What Are Irish Twins?

Irish twins

Mike Kemp Creative

What Are Irish Twins?

Years ago, when two children were born within 12 months of each other, people often referred to them as "Irish twins." And when three children were born to the same mother within three years, they were called "Irish triplets." But today these phrases are outdated and rarely used.

When people refer to Irish twins, it's important to recognize that although the siblings are close in age, they are not actually twins. In other words, they were not born during the same gestational period. Calling them Irish twins is just an informal way of classifying siblings that are born close together.

Types of Twins

If you're referring to twins born in Ireland at the same time to the same mother, they are true Irish twins. But if the children are born months apart, they don't meet the true definition of twins. Twins are two children born from the same conception, carried during the same pregnancy, and born together.

There are two main types of twins:

Of course, because of reproductive and medical technology, there are all kinds of exceptions that produce children that would still be considered truly twins. For example, there are in vitro twins. There also can be a delayed-interval birth where the twins have different birthdays—one is born on one day and one is born the next. It's even possible for twins to be born days or even weeks apart.

According to the Guinness World Records, the longest interval between the birth of twins is 87 days apart for two sisters born in 2012—who, ironically, were born in Waterford, Ireland.

Tips for Parenting Irish Twins

Parenting is challenging, and it can be even more so when you're trying to raise two kids so close in age. Here are some tips to help make it easier.

  • Ask for help. Especially during the baby and toddler phase, raising two kids close in age can feel overwhelming at times. Don't be afraid to ask for help, whether that means splitting child and household responsibilities with your partner or hiring outside help.
  • Create a routine. Solid sleep and eating schedules can be lifesaving for you and your little ones. Not only will it help keep things organized, but it will also allow you to schedule in some much-needed "me" time.
  • Don't compare. Every child grows and develops differently, and that includes children born within 12 months of each other.
  • Encourage individuality. Irish twins can be very competitive, so it's important for parents to recognize their individuality. As they grow older, encourage them to have separate activities and hobbies so they can get a break from one another and have their own outlet to shine.
  • Practice self-care. Even when you feel like you don't have a single second to devote to yourself, it's important to set aside time for self-care. Taking care of your spiritual, physical, psychological, and social needs will help you feel your best so you can be the best parent to Irish twins you can be.

Potential Challenges

Although the challenges of parenting Irish twins are not as great as having fraternal or identical twins, there are many issues that may be similar to what parents of twins face.

  • Double the supplies. With Irish twins, you'll have two children in diapers at the same time, two cribs, two high chairs, and the need for a double stroller.
  • Simultaneous schedules. Sometimes, closely spaced children can end up in the same grade at school. They may have the same friends, enjoy the same activities, and generally live a similar lifestyle as they grow older, much in the way that twins would.
  • Shared celebrations. Their birthdays may be close enough that your family celebrates them together.

Arguably, the experience is more diverse with younger children. For instance, a newborn and a 10-month-old baby have vastly different developmental capabilities. Meanwhile, a 9-year-old and a soon-to-be 10-year-old may not appear quite so distinct. As puberty approaches, the differences may become more pronounced again for a while, then less distinguishable as the children grow up.

History of Irish Twins

The phrase "Irish twins" originated in the late 19th century as a derogatory term associated with Irish immigration to the United States. The implication was that groups of close-in-age siblings were a characteristic of large, mostly poor, Irish Catholic families.

In fact, it was common for Irish immigrants to have children close in age because they followed the Church's strict guidelines regarding contraception. Back then, when the phrase was used, the person was stereotyping the Irish and implying that they were uneducated, poor, and lacked self-control.

Today, the term is not intended as an insult, but rather as a way of classifying siblings born close together. For instance, some families might proudly use the term to describe the short timespan between the births of their children.

However, you need to be cautious when using this term when talking to families other than your own. Using the phrase "Irish twins" is not only slang but it also disparages the Irish culture and can be offensive—even if you are using it affectionately. It's more appropriate to simply recognize that the children are closely spaced siblings or close-in-age siblings or to say nothing at all about their ages.

A Word From Verywell

Having children close together can be a choice that some families make. Or, it may be that the pregnancy was unexpected. Either way, you may want to refrain from discussing the situation or pointing it out. There may be some personal issues regarding the spacing of the children that a family would prefer to keep private.

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  1. Guinness World Records. Longest interval between birth of twins.