Using Leashes With Toddler Twins/Multiples

Responsible restraint or inhumane indignity?

Using Harnesses with Twins
By My Side Twin Harness. © 2003 Tommi Guard TM

One of the most challenging phases of parenting multiples is when the childrens' desire to explore the world surpasses their ability to recognize and avoid danger. Generally, this difficult stage exists between the ages of 1 and 3, as multiples become mobile. Almost every parent of multiples experiences a situtation where their two toddlers take off in separate directions. They stand frozen in horror, not knowing which child to chase after first!

It's one of a twin parent's biggest nightmares

Parents are well aware of the danger this presents. In many environments, they simply have to keep their multiples contained, perhaps in a double stroller. But there are other situations where they want to give their multiples a chance to explore the world on their own terms. Safety harnesses -- or leashes -- can provide that freedom, within safe boundaries.

The Cons of Using Harnesses for Twins

However, not everyone considers them a practical option. Harnesses  or leashes have become so closely associated with animal control that some people actually find it offensive to restrain a child in the same manner. Says one mom, "Why anyone would want to have a leash for their child is beyond me. They are children, not dogs. If you dont want them to run off, teach them not to run off."

Some experts agree. At one time, Parenting.com cited harnesses as one of the most ridiculous parenting products, claiming that "kids should just be taught to hold hands and stay where their parents can see them rather than be treated like the family pet."

In addition, some parents may feel uncomfortable about the extra attention generated by using leashes. Certainly, twins and other multiples are already in the spotlight when they go out in public. It is likely that your family will attract even more scrutiny when leashes or harnesses are used.

The Benefits of Using Harnesses with Twins

Some parents feel that using leashes is actually less restraining than keeping kids cooped up in a stroller all the time.

They provide freedom to roam around, but allow parents to control boundaries and limit danger. They significantly reduce the risk of children wandering away from parents, into the path of danger. For parents of multiples, it can be a very effective way to keep kids from disappearing in different directions.

Depending on their design, leashes may prevent other injuries as well. Maureen Dempsey Baker, who created a harness product for twins when her children were young, explains, "We were informed by pediatricians that (many) common injuries are to shoulders and arms from parents pulling up when a child falls while holding their hand. (A) harness allows you to gently guide your child while supporting them in their strongest place, the chest."

In fact, many supporters identify the hands-free aspect of leashes as the biggest benefit. For parents of higher order multiples, the number of children simply exceeds the number of parental hands! Other parents recognize that holding childrens' hands for an extended period of time can be uncomfortable for small children -- imagine how you'd feel keeping your hand raised above your head

As a parent of twins, I realize that I often make different choices for my twins than I would if I only had a singleton. Using a harness was one of those decisions. I can remember using them at a crowded outdoor fair and once in an airport when a stroller was impractical. I have to admit that I was a bit uncomfortable with the way we looked. But, as Mary Dempsey Baker says, "Who cares what everyone else thinks when it comes to your child's safety!"

Several leash and safety harness products are available. At this time, a product specifically for twins, like the By-My-Side harness produced by Baker, is not widely available, although you may be able to find one secondhand. A UK company, Kool Kangaroos Boomerein, offers a retractable hands-free toddler safety system that is available for twins or triplets. Their website has contract information to arrange for overseas shipping.

In the meantime, parents of twins or multiples will just have to spend double to buy one for each child. The best products combine comfort with an attractive style. Look for a hands-free option that clips to a belt or fanny pack. Avoid products that attach to children's wrists, as they are more likely to cause injury and discomfort. This 2-in-1 harness from Goldbug (Buy at Amazon.com) combines the safety of a child harness with a cute animal back pack for toddlers. The Mommy's Helper Kid Keeper (Buy at Amazon.com) utilizes a patented adjustable harness that secures to the child's torso and not the sensitive stomach area, and can also be used to secure a prone-to-wandering child to a high chair or grocery cart. 

Continue Reading