Baby-name stalemates and baby-name regret are real, as seen recently with Kylie Jenner and Travis Scott ditching their new son’s name, which was Wolf, in favor of something else not yet announced. (Sorry if you sent a monogrammed blankie!) This all begs the question: Do you have to name your baby in the hospital? Or can your baby go home without a name while you think on it?
An internet search turns up two things. One: It’s very possible to leave without naming your baby. Two: Hospital nurses may tell you there’s a “hospital policy” that requires a name, but that’s kind of BS.
“If you give birth at a hospital, they’ll give you the birth registration form which has a box to check to order your baby’s social security card. Many hospitals will tell you that you can’t leave until you file the paperwork, but legally, this usually isn’t true,” says Pamela Redmond of Nameberry. But stories abound of nurses pressuring parents to just fill out the forms already. “They gave me a two-day deadline with my middle child, and I didn’t know we could ignore it,” says Allison Staring, of Knoxboro, New York.
Why should you choose a name at the hospital?
“We were told that it gets ‘harder’ or ‘more complicated’ if we didn’t name them at the hospital,” reports Stacy McLean of Albany, New York. That part is kinda true. “It can make everyone’s life easier if the forms are filed before you’re home dealing with new parenthood,” Redmond says.
If your child goes home nameless, you’ll have an extra errand to run — filing their official name — during their babyhood. In fact, I’m pretty sure my own sister-in-law left the hospital without naming my nephew, and then her husband drove back to submit the paperwork shortly after.
How long can you go without naming your baby?
States differ on how long residents are given to come up with a first name, but it’s often as long as a year. Hospitals must record that the birth happened, but the first-name slot can be left blank or filled in with something like “babygirl” or “babyboy.”
“In California, the baby’s birth needs to be registered within ten days of birth. But fully complete birth certificates can be accepted by the local registrar for up to one year,” Redmond says. This explainer from Florida says that parents there have until the first birthday to nail the name. And a form for New York City makes it clear that you have the whole first year to return to the hospital to file the name. However, this Vermont form is for filing your child’s name in the first six months; after that, you’ll need a court order to do so.
“Ideally, you’ll have your baby’s name figured out, or at least have a few finalists, when you give birth,” Redmond says. “But if not, no one is going to arrest you! While laws differ from state to state, you do have a little time after the baby’s born to make up your mind.”
Meanwhile, according to The Washington Post, the Social Security Administration recorded some 30,000 baby-name changes in the past five years, so Kylie Jenner is not alone. (Remember the Amy Schumer middle-name-change story?) But exactly how many babies go home without a name is less known. Just don’t let any bossy labor and delivery nurse tell you it’s impossible!