I saw an article online that’s gone somewhat viral – a TikTok from a twin mum urging parents to stop worrying about delayed development in their babies- you can’t even compare twins. As a parent of twins, I absolutely 100% agree with this sentiment – it’s something we all catch ourselves doing, and it can be stressful.
Everyone is constantly comparing their kids to others. The mummy wars are real; everyone wants to have the bragging rights that their kid is a potential genius.
Society also tends to compare twins– it’s a persistent stereotype, particularly with identical twins. Same age, same DNA – they should be achieving the same milestones. It’s logical, right?
No, it’s not. Even identical twins can reach milestones at different stages. Again, this mum hit the nail on the head. From first words to potty training – each child, regardless of their DNA matching, achieves things at their own pace. We have to remember this; by we, I mean parents, teachers, aunts, uncles – they’re individuals. Treat them as such.
Twin Pregnancy Isn’t Easy
You’ve been through a high-risk pregnancy, where everything is monitored closely and under the care of specialists in most cases. There have been moments where you’ve heard many medical terms, learned about different complications, and become an expert on zygosity, chorionicity, and the associated risks. You’ve probably also encountered prematurity (60% of twins are born before 37 weeks) and emotional turmoil in the NICU.
Finally, your babies are released home, and you just want to embrace everyday life. Everything is okay, and you survived what can be the most stressful part of your life. Twin parents have higher rates of PTSD and post-natal depression, and the additional stress that something might be “wrong” with their babies after everything they’ve been through can be terrifying.
That’s why I applaud this mum for coming out and saying something entirely reassuring– babies develop at their own rates. It’s okay to reach milestones at different times. Kids do things at their own speed. We absolutely need this kind of reassurance. But there are exceptions to this rule.
Exceptions To The Rule
So, by now, you’re probably sitting here going – “What’s your point? If you agree, why does it take 373 words to say this?” * Let’s get straight to the point – I do agree, but there are exceptions to this rule.
I talked earlier about the risks associated with twin pregnancy, highlighting prematurity and acknowledging other risks. Why is this relevant?
There are exceptions to this general rule of thumb in complicated twin pregnancies. While most twins usually develop within the acceptable boundaries of the milestones set by overseeing bodies, there will be those who don’t.
Prematurity can have an impact on a child’s development. They may meet milestones a little later than their peers and may need extra support to reach these milestones.
A misconception is that prematurity is “overcome” by age 2. Again, this is true in many cases, but there are always outliers. This false sense of security is often embraced by parents who have been down the long road of high-risk pregnancies and premature births. There is a feeling of relief when the first two years are over. However, we now know that some children may not see the full impact of prematurity until they start school, and there are lifelong consequences for those born prematurely.
Being a twin also comes with some challenges. There are risks associated with birth, particularly for second-born twins, and when the twins share a placenta, additional risks such as twin-twin transfusion syndrome (TTTS), twin anemia polycythemia sequence (TAPS), and selective fetal growth restriction (SFGR, also called SIUGR). These complications have additional risks, including higher-than-average rates of developmental problems.
Even uncomplicated monochorionic twins have an increased risk of neurodevelopmental impairment. We can’t ignore that being premature and being a twin doesn’t raise any red flags regarding the chance of delays. But how do we balance all these potentially negative thoughts with the joys of meeting milestones at our own pace?
Keeping Things In The Back Of Your Mind
My intention here isn’t to be negative. I absolutely agree with the initial sentiment that we can’t compare twins with each other, and we can’t compare our children with others. Each child develops at their own rate, which is vital to always keep in mind. Milestones are a guideline to how your child is developing.
But make space in the back of your mind that it’s essential to monitor that your children reach these milestones, and if they’re struggling, then don’t be afraid to get extra support.
Be aware of the impact of prematurity and being a twin on your child’s development. Don’t be afraid of these things, but rather keep them in the back of your mind. If there is anything that you’re feeling unsure about, or if you think your child is experiencing delays in meeting milestones – get early intervention. Your child is unique and milestones are just one part of their growth journey. As parents, we do worry about whether they’re developing normally, but if I can leave you with one thought.
Don’t compare your twins to each other or anyone else. They will do their own thing in their own time. But what’s important to remember is that it’s ok to seek an expert opinion if you are concerned, and get help if you think your child isn’t meeting milestones.
It’s okay to ask for help. You don’t have to worry about these things alone.
* Yes, I counted