Identical twins and how we tell them apart

One of the unique challenges of having identical twins is figuring out who is who. The boys were complete carbon copies of each other when they were born. It is a very weird feeling to be looking at your child and not knowing who he is. This led to conversations with my husband along the lines of “Who am I holding?” Sofia found it really hard to tell her brothers apart for quite a long time. Up until they were about a year old she would say things like “Mummy the stripy one is crying!” “The one with the red t’shirt fell over.”

How to tell identical twins apart

We realised from day one that we needed a system to distinguish the boys. It was a trial and error process to find something practical. Here’s a little round up of what did and didn’t work.

New born Sam and Leo 2012
New born Sam and Leo 2012

Hospital bands

Our plan was to keep the boys hospital identity bands on for as long as we could. What we didn’t realise is that they don’t really stay on very well. They slipped off quite a few times just in the first few days in the hospital so we knew that it wasn’t going to work.

Sticky labels

I found some sticky labels in the kitchen area of the maternity ward, which were meant to be for labelling your food in the fridge. We had a few days of sticking name labels on the boys. This was quite cute but not a great long term idea.

Strawberry mark

If we are really stuck Sam has a small strawberry blister mark on his chest. They reassured me in the hospital that this will eventually go away. I’m in no hurry for it to fade.  It was my fail safe check when the boys were very young and I was very tired.

 Nail varnish

As soon as we got home from the hospital we painted one of the boys toe nails with gold nail varnish. This was another fail safe identifier although not that handy as it meant taking their socks off to figure out who is who.

 Putting in name order

AKA The Ant and Dec system (have you noticed they always stand in that order on TV?) We did this a lot when the boys were tiny. In my head Sam comes first as his was the name we thought of first, Leo comes second as he was our second name idea. If they were in their bouncy chairs or highchairs we would put Sam on the left and Leo on the right. I still often instinctively do this in their side by side pushchair. This is quite handy when looking at baby photos as it is quite likely that Sam is on the left. As soon as they could move this system went out of the window.

Belly buttons and injection marks

A good pub quiz fact is that identical twins always have different belly buttons as these are manmade rather than genetic. The boys injection marks are slightly different, Leo’s is bigger than Sam’s. These things aren’t very handy as they aren’t visible when the boys are dressed but it was another good fail safe test when the boys were tiny.

White board

We used to have a white board next to the boys cot when they were tiny. At the beginning of each day we would write down who was wearing what and who was getting fed what when. We combination bottle and breast fed alternating each feed so it was an easy way not to lose track. The only flaw in this system is all the clothes little ones go through – we didn’t always remember to update the board.

 Getting bigger

It got quite a bit easier to tell the boys apart as they got older. I can honestly say that to me they look quite different. Other people who know them well can usually tell them apart.

Hair cuts

We have experimented with giving the boys slightly different hair cuts – leaving Leo’s hair a bit longer at the front. It does make them look a bit more unique but is not very reliable as it grows out pretty quickly. The boys have both just had their haircut really short and it does make them look more identical.

Physical differences

The main different to me is that Sam has a fractionally smaller neater face than Leo. Leo has slightly chubbier cheeks. There is also something a little bit different about their smiles and Sam has a slightly more mischievous expression. I think this is the most fool proof way of telling our boys apart and is the thing that I rely on the most.


The other thing that clearly distinguishes the boys is the strong differences that are developing in their personalities. Leo is generally louder. He has a bit of a fiery streak and when he gets frustrated he lets everyone know about it! Sam is a bit more of a talker and has a slightly wider vocabulary. There are some words that they pronounce differently from each other. Sam loves cuddles and gets very attached to soft toys. Leo loves building stuff and arranging and ordering things.

Colour coding

We have never really been organised enough to have a colour code system with the boys clothes (we have so much washing why complicate things?) Clothes are shared randomly and whichever twin wears something first becomes its owner. I usually remember who I dressed in which outfit each day so from a distance I can look at their clothes to see who is who.

The colour code that we find very helpful is Leo always has blue shoes and a blue coat and Sam has grey shoes and a grey coat. This is really handy if the boys are running around in the park or if I can’t see their faces. I think the preschool use this system as I noticed a little sign on their notice board that said Leo = Blue Shoes.

Do you have identical twins? Do you find it hard to tell them apart? Have you found a good system for identifying who is who?  I’d love to hear you thoughts in the comments section below.

If you would like to follow Twins Make Five on twitter @TwinsMakeFive and Facebook or via email (sign up on the right).

14 thoughts on “Identical twins and how we tell them apart

    1. Thank you. Sadly we don’t have a nail varnish pic, we were a bit rubbish at documenting the boys first year. It all got a bit lost in the chaos!

  1. I have always wondered this, can parents tell their own children apart? And the answer is clearly not really. I’m sure as they grow their differences will be more obvious but I don’t doubt they will try and trick you! Some great idea’s to tell them apart though! I particularly like the white board idea, but I’d be rubbish at updating it too! Such a lovely post xx
    Clare recently posted…Benefits doesn’t always mean lazyMy Profile

    1. Thank you. I used to feel so bad for getting confused. I was thinking of doing a follow up on the times I’ve got them mixed up.

  2. This is great I had never considered how hard this must be to tell identical twins apart and Sofia’s comments made me chuckle. Raising twins is fascinating and a whole new game I think by reading your blogs. I did also chuckle at the name tags. Great post x
    Laura’s Lovely Blog recently posted…MONTHLY REVIEW: November 2015My Profile

    1. Its fun to share the crazy world of having twins – it’s a happy but chaotic place! The boys have recently both started to try and trick people they both say “I’m Sam” and then burst out laughing!

    1. Thank you – they’ve started joking when people ask them their names. They’ll both say “I’m Sam.”

  3. This is really interesting Sarah!! I was always wondering how you do when you have identical twins. There a couple of twins in my family but they are not 100% identical I mean you can differentiate them a little bit. All these ideas sound really interesting. I’ve never thought how they are recognised at school either!! What a nice post. I really enjoyed reading it! 🙂 xx
    A Moment with Franca recently posted…My Sunday Photo – Choosing our Xmas Tree!!My Profile

    1. Thank you for stopping by and commenting. It was always a bit embarrassing to get them mixed up when they were tiny. They have already started tricking people and they are only 3!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge