Baby Name Regret: Can You Change Your Baby's Name?

Struggling with baby name regret? Here's advice on how to change your baby's name, the best time to do it, and how to announce the new name.

Parents and Crying Baby At Home
Photo: Uber Images/Shutterstock

Recently, a reader wrote to Parents with an interesting dilemma:

I know this will sound like an odd problem, but my husband and I regret the name we gave our daughter. We had a hard time deciding, and my mother-in-law warned me it would be super difficult to deal with all of her birth documents later if we left the hospital without a name. Our little girl is six months old now and we've taken to calling her another name entirely. Is it too weird or late to officially change it? And how would I tell people—do I make her a new birth announcement?

There's no parenting commandment that says thou shalt not change a baby's name once a birth announcement is released—your baby, your rules! In fact, this parent is nowhere near alone in feeling this way: "Baby name remorse is such a commonplace thing," Linda Rosenkrantz, co-founder of popular name site Nameberry explains, "As many as 10 percent of all parents have some regret about their choice because there's so much pressure nowadays for us to choose the perfect name—it's not unusual at all."

While most people who have baby name regrets don't go as far as to change the name officially—often settling for calling the child by a nickname instead—others decide they just don't want to live with their original choice.

Carrie Kessler, a mom in Los Angeles, recently opened up about her struggle with the baby name she chose. "I have a friend in the U.K. named Ottilie and it's beautiful, and ever since I heard that name I've wanted to use it," Kessler told TODAY. Once her daughter was born—despite having last minute concerns about the name and even brainstorming alternatives in their hospital room—they settled on their original choice, Ottilie (pronounced like Natalie, but with Ott instead of Nat).

When it seemed everyone she encountered had trouble pronouncing it and her grandmother, bless her heart, admitted she had a hard time remembering it (yikes), they knew they were in trouble. After three months of turmoil, she finally talked to her husband about her concerns—and to her surprise he agreed with changing the name. They ultimately decided to legally change their daughter's name to Margot—and they have zero regrets.

So of course, if the name you originally choose for your child doesn't fit—for whatever reason—you can absolutely change it, but do so as soon as possible. "Up to 7 months to a year, children don't really identify with their names yet because of all the nicknames parents usually use, like sweetie and honey," says Rosenkrantz. "The legal name doesn't really register as their identity until after that." So you're in the clear and won't be doing any kind of permanent damage that could come out oh-so-dramatically in a journal entry in your daughter's teen years (ha). If anything, she'll have the most interesting answer to the ice breaker that's used at every team building exercise that's existed in the history of ever, "Name one thing about you that no one else knows." Her original name!

If you're still debating whether to stick with a nickname or make it official, go with the latter—especially if both you and your partner agree you have no intention of using her original name in the future. Not only will it will be easier for your child in the long run, but once the paperwork is done and you have her new social security card in hand, your name remorse will be cured (huzzah!) and the "baby formerly known as [insert OG name here]" will forevermore go by the moniker you think suits her best.

The good news is that the process to legally change a baby's name can be easier than you might expect, although each state's requirements differ by county. For many states, parents are given up to 6 or 12 months to make the change without a court order—because, YES, it's that common! Depending on where you live, you just take the birth certificate to the Vital Records Office in the city or county where your child was born, fill out a few forms and voila! Other states require a court order, public notice and more. You can contact your local health department to find out what they need where you live. Once you have your new birth certificate, be sure to notify the Social Security Administration by either visiting their office or downloading the form from their website.

As for a formal birth announcement, it's not necessary. Your friends will follow your lead (if they haven't already) once you let them know. But a clever, tongue-in-cheek email announcement might be a fun way to share the news with friends and family. Bonus points if you quote Eminem's "My Name Is" lyrics in the subject line. *wink*

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