Twin Trouble: Identical Twins
Great things come in two, like a pair of Louboutins and the birth of identical twins. Telling identical twins apart can be a challenge, especially in the newborn and baby phase. Also known as monozygotic, identical twins derive from one egg that splits in two – an event that typically happens within the first two weeks of the pregnancy.
For many years, it was thought that identical twins came from the same egg and, therefore, must have shared genetic profiles. When only one twin suffered dementia, or another type of disease, it was thought that this was due to environmental issues. However, recent findings from a study conducted at the University of Alabama at Birmingham found that identical twins do, indeed, have genetic differences and are, therefore, not completely identical.
About one quarter of all identical twins are known as mirror twins, meaning they have similar but opposite physical traits. For instance, one may be left-handed while the other is right handed. Dr. Charles Shubin, director of pediatrics at Mercy FamilyCare and associate professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, adds, “There is always some physical difference that parents can find to identify which is which.”
Parents often worry they may not know Mary from Millie by look alone, but Kathy Miller, a parent of identical twins, offers this sound advice. “I am the mother of 23-year-old twins – and I lived to tell about it!”
Kathy used a variety of creative techniques for telling her twins apart throughout the years. Here are her top tips for telling one child from the other.
- A dollop of nail polish on one child – always the same child. Just a smidgen, to tell the difference, will do.
- Names that start with different letters. This is sage advice for most parents with more than one child (to avoid confusion when calling a child down for dinner or clean-up time).
- Color-code them. Choose a color for each child and “put initials in the appropriate color on each bed,” says Kathy. Take it even further than clothes by color-coding pacifiers, water bottles, medicine spoons, and other items, too.
As they grow:
- Choose different hairstyles for each.
- Use different shoes, says Kathy, and put the child’s initials on the back so others can make a quick reference when the kids are out and about. Do this for items such as backpacks and folders as well.
- Label jackets and individual items, like bike helmets and sporting equipment.
- Skip dressing the children alike when newborns. Or, if you do want to put them in the same outfit, follow Kathy’s color-coding advice.
- Voice and cries. Most parents of identical twins will tell you that they may look alike, but they often sound different. After a few months, many parents can discern between the twins’ cries and, once the twins begin to talk, parents might notice a difference in the way they speak as well.
- Identifying physical traits. One twin may have a scar from a fall, while another may have an extra freckle, or mole. Find these differences and use them to distinguish one twin from the other.