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It’s Okay to Change Your Baby’s Name

It’s Okay to Change Your Baby’s Name

Considering changing your baby's name? You're not alone!

A few weeks after their son's birth in February 2022, Kylie Jenner and Travis Scott announced that they had changed their little boy's name. "We just didn't really feel like it was him," Jenner wrote on Instagram.

And just this month, actors Aaron Paul and Lauren Parsekian made the news after they legally changed their son Ryden's name to... Ryden. Feeling under pressure to choose a name at the hospital, they had officially registered their baby boy as Casper, but had a change of heart soon after.

As name experts and professional name consultants, questions around name regret and changing a child's name are something we encounter a lot more frequently than you might think.

Let's Talk About Baby Name Regret

Baby name regret reportedly affects between 10-20% of new parents, but it’s rarely talked about publicly.

The parents who come to us feel awkward, embarrassed, even guilty for admitting that they’re not in love with their child’s name. They worry about how friends and family will react. They feel like they’ve fallen at the first hurdle of parenthood.

If this all sounds uncomfortably close to home, don’t panic. Today, we’re taking a break from talking about how to find the “perfect” baby name (if such a thing even exists!) to focus on the positive side of changing a name that doesn’t feel right.

Yes, it’s a big step. But for some families, it’s absolutely a step in the right direction. And – as we hope these stories show – it involves just as much love, thought and effort as any other naming journey.

We asked parents who changed their babies' names to share their stories. A huge thank you to all those who discussed their experiences with us.

R’s Story: A Weight Lifted

My husband and I have a really hard time agreeing on names and when I was pregnant with our second daughter he basically shot down every name I suggested. We eventually settled on my grandmother’s name as the first and his grandmother’s name as the middle.

I did think it was beautiful but it never felt like “the” name. Even when I was spelling it out for the birth certificate in the hospital I had a twinge of regret and it never went away.

It grew daily to the point that I truly hated telling anyone her name. I finally just couldn’t take it any longer. It shouldn’t make me sad to hear my child’s name come out of someone’s mouth. I knew that if we didn’t change it now, I would feel like this forever and it didn’t have to be that way.

We ended up choosing a name I had suggested when we first found out she was a girl and it just clicked. It’s perfect, it’s her name. It was like a weight lifted off of me, I have no regrets whatsoever. Three years later, everyone sees her as the new name and we can’t imagine her any other way.

Briana’s Story: Surprisingly Simple

I changed one of my twin girls’ names from Hannah to Paige. We couldn’t decide on their names until discharge, and I wasn’t even sure that day, but we came up with Hailey and Hannah.

At home my elder daughter kept calling Hannah “Hanny”, probably to match the sound of Hailey more. I couldn’t stand the nickname and I was seeing Hanna Barbera listed at the end of all the kids shows… ugh. I cried for three weeks and finally told my husband I was changing it.

I called the town where birth certificates are created and they referred me back to the hospital since they hadn’t received the application yet. Once I spoke the the birth certificate office it was very easy to change her name. I just gave the office my name, the DOB and the fact it was the B twin and it was done.

Lori’s Story: Back to the Beginning

During the last month of my pregnancy I thought we had decided on Bergen. I loved it. It was unique but not unheard of and Bergen County, NJ is where my husband and I are both from. Perfect in my mind.

While I was in the delivery room my husband said “We can’t go with Bergen.” He was having second thoughts. Since I had named our older daughter, I let him have his way and we went with Darcy.

I tried to make peace with it – I even sent out birth announcements with the name Darcy Ann. Every time I said her name or told people her name I hated it. I was like “I can’t call her Darcy when I don’t feel proud or happy when I say it.” I basically TOLD my husband we were changing it but he didn’t fight me.

She was Darcy Ann. I didn’t want to lose the Ann because that was after my grandmother, so she became Bergen Darcy Ann.

Samantha’s Story: The Perfect Fit

For most of my pregnancy we’d referred to our son as Owen, and then at about 35 weeks I got cold feet and decided we’d pick between Owen and Silas after birth. 

In the heat of the moment (they can be a little pushy at the hospital!) I just picked Silas. I still love it as a name, but it wasn’t HIS name.

After his birth, a lactation consultant came in to check on us and kept referring to my son as “Owen” even though I’d told her his name was Silas. There’s no way she could have known Owen was my alternative. It felt like a sign.

Everyone else was very receptive and thought it made a great story. Owen Wilder just suits him! It was a relief to me that I’d gone through with it. It felt instantly right. It felt like my son.

L’s Story: Learning to Love Again

During my second pregnancy, we found out we were having a girl. We already had a name that we loved so we told everyone as soon as we found out. We had reactions varying from love, confusion, to straight up laughter. Even my own mother kindly reminded me that I was naming a baby, not a 50-year-old.

As soon as she was born I was in love, but not really in love with the name. Had I gone too unusual? Did she look like a Mavis? What was a Mavis supposed to act like? For months after she was born I struggled.

Finally, I realized that I needed to let her define the name for me, and not the other way around. I forced myself to stop calling her “baby” and start calling her Mavis.

It took time. But the more I heard the people I care about calling her by her name, the easier it got. I still love it, and my daughter deserves to hear me enjoy saying her name.

How to Change Your Baby's Name

If you're mulling a name change, here are nine tips from Abby Sandel for going through the process.

1. 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.

2. 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. 

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. 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.

7. 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.

8. 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.

9. 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.

About the Author

Emma Waterhouse

Emma Waterhouse joined the team in 2017, writing about everything from the baby names to watch in 2022 to how not to choose the next big baby name. As Nameberry's head moderator, she also helps to keep our active forums community ticking. A linguist by background, Emma speaks several languages and lives in England's smallest county with her husband and four young children. You can reach her at emma@nameberry.com.