to catch on, and doesn’t make people remember a different characteristic about each of the girls. More effective when they are next to each other of course, as the difference is minimal. I’d love to hear more ideas from other people though!

  5. As a mom of frat boys who don’t even look related, I don’t typically have this issue, but I can imagine it would be tough! Before I had them, I did wonder how I’d handle telling them apart and they did look alike quite a bit when they were born. In fact, my husband had to write D and W on their bouncy chairs for the first month. lol.
    .-= Momlissa´s last blog ..Sometimes You Fall =-.

  6. Our boys are ID, but have a considerable size difference plus a very different head shape, so for us or people who see them often, it’s not hard to tell them apart. However, I’ll admit that I do mix them up in pictures sometimes.

    We dress one boy in the bluer outfit, as Andrew and blue rhyme. Having known other ID twins who I just could not tell apart, I think a little color identity is easier to deal with than getting called the wrong name or being asked which one are you. Now, most of our friends can look at them and call them the right name without thinking twice.

  7. My boys are probably identical — at least they look identical. :-) It can difficult to tell them apart. But the thing I have learned over the last two years is this: Most people don’t care to tell them apart.

    For me it is not worth it to dress them according to color etc. — our meager closet couldn’t manage it and people would make the same mistakes. But allowing them to pick their clothes and express themselves with their friends has also acted as an interesting litmus test for us. Moms and kids who laugh about ‘whichever kid this is’ after 3 playdates are likely to remain acquaintances. People who really try to learn their different personalities and minor physical differences — those few people will be FRIENDS (even if they don’t always get it right.) :-)

    Maybe that is harsh and unfair. It probably is… But the bottom line is I want people in my children’s lives who appreciate them for who they are. Their twinness is part of that, but so are their individual personalities. I want them spending their time with people who are interested in both pieces of that puzzle!

  8. I have 14 month identical girls who look a lot alike but, like everyone else, have unique personalities and traits. Primarily, now that they are toddlers and their personalities are coming out, I like to encourage family and close friends to learn their personality differences and differences in demeanor. I point out, “yes, Claire does this and usually Lucy will do that…” People ask all the time how we tell them apart and I say, “by their personalities; you have to get to know them!” in a lighthearted way, which can launch into their specific differences. Though that is our primary way, we do need physical ways to tell the difference for safety reasons [one running into the street and need to tell at a moments notice who is who from behind]. I’m starting to dress them differently [we also have a lot of hand-me-downs and assigning a color is just unrealistic for us. I usually assign certain outfits to each of them so I can remember for pictures and makes dressing them easy every day and helps with telling the difference. Also, one has longer hair so I usually put hers in a pony tail and that can also help, even if they are in matching outfits.

  9. I have identical boys. We have a “blue” baby and a “not blue” baby. The blue baby wears more blue than the other one. It works for people and saves me from answering the question. I don’t suppose that it will work once they want to pick out their own clothes.
    .-= jane´s last blog ..DeCordova Sculpture Park =-.

  10. Mine are identical and most people can’t tell them apart. Sometimes we put the one whose name starts with B in blue or brown when we’re going out, but usually we just tell people whose wearing what color at that time to help them remember. That doesn’t seem to help my mother-in-law, who within five minutes is already calling them by the wrong name. Oh well. I try to point out differences and if people really try, they know. Not many people try hard enough, but I figure one day the boys will correct them when they are wrong or have fun messing with them.
    .-= Joanna´s last blog ..Across the street… =-.

  11. My girls are identical triplets – I have never had an issue telling them apart. I never thought to do the color thing – there are many times that my girls are dressed alike b/c it works for us so the color thing wouldn’t have worked for us.

    This past weekend, we spent the day with my parents. The girls were dressed completely different. My father couldn’t keep track of who was who. Now they are old enough to say, “I am EMILY,” or “That is ANNA.”

    Problem solved!
    .-= Sarah´s last blog ..I think we’re in trouble. =-.

  12. My twin girls are fraternal — one blonde, one brunette — but I’ll share my perspective as the sister of identical twin boys: People are lazy when it comes to trying to tell twins apart. Relatives especially are lazy. Some of our aunts and uncles still can’t tell my brothers apart at age 31, and they (the relatives) laugh about it but it annoys my brothers (who have only rarely deliberately tried to pass for each other). Color-coding can only be a temporary or occasional solution/shortcut at best, and it doesn’t encourage people to get to know the children as individuals or really search for and appreciate their differences.

  13. I have boy/girl twins so we don’t have this problem….but I would like to add that when I am spending time with new twin friends and I have asked how to best tell them apart and I get the response “by their personalities” it is sort of frustrating. I want to get to know their personalities but if I don’t know which child I am learning about it will be hard for me to know the next time that I see them which child was the one who liked raisins and which one got excited when we saw the dogs. Help people out a big and give them a way to get to know your child’s personality….Baby A is usually dressed in blue, she likes to play with dolls, etc.
    .-= Rusted Sun´s last blog ..reading fun =-.

  14. I have ID boys and when it matters I dress Ed in red (eg child care days). The carers remember and it is better overal for the boys to be recognized consistently as themselves. This works out and I have enough red clothes to make it easy – also just one item is enough – T or sweater or whatever.

    I can’t help thinking of my sister who still resents our mother’s choice to colour code her daughters…I expecct things to beome easier as the kids age and people know them better.

  15. I read so many “raising twins” books and have very little recollection of their contents, but one quote from a sidebar has always stuck with me. It was one identical twin preschooler talking to her co-twin and was something along the lines of “Mommy must love you best because you always get to wear pink.” Right then and there, I decided I’d never color coordinate my ID girls.

    Until my girls were old enough to speak for themselves, I tried to provide clues for everyone. Telling them what color each girl was wearing, little freckles to look for, etc. But honestly, anyone who spends much time with them quickly figures out who is who.

    My girls will be 4 next month. Right around age three we started talking about being twins, different types of twins, etc. They know they are identical twins and that people might be confused. The girls correct anyone who is wrong and don’t seem to mind.
    .-= Rhonda´s last blog ..The Joys of HMart =-.

  16. We REALLY lucked out with our identical girls – one has an innie and one has an outie. Had to make up a rhyme for my hubby so he could remember which one had which. Also, we can tell by weight – lil sis is always 1 lb heavier so we can always put them on the scale to see who is who.

  17. My ident boys are very hard to tell apart but as they get older (now 18 months) they act different. One is more shy and puckers his lips like a fish and the other welcomes you with a huge smile and hug. One is lefty and one righty. But unless they are actively using their hands it wont work to identify. As they become more active ones (twin B) face is slimmer and twin a is chunkier. I still to this day confuss every now and then but poor daddy is battling this daily. I do color code them but feel bad one is always in blue and other gets all other colors. Now starting to buy shirts that match but have differant colors or patterns. Matthew and Jonathan are the joy of my life. Their older brothers are my savors.

  18. my girls are identical thay will be 11 in two months so ther personalitys have alredy shown themselvs but wehn thay wer babies ofcorse thay did not relly have a choise so yes i would dress them alike (one in blue the other in pink etc.) but wen thay started to relly get into the “all pink”faise i decided to keep color codeing them but swiching it around for example one day abbie wers pink and annie wers blue next day annie wers pink and abbie wers blue i find thay found it fair but of cours now thay actuly like shering a room and wering macthing things but this sistym can become confusing to others so wen thay came home from the hospital we (ther big sisters(who are IDtwins too)sara and sofie) made them some necklaces annies says annie in silver lettering and has a little jewel dotting the I abbies is the same we make sure that the necklaces arent tuked behind collers and put them on after turtle necks but now thay have been color codeing them selves by choice so unless thay are wearing yellow and purple thay dont relly need them but keep them on anyway becuse thay say thay wnt pepole to know that even though thay dress alike thay arent the same peron.

  19. I actually sell baby id anklets/bracelets in my Etsy Shop. They are a big hit for moms with twins or triplets and such. I even get requests from grandma’s to be and such asking for them! You can get them plain in different colors or you can customize and get ones that have the names in beads or embroidered on them! All my beads that I use are LEAD FREE too so they won’t harm baby.

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