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It’s Okay to Change Your Baby’s Name

May 11, 2020 Emma Waterhouse
change your baby's name

One more time: it’s okay to change your baby’s name.

Too often, we see stressed-out parents coming to the Nameberry Forums for advice on dealing with baby name regret. It’s something that 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.

A huge thank you to all those who shared their experiences with us. We wish we could have included them all!

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

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.

Thanks to our Berry @lashleytwill for the reminder that it’s also okay not to change a name you’re struggling with. As with so many other aspects of parenting (and life!) there is no right or wrong answer.

But one thing’s certain: no one should feel guilt or shame for acknowledging that the name they chose just doesn’t feel right.

Do you have experience of name regret or changing your baby’s name? Share your story below!

    About the author

    Emma Waterhouse

    Emma Waterhouse — better known as @katinka around these parts — joined the team in 2017, writing about everything from where to find a cool vintage boy name to why some names become popular memes. As Nameberry's head moderator, she also helps to keep our active Forums community ticking. A linguist by background, Emma speaks six languages and lives in England's smallest county with her husband and three young children. You can reach her at emma@nameberry.com.

    View all of Emma Waterhouse's articles

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