Announcing the birth of [To Be Determined]
April 4, 2007 2:17 AM   Subscribe

Do parents have to give a kid a name immediately when it is born?

My google-fu has failed me on this one. When a child is born, are the parents required to give it a name at that point? Say the parents couldn't decide on a name in the preceding 9 months; can they tell the hospital, "Sorry, we don't have one yet, but we'll get back to you with a name one of these days."?

(and despite my location, I'm primarily curious about this from an US-centric point of view, though Oz-centric answers are welcome, too)
posted by barnacles to Human Relations (33 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It's not in your chosen jurisdictions, but in the UK I'm 99% sure that no, you don't, and the UK is legally similar to the US and Aus. You have to have it figured out at time of registration though. FWIW, my baby tags from when I was born just had my last name on.
posted by wackybrit at 3:04 AM on April 4, 2007

In Australia, every state of which I'm aware of the rules requires the birth to be registered within 60 days, with a name on the registration form.

In the US, from what I can gather, it varies from state to state - for eg/ in California the hospital will send the form, but if the baby is born outside a hospital you are supposed to register within 10 days of the birth (but they only charge a penalty if you don't register within one year); in Virginia all registration frorms must be submitted by the parents within 30 days.

To change any name on the certificate once the birth has been registered, apart from adding the baby's middle name, you need a court order (see here for eg).

US State vital records depts are listed here.
posted by goo at 3:06 AM on April 4, 2007

We're Brits abroad, living in the US.

We're used to having plenty of time to see what name fits, and with our UK born kids, took advantage of all the time we were allowed.

As a practical matter (in US in CT), they wouldn't let us leave the hospital until we had decided the names, and filled out their form which went to the vital records departmetn. Given that a court order would have then been required to change anything, we felt a bit rushed.

At the time, we couldn't find a law that justified this treatment.
posted by blue_wardrobe at 4:09 AM on April 4, 2007

I can tell you, for a fact, that I was "Baby Lastname" when I left the hospital in West Virginia, USA in 1981 and wasn't "Firstname Middlename Lastname" for a good two weeks afterwards.

However, your best bet is to contact the vital records department in whatever...province? state? parish? (On a side note, what are the major political land subdivisions in Australia?) that you would be birthing the child in and asking them - they would be the most knowledgeable.

I can't imagine its much different in the US vs. down under, though.
posted by plaidrabbit at 4:09 AM on April 4, 2007

in the UK - no. My parents squabbled till almost the absolute last minute before they settled on my name. they were sent letters and stuff saying they needed to name the baby. god knows what would have happened if they missed the deadline - would I have gotten a government appointed name? would they just name me after the prime minister at the time? or the queen?
posted by 6am at 4:18 AM on April 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

plaidrabbit > six states and two territories :)
posted by Lucie at 4:19 AM on April 4, 2007

I can tell you, for a fact, that I was "Baby Lastname" when I left the hospital in West Virginia, USA in 1981 and wasn't "Firstname Middlename Lastname" for a good two weeks afterwards.

Well, I'm in Australia and it was like this for me too, in 1988 (I'm not sure if it's changed).
The only reason my parents gave me a name at that stage was I was really sick and being moved hospitals. They gave me a name with the view of maybe changing it later, but they couldn't find one they liked better. Ha.
posted by cholly at 4:19 AM on April 4, 2007

I'm fairly certain that you don't have to on the US. It is certainly more convenient for the hospital to fill out the birth certificate with the name of the child while you're actually there. If you don't, then changing the baby's name to their chosen name will have to be done later, through your state's Secretary of State office (which will cost, I'm sure, money and time).

You may want to check with your state Secretary of State's Office of Vital Statistics.
posted by scblackman at 4:30 AM on April 4, 2007

I'm in the US and have named multiple babies. Furthermore, I have another baby on the way that doesn't have a set-in-stone name yet so I know exactly what the rule is: No, you do not need to name the baby right there in the hospital. You only need to have a name by the time the birth certificate is filed, which is some number of weeks after birth (2 in NH, but it might vary from state to state). And of course you can always change it later.
posted by DU at 4:37 AM on April 4, 2007

I'm in CT in the US and I work at a hospital. They like you to name it while it's here because it's probably easier for you - some old volunteer lady will help you with the the government forms while you're inhouse - but we discharge *many* infants as BB or BG Smith.
posted by cobaltnine at 4:41 AM on April 4, 2007

Friends of mine from CT took a year to decide on their daughter's name. I seem to remember that they were pressured to put something on her birth certificate and insurance form, and then they mistakenly put different names on them. They called her "Stumpy" (yes, I'm not joking) for a while before settling on a name. And you know what? Now that I think about it, I can't remember what name they decided on.
posted by Plutor at 6:22 AM on April 4, 2007

Here's Cecil Adams' column on the subject.
posted by Johnny Assay at 6:26 AM on April 4, 2007

I was "Baby" for three or four days, depending on who you ask. I think it's OK, but like everyone has said, discouraged.

I actually had a very surreal incident, watching some film footage of my mother holding me when I was only 3 days old. My father had an early video camera, and recorded some footage as soon as I was back from the hospital. Seeing both my parents refer to me as "baby" and realizing that the unnamed bundle was me-- that was very strange. It always felt unsettling knowing there was a recording of me before I was me, or for that matter, anybody.
posted by conch soup at 6:59 AM on April 4, 2007

When I got married at age 25 I saw my birth certificate for the first time. My mom had never filled in a name! She was going back and forth between spelling it "Gail," the common spelling, and "Gael," as in Gaelic. She chose the latter, but never bothered to write it down on the birth certificate. I was told I could go with any name I wanted at that point, but after a lifetime of being "Gael," I stuck with it. This was in Minnesota, USA. Obviously not having a name on that piece of paper throughout my life bothered no one.
posted by GaelFC at 7:12 AM on April 4, 2007

GaelFC -- what did your Social Security card say?
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:20 AM on April 4, 2007

It said GAEL, when I got it, but apparently they didn't check that against a birth certificate, they went with whatever mom and dad, or me, told them. I think I was about 10 when I got one.
posted by GaelFC at 7:30 AM on April 4, 2007

For 8 days my first name was Charlie (because thats what the nurses nicknamed me). Which is a fine name. But my last name is Brown.
Thank gawds my parents came up with something different.
posted by ducktape at 7:57 AM on April 4, 2007

That happened to my Grandfather. On his birth certificate it says Baby as the first name.
posted by milarepa at 8:02 AM on April 4, 2007

Ex 'Scary Spice' Melanie Brown just did this in California. I'm sort of ashamed I know that, but not really.
posted by crabintheocean at 8:12 AM on April 4, 2007

Gael, I was born in 1966 and it also wasn't until I needed my birth certificate in order to get married in 1990 that my mother realized my first name was listed as "baby girl". And yes, it was a pain to get it fixed. But in hindsight, if I'd had any kind of musical talent, this might have been a sign for me to ditch the marriage plan and start a hip hop career instead.
posted by stagewhisper at 8:18 AM on April 4, 2007

I just learned a few months ago that my brother-in-law's legal name was "Baby Boy Lastname" until he was 16 years old. It was then that he had to get everything straightened out so he could get his driver's license. Of course he was given a name at home almost immediately, but the birth certificate was never changed. This was about 40 years ago, and it was in Utah, where church records will suffice for school, etc., so he never ran into any trouble until he had to deal with the DMV.
posted by peep at 8:40 AM on April 4, 2007

Some years back I lived in Michigan, where I happened to know a lady whose job included filling out information for birth certificates. She was very frustrated by new parents who even weeks after the fact had no better name for the baby than "baby." However, I think there was a rule that said she couldn't just put "Baby Lastname" on the paper and walk away.

It is worth mentioning that Michigan has a "certificate of live birth" that is issued by the hospital in addition to a "birth certificate" issued by the city in which the child is born. So the "certificate of live birth" doesn't need a name for the baby, only the fact that a live [] boy [] girl was born to [mom's name] on [date] signed by __________ [] MD [] DO. (Osteopaths are fully licensed physicians here in the states, and there are a lot of them in Michigan.)
posted by ilsa at 9:43 AM on April 4, 2007

posted by kensanway at 9:54 AM on April 4, 2007

What, nobody's posted a link to Picabo Street yet?
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:14 AM on April 4, 2007

My neighbors growing up had nine children and they were notorious for waiting a good two to three months before naming their next born...ostensibly to see what sort of personality the little one developed. I actually ended up naming their last born son almost purely out of frustration from calling him Baby X.
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 10:33 AM on April 4, 2007

Stan and Mrs. Freberg did this (Baby Boy's blog NSFW).
posted by Scram at 11:16 AM on April 4, 2007

We named our son on the final of our 4 days in the hospital post-birth.

Didn't seem to be a problem, but we had every intention of deciding before we left the building.
posted by Ynoxas at 11:31 AM on April 4, 2007

In California you don't have to. We see "Baby $lastname" all the time. It's nothing out of the ordinary.
posted by drstein at 11:50 AM on April 4, 2007

My sister's name on her birth certificate is Baby Girl (Lastname), she wasn't named until a month or two after. For the record, this was California in the early 70s.
posted by lekvar at 1:44 PM on April 4, 2007

We see "Baby $lastname" all the time

Your hospital uses string variables? How odd.
posted by Ynoxas at 2:56 PM on April 4, 2007

@ blue_wardrobe - The hospital cannot actually force you to not leave if you don't pick a name. They may tell you that you are not allowed to leave, but if you can actually leave -- they won't have you arrested or anything.

Some friends had a baby and discovered that it would cost extra to register the name if they waited more than 2 weeks. Other than that, no time limit. They had a home birth, so people pressuring them at the hospital was not an issue.
posted by yohko at 3:42 PM on April 4, 2007

Having done this relatively recently in the State of Victoria, I'm pretty sure the paperwork has to be lodged within 30 days of birth.

(On a side note, what are the major political land subdivisions in Australia?)

States (and Territories).
posted by wilful at 6:32 PM on April 4, 2007

"Your hospital uses string variables? How odd."

Dude, it's the Silicon Valley. We're lucky kids don't get named "Apple" more often than they do.
posted by drstein at 10:14 PM on April 4, 2007

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