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Baby's Last Name: Surname Options

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All parents-to-be decide on their babies’ first names.  Today, many parents put just as much thought into their babies’ last names (surnames), too. And the decision may not be as easy -- or typical -- as you may think. From hyphenating both names (like Jolie-Pitt) to combining names or even creating a new name,  you have many options when it comes to your baby’s last name.

Decisions, Decisions

More married women keep their last names than ever before. But when you have a baby, your friends and family may assume the baby will take your husband’s last name. Kelly Utt-Grubb, a family naming expert with Name Counsel, consults with families making this important decision. She has these tips for families considering a last name for their baby:

-Don’t worry about stereotypes
Utt-Grubb encourages parents not to fear being ridiculed if their baby doesn’t take dad’s name. “Don’t assume that you’ll be ridiculed or not fit in,” she explains. “That’s really not the case anymore.”

-Be clear about your choice
She recommends that parents take a close look at why their last name is -- or isn’t -- important to them. “Get really clear about the association you have with the name you grew up with,” she explains. “Make sure there’s not some sort of emotional baggage influencing your decision.”

Combining Names - With a Twist

A popular choice for some families is to hyphenate mom and dad’s last name. Typically mom’s last name will come first, then the hyphen, then dad’s last name. Stephanie Frank, a mother of two boys in Chicago, IL kept her last name when she married her husband Peter Eckart. Together they decided to hyphenate their two sons’ names, but with a twist. The boys’ last name is Eckart-Frank, not the other way around. “We put my name second because we didn't want anyone to assume ‘Frank’ was a middle name,” says Frank.

Amy Catania chose her partner’s name for her kids’ middle name, and hers as the last name. “His middle name was passed on to him by his parents because it was the last name of his grandmother (who took her husband's name) and great aunt and uncles who had no children. We thought it was important to keep passing it on to connect them to that family,” explains Catania. “As far as having my last name, it was just something that was always super important to me, that children that I carried in my body for nine months and gave birth to share my name and the name of my big, beautiful, crazy, strong extended family.” 

According to Kelly Utt-Grubb, some families even create a unique name just for baby, like Meadows for the love of open spaces, cities and states after the place they met or got married, or a combination of both parents’ last names without hyphenation.

Prepare to Explain Baby’s Last Name

Frank and Catania believe that some may have a hard time with choices like theirs because of generational differences and even gender bias.  “Not only did I not take Peter's name, then we hyphenated we put his name first instead of last,” says Frank.  “Our friends thought it was cool and didn't care of course. People of former generations had a bigger problem.” Catania likes challenging what she calls others’ “patriarchal assumptions” that babies should have the father’s last name.

Family and friends may not understand why your baby has a certain last name, but ultimately you need to feel confident. Utt-Grubb suggests creating a short “elevator speech” and to decide how much -- or little -- information you want to share about why you chose the name.

Check with the hospital and regulations in your state. Make sure your baby’s doctor updates medical records with the correct last name for your baby, especially in case of an emergency. As baby grows, you may need to double-check that care providers and schools have it right.

“Kids and families grow into their names,” says Frank. “Even though it seems like a huge decision at the time, it eventually becomes such a part of your life you can't clearly remember what the controversy was.”

Read More:

Finding the Perfect Baby Name that Fits with Your Last Name

The Guide to Choosing a Middle Name

Not Your Run-of-the-Mill Nicknames


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Comments (1)Add Comment
written by Crystal Bermudes, December 26, 2008
It's really interesting about last names n combinations 'cause i don't like my last name cause it is like kind off an heavy surname but at an other hand its a common surname in my country but rarely in the hole world so I'm not sure cause its difficult to chose but great advice!!! ^_^

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