Telling newborn identical twins or triplets apart.

mixing up newborn twins

Author:  Stephanie Ernst

I’m going to be honest here. I’m a mum of identical twins, and everyone talks about those legendary “Mum Goggles” – you know, where your twins look NOTHING alike to you. Everyone else can’t tell them apart.

Confessions Of A Twin Mum

Confession. I mixed mine up a lot when they were babies—a LOT.  And what makes this potentially more embarrassing is that my girls were born with Twin Anemia Polycythemia Sequence, so there was a colour difference for a while.  But, you know, when they’re side by side, that’s one thing.  I have baby photos now where I’m squinting and guessing who it is.

And of course, let’s not forget that one day, in that sleep-deprived newborn twin haze we all know so well – I grabbed the wrong baby and took her to her sister’s doctor’s appointment.

We know that identical twins have different fingerprints (get that dummy down to forensics!) and that there is the option of dressing them differently – that’s not always in line with what you as a parent want to do.  And that’s perfectly fine!

So instead, just for Twinfo, I’ve created the “Sleep-deprived twin mum’s guide to telling your identicals apart.”

telling triplets apart

Colour Coding Is Your Friend

Start at the beginning.  Baby A is one colour, baby B is another. You can find adorable matching outfits in different colours these days! Extend it to things like dummies, bottles, toys …

Identity Bracelets – Telling newborn identical twins apart

There are many stores online that offer handmade and custom-made identity bracelets, especially for multiples. 

We’ve also known of mums who’ve kept those hospital identity bands on for a few weeks “just in case.”

telling identical twins apart

Name Labels

There’s no shame in labelling cribs, bottles, dummies if that helps you remember. It’s also going to be a lot easier for family and friends if they know who goes where.

(Although true story, we had a babysitter who was fantastic with our girls – we adored her, and she was so good at telling them apart.  But, we came home a few times with the wrong girl in the wrong bed because they wore the same pyjamas!)

Distinguishing Features

As parents of newborn identical twins or triplets, we’re always looking for those slight differences between the babies and marking them.  Does one have a stork bite? Is there a difference in their ears?  With my girls, it became obvious eventually that one had a rounder face, and her sister was much slimmer in the face. Their noses were also different, and one had a stork bite between her eyes.  This really helped in the early days. 

Identical twins also have different belly buttons!

Nail Polish – Telling newborn identical twins apart

I didn’t try this myself, but many parents swear by painting a toenail with non-toxic, kid-safe nail polish.  Usually, one baby gets their big toenail painted, and the other doesn’t – although a few parents admit to even colour coding toes!

identical newborn twin differences

Who’s Who In Photos

Trust me on this one. You may be an expert now in telling your babies apart, but there is going to be a moment in the future when you look back on a baby photo and panic.

It’s normal. Trust me.  We have files called “Emmy” “Tilly” and “Could be anyone really”.

Label your baby photos, particularly if you have shared clothes or matching clothes! You can easily do something like put a toy next to one baby every time, or even put one baby on the left, the other on the right in every photo. And it’s not only photos of them together. The single images are the ones that are going to be the hardest!

As They Get Older

It will get easier as your babies get older. They’ll start to develop their own styles, and often want to be individuals. Their personalities will also really start to shine, and soon your mum-goggles will be in full swing. In fact, you’re going to probably begin listing to people ways to tell them apart!

telling identical triplets apart

And If You Do Mix Them Up?

You’re only human.  Remember, I took the wrong baby to a doctors’ appointment.  Seven years later, my doctor still gives me rubbish about this, but it did no harm. Just tell the story and be proud to tell people that even you’ve mixed them up at one stage.

When telling newborn identical twins apart, we can’t always use collars, tattoos, or even a Sharpie to write their names on their heads!  But we can use small clues in their personalities and little personal codes to help us out.  And if you do mix it up – chalk it up to being sleep deprived!

stephanie Ernst TAPS twins

Stephanie Ernst is a freelance writer and self-proclaimed TAPS Nerd. She’s the TAPS Support Foundation‘s founder and spends her free time raising awareness of the issues facing parents of twins.  Her own experience with Twin Anemia Polycythemia Sequence (TAPS) and feeling the isolation of this diagnosis drives her determination to change screening protocols worldwide, support twin research, and raise the profile of multiples’ rights.


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