Changing Baby’s Name
By Abby Sandel
Sophie – who blogs at The Young Mummy – welcomed daughter Betty, a little sister for Bobby, on January 14th. Two weeks later, Sophie and her husband announced that they’d made a mistake. Betty is now Florence, Flossy for short.
That’s not name regret. There’s a difference between these relatively minor annoyances, and the unshakable feeling that you’ve given your child the wrong name.
It sounds like Sophie quickly realized that another name from her original shortlist would suit her new daughter better. When that’s the case, a name change – especially for a newborn – is usually pretty straightforward.
Other families report starting their name search anew when their child is a few weeks or months old. If there’s pressure to choose a name before your baby arrives, that’s nothing compared to the challenges of choosing a name for a three-month old, as family and friends continue to use the name that you’re working so hard to replace.
Here are nine tips for changing your child’s name:
It’s okay to like the name, but feel like it’s the wrong fit for your child. Most children grow into their names pretty quickly. Sometimes the opposite happens, and the name feels like less of a fit as times passes. Kelcey Kintner of The Mama Bird Diaries famously described this feeling. She eventually changed her daughter’s name from Presley to Summer.
It’s okay to like the name, but realize it’s not wearing well. Carri Kessler loved the name Ottilie – at least until she gave the name to her daughter. It didn’t sound quite right, and others often mispronounced it or just plain couldn’t remember it. Carri imagined a lifetime of frustration, until she realized a name change was an option. Now Ottilie has become Margot.
Sometimes the right name might already be there. Some name changes require no paperwork. If you’ve chosen a nickname-rich name for your child, it might be as simple as exploring alternative nicknames. If your Margaret doesn’t seem like a Maggie, maybe she’ll grow into Greta. I’ve heard of an Alexander meant to be a Xander … but who quickly grew into an Alex.
Don’t forget the middle name. If you chose a great middle name, consider using it for your child’s first name instead. Emma Alice could easily be known as Alice instead. This works especially well if you chose a first and middle you just plain loved; it might be a little tougher if you tucked an obscure family name in the middle spot.
You can have more than three names. So let’s say you’ve named your son Chase Armbruster Smith, and you’d like to change it. Grandma Armbruster will be crushed if you take the family name away. Remember that doesn’t automatically mean you have to drop Chase. Your son could become Ezra Chase Armbruster Smith, or even Chase Ezra Armbruster Smith, known as Ezra.
Returning to your original list might help. Sometimes parents reject a name for fear it is too common – or too out-there. On reflection, those discards might seem like exactly the right name for your child. If you talked yourself out of some great names, now is the time to reconsider them. Try calling your child Noah or Callum around the house for a few days. If one of your former favorites fits better, it’s time to consider making it official.
Starting fresh is just fine, too. If you’ve exhausted your shortlist, there’s no reason not to start fresh. Tools like our NameHunter can help you build a brand new list. Or check out our forums, where helpful advice and name suggestions are always available.
The clock is ticking, but you have some time. Studies suggest that babies first respond to their names sometime around seven to nine months. Many states allow birth certificate corrections for the first year of a child’s life. While it’s important to discuss your concerns with your partner early, most parents report name regret striking during the first few weeks. That gives most parents plenty of time to consider new possibilities.
You might be the only one to remember the name change. Name-changing parents worry that others won’t understand. Sure, you might confuse or even upset a grandparent or two, and your closest friends might always remember that your daughter Jane started out life as Aurelia. But name-changing parents report that nearly everyone moves on, and the child’s new name simply becomes the child’s name – exactly as it should be.
Have you ever considered changing your child’s name? If so, did you go through with it?