How Long Should a Baby Stay Nameless?

“How much time should the parents take to decide on a name after the child is born?” A reader named Steve e-mailed me last week with this question. It’s one that many parents in the U.S. don’t really think about, because we tend to choose our baby names ahead of time. But what if you don’t have a name selected by the time the baby arrives? How long should you take?

If the baby has a name, and you’re using it regularly, she’ll likely start responding to it when she’s about five months old. So it would be great for the baby to have a name before this point, to give her time to hear it and become accustomed to it.

But then there’s the paperwork. The baby needs a name before she can have a social security number, health insurance, and so forth. So it would be ideal for the parents to settle on a name within the first few days or weeks, so all the forms can be filed.

So my official answer is: as soon as possible. Your newborn doesn’t care about having a name right away, but if you want her to be covered under your health insurance, that’s what she’ll need.

But if that isn’t possible, my back-up answer is: pick a filler name. Get all the paperwork squared away. Take your time selecting a real name (but try to pick one before the five month-mark), and once you make a decision, go back and change her legal name.

What’s your opinion?

5 thoughts on “How Long Should a Baby Stay Nameless?

  1. Most U.S. hospitals won’t let mothers leave now until they’ve filled out the birth certificate and SSN paperwork, so you’ll need that name by the time the mother is discharged. And the nurses want you to fill it out as soon as the mother initially recovers from giving birth. Our health insurance company gave us 30 days after birth to submit the updated paperwork adding the baby to our coverage.

  2. Actually hospitals have no legal right to keep the mother or the baby because it is not named–although they may want you to THINK that. They are under pressure to submit birth certificate forms. These forms can be submitted later, or filled out with “Baby Boy” and then legally changed (some states have a grace period where you wouldn’t pay the full fee for the change). I”m sure the details vary by state.

  3. I would think at the age of 30 no one wants to be called Baby Boy or Girl family last name! The way to pick out a name is to find one from a soap opera, in a book, a family name, the telephone book or even on a tombstone. As Moses Whitecotton said in “Where the Heart Is”—Give that baby a name that means something, a strong name.

  4. I never had a baby but when I was in my disease class, I had a hard time finding good names for the case studies I was assigned. I went the Biblical route with names like Ephraim, Reuben, Daniel, and Bernice. I almost called my Hispanic case study female Alma but I thought it sounded old ladyish. I called her Lidia Pilar Hernandez and that felt right. I almost called one person Anna after my great-grandma, but I don’t really care for that name and I don’t like pairing Anna with banana. I picked Megan because that was the name my neighbors chose for their daughter. I agree a name should be selected right away! I still can’t believe Paul and Jamie from “Mad About You” rejected the names of Julia and Lily for Mabel (Mothers Always Bring Extra Love)!

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