Exposing Myths for New Moms of Multiples: Telling Your Children Apart

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Categories Identical, Mommy Issues, Parenting Twins

One of the things I read and heard over and over before my identical twin daughters were born was “don’t worry, you’ll be able to tell them apart.” I found it reassuring that as a parent, I would somehow be able to tell my babies apart. I trusted that nature would ensure I knew which child was which. I believed it when I read that each child would develop a unique personality making it easy to differentiate between two similar babies.

With over two years experience, I have to say this is not entirely true.  Yes, I can tell my daughters apart but only when I am paying close attention. If S didn’t seem to prone to get scratches and bruises on her face, it would be hard! I often call them by the wrong names, or stop myself and replace a name with “sweetie” or “my love” because I’m just not sure. I have mixed them up and only realized it hours later. I have corrected other people, only to realize that they were right.

R (at one of the couch)
R (at one of the couch)

This could change soon since our girls are just starting to be able to say their names. They are still working on language skills because of their speech delays but they can say Mommy and Daddy, Nana and Poppy, and their brother’s name. We are now working on their names. If you ask directly, they will point to tell you who is R and who is S. Most of the time they identify themselves correctly, but occasionally they don’t agree about who is who either.

The girls seem to be aware of who is who.  Last week, my mom was talking to R on the phone.  Nana kept saying “Hello S!”  R wasn’t saying anything in response but I could see her pointing at her sister, as if to say, “S is over there.  She’s not the one on the phone.”

S (at the other end of the couch)
S (at the other end of the couch)

I wonder how multiple infants and toddlers learn who they are and what their names are. It must be challenging for them, too. Watching our girls develop their language skills, it seems that having names for themselves and each other is not their first priority. (The first “name” they learned was Mommy, then Daddy, then their brother’s name.) Even though we use their names so often, they don’t refer to each other by name yet.

To update previous related posts, their big brother still can’t tell them apart. He will ask them, “which baby are you?” or “Are you R?” But, he often just picks a name to call them.

I am still struggling with how to help people tell our daughters apart. It is helpful that the girls can identify each other, and will point to themselves or their sister when asked, “Where is R?” or “Where is S?” As their language skills improve, they’ll have more ways to express their identity and to be sure people know their names.

What advice do you have on telling your multiples apart? Does it get easier as they get older?  When do your children start to be concerned with being called by their own name?

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19 thoughts on “Exposing Myths for New Moms of Multiples: Telling Your Children Apart”

  1. When my identical twin girls were 2 months, I pierced their ears and they got bracelets. One wears white gold and the other yellow. I could not tell them apart until they were 2 1/2. I can’t tell you what changed but it was as if one day I woke up and they actually looked different to me. They are now 4, turning 5 in May. They get annoyed when you call them the wrong name and that has only been the case this past year, but then too, their ability to express themselves has improved as they too have speech delays.

    With their speech improving, their personalities come across a lot more too. Their voices are different and their personalities are completely different! So I would say it has become easier with age to tell them apart. I do, however, from time to time mixed them up if I just catch a glance of one or am in a hurry.

  2. Hang in there.. lol.. I remember I had a real hard time in the beginning… (the 4 days at the hospital) Although I admit mine are NOT identical, and it bewilders me when I get asked HOW I tell them apart.. lol.. BUT!! I find that even when I meet Identical twins I can always find a TELL… bwaahhahaha Maybe it’ll be easier when they get a little older.. (=
    Mommying On The Fly recently posted SOS Sunday Oh Snap!!!!My Profile

  3. My girls look a lot of like but there are some differences. Natalie has a longer face, Piper a rounder one, N – 1 cowlick on the back of head, P-two. They do know their own names – though it took a while. They’re 13 months old now. Also, for daycare starting soon, I’ll be dressing N in pink every day for a while. An added plus to our daycare – an identical twin is one of the caregivers – I’m so happy for this!

  4. My triplet sisters and I were color coded even though only two of us are difficult to tell apart (we don’t know if we are identical). When we were little my mom would paint my toenail to help relatives out. My younger brother just called us “The Sisters” (and so did our cousins). I wouldn’t worry too much – it was a lesson early on to realize that some people didn’t really care enough to pick out differences but it made it easier to figure out who your friends were. And once 18 hit and we went to separate colleges it just seemed like a cool fun fact.
    Mommy, Esq. recently posted Work Break Over Back to BloggingMy Profile

  5. My identical twins were born with a one pound size difference which made it very easy to tell, but as they’ve gotten older they size difference has really narrowed and people outside the family have a diffiult time telling them apart. It doesn’t help that when you aske them their name, half the time they give the wrong name. They clearly know who they are but enjoy giving a faulty answer- I can’t figure it out. I’ve decided that in the fall when they start preschool, I will always have A with a white bow in her hair and E a different color, or no bow at all. I think that this will be easier that color coordinating a whole outfit!
    amanda recently posted Special TimesMy Profile

  6. My 2.5 year old boys call each other Row Row, even though that is just one guys nickname.

    It is very fascinating to listen to their conversations when they are calling each other the same name, I have no idea how they keep track!

    For others I try to dress them in green and blue. The boy who wears blue has more blue eyes than the other. One guys hair also comes to a peak in the back, so that helps when they are running away.
    JP’sMom recently posted I Love SkypeMy Profile

  7. My identical boys are 17m today! To us they look completely different. Alex is 4 pounds heavier and 1.5 inches taller than Benjamin. Alex’s face/head is rounder and he has dimples. Benjamin’s face is longer and thinner. They have completely different personalities. They just got new “big boy” haircuts and they make the physical differences much harder to find, especially from the back. They know their names but only say each other’s names and not their own. We do the color coding (blue for Alex and green for Benjamin) but most of our friends and family are really good about spending the time to figure out which boy is which and getting it right.

  8. When my girls were younger they would like in the mirror and say their sister’s name. I’m sure it has to be incredibly confusing, but maybe they worry about it less than we do.

    My girls just turned three and just now are starting to correct if they get called the wrong name. I rely on height, weight, and hair to tell people how to tell them apart. Mine are oddly starting to look more alike now, but I attribute that to their hair!

  9. If my boys have the same haircut, they are difficult for me to tell apart. I have to look at them straight on.

    They occasionally have mixed themselves up. For example, P will come ask, “Where is P?” and he’s not being silly. When we say, “YOU are P!” he’ll smile and say, “Oh, I forgot… where is G?” It’s pretty cute.

    Once when they were about 20 months, one had to go to the ER for croup. He saw his own reflection in a glass door and started yelling, “Baby! Baby!” for his brother. It was so sad!

    It took their older sister until she was about 4 (and they were around 2) to be able to tell them apart. Their younger sister has always known, although once in a while she’ll mix them up.

    My best advice is to color code them — it will help you yell the right name when you’re on the go, and it will help you identify them correctly in pictures later. (Surprisingly difficult at some stages, for us.) And, paint their toenails when they are infants even before you remove their hospital bracelets, so you never have to wonder if you mixed them up during a half-asleep feeding in the middle of the night.

    Our guys are 6 and we’re having major issues with the school mixing them up, despite different haircuts and no matching outfits, so work out a good strategy early.

    I’m relieved to read that someone else has trouble with this!!
    Jen recently posted the schools anti-drug policy leaves us chapped- literally and figurativelyMy Profile

  10. My twin boys are almost 5 – They are identical and when only one child is in the room it can be difficult. When their hair is short it is difficult also but if you look closely you can see they have different shaped heads – One is longer & narrower than the other (more round) – again if only one child is around this doesn’t help much. They began telling people the wrong name (more often to strangers, like in a store) as soon as they could talk! Two little tricksters I have been blessed with! They already enjoy the “trick” and the giveaway is the laugh after they tell you the wrong name.
    The 1.5 lbs difference in birth weight has been maintained – if you try to pick them up (even though it doesn’t seem like much diff.) you can tell the two apart.
    Additionally the color trick works – my boys had their own colored baby blankets (blue & yellow) and to this day when they have a choice with just about anything – the “blue” child ALWAYS chooses blue.
    As for pictures – when we have them professionally done I always sit the “oldest” twin on the left so when I look through my photos I don’t have to guess as to which child is where.
    When the boys were infants we found moles in different locals so after you find “birthmarks” you can rest assured you won’t switch children around. It doesn’t take long to figure out subtle differences – even in babies – to be able to tell them apart. Remember they are your children – somethings are just ingrained, How do we tell them apart? we just know.

  11. My system is girly colors and clothes go to Eleanore because that’s a more girly name than Sydney. So Syd gets blues and greens and stripes and dots while Elle gets pinks and yellows and flowers and such. Of course this always changes depending the outfits of the day. And a lot of our outfits are dark and light pink… so Elle gets light pink and Syd gets dark. It’s confusing to a lot of people. But the dead giveaway is Syd has a blue vein on her nose….and a larger face. But when they’re running around in different directions I have no idea. No Idea. If they are just in a diaper or matching. No Idea. Some MOMs tell me they can tell the cries apart. Not me. Their mannerisms change a lot too. Elle was my thumb sucker for the longest time, but Syd now…she likes to bite on her thumb. It’s caused me a lot of double takes.

    Their older brother just turned four a couple days ago. I would say it was 3 months ago when he figured out how to tell who was who. I showed him the vein and now he looks and he’s always right. I love that.

    But when I don’t know (or someone doesn’t) they get the “sweetheart” “baby” or “sister” reference.

  12. I’m a twin, and have wondered whether my name is actually my sister’s name because we were mixed up when younger. I also once caught a glimpse of myself in a mirror in a darkened room and thought i was looking at my sister – i was 18 at the time!

  13. My twins aren’t identical but we weren’t sure for a long while. When the were first born they had their hospital bracelets so that was good. After that and lasting until they were almost a year old, I tried to keep Moose on the left and Mad-Hatter on the right.
    I considered the toe nail painting and non-matching clothes but found that I forgot who I assigned to which color. (Not enough sleep, methinks.. a 4 yr old a 3 yr old, the twins, and I was pregnant before the twins were 8 weeks old.)
    Fortunately for me, they are totally different now. Most people assume the baby is Moose’s twin.. That’s another story though.

  14. I had a hard time telling my boys apart too when they were babies, Jy had a fold in his ear, otherwise we probably would’ve swapped them! Now that they’re three, they look completely different TO ME (but alike still 😉
    People still have a hard time telling them apart (including my mother!!) they weigh just about the same, and are the same height, But I can tell you it gets easier to tell them apart.
    I grew out one of the boys’s hair and the the other twin has a a high and tight cut more like his daddy (fits their personalities too! 😉 Their voices are completely different, and they were calling eachother by their names by 2 1/2, their sister couldn’t tell them apart till she was about 5 years old.. until then she just called them “The Brothers” Although they look very much alike I’m not for sure if they’re identical or not, cuz I never had them tested…

  15. my boys are identical twins, they weigh the same, same height. The doctor called them mirrored twins. One of my boys calls them both the same name and when I correct him he says na uh mommy. I feel like they both may think they are the same person sometimes. When the other twin looks in the mirror he calls himself his brothers name. I do not know what to do. It is difficult for me to tell them apart. C has a light blue vein on the side of his nose. That is about it.

  16. “I can’t tell you what changed but it was as if one day I woke up and they actually looked different to me.”

    Elise said that in her comment above – and that is EXACTLY where I have been in the last month. My boys are 20mths and about a month ago I seriously queried whether they are identical because they just look different. To me. Everyone else says I’m nuts.

    We had two bracelets, one brown, one blue for the first 3mths til we discovered a birthmark they have that is mirrored. Now if we go out we tend to dress one in green, one in blue – its the color code for others. I have also cut L’ s hair shorter for just one more individuality aspect.
    Tamika recently posted Homemade Whole Grain Waffles – that taste GOOD!My Profile

  17. Thank you for sharing! I am currently 29 weeks along with twin boys. Our doctors are not sure if they are identical or fraternal, but either way I am afraid I won’t be able to tell them apart. It is nice to know other moms feel the same way! Thanks for all the great tips on telling them apart!
    Whitney W recently posted Welcome to A Pair of OnesMy Profile

  18. When my identical twin daughters were born I decided to tell them apart by having one of them (Emily) have her ears pierced and leaving the other girl (Amy) without pierced ears. Emily therefore had her ears pierced at four weeks old and we have never had any trouble telling them apart. The only problem is that Amy is very envous of Emily because she wears earrings all the time that she is now begging to have hers done too – but she will have to wait until she is older. If you have identical twins girls, I thoroughly recommend this as a way of telling them apart. I always say – Oh ! Emily is the one wearing earrings !

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