Naming Your Baby Early Could Reduce Health Risks

Hello mamas and papas.  I know that for Marc and me, picking baby names was a grueling process.  We labored for months over the right names… and down to the very last minute.  With Annaliese we in fact left the hospital several hours late because we argued over how to spell her name on the birth certificate!

I’ve heard the same type of story from many moms, making me think that it’s a given that picking baby names can cause a lot of stress. With so many opinions flying around from friends and relatives, it’s hard to please everybody. But no matter what you end up naming your child, new studies show that having a name picked out for your little one before their birth — unlike what Marc and I were able to do — may actually mean fewer serious health problems.

picking baby names

We all know a child’s name has significance, but what’s the correlation between a name and your child’s health? As reported in an article entitled “Waiting To Pick Your Baby’s Name Raises the Risk for Medical Mistakes” published by NPR and which cites a medical paper from the Pediatrics journal, naming your baby before birth may lead to fewer treatment and medical mix-ups. The story goes on to explain that this is due to unnamed babies being tagged right after birth with ID bracelets using their mother’s last name. For instance, my baby would be tagged as, let’s say, “Babygirl Lawrence.” According to the article, this name would stay in the system until discharge, even if the baby had been given a name soon after the tag was made.

At first this situation may seem totally harmless, but the news article reports that around 12 percent of newborns are placed in the neonatal intensive care unit. Therefore, not having a unique first and last name may mean another “Babygirl Lawrence” is getting my child’s treatment. And we all know how common some of our last names can be. With so much at stake in this complicated and chaotic environment, it’s easy to see why Jason Adelman, an internist and patient study officer at Montefiore Health System in NY, came up with a new naming system.

As explained in the article, now the babies without names will be tagged according to their mom’s first and last names. So in my case, “Babygirl Lawrence” would become “Melissasgirl Lawrence.”  The good news is that this change has actually made a huge difference. In only a year, Pediatrics reported that the hospital experienced about 36% fewer “retract-and-reorder” incidents in which there were initial mix-ups as to which baby required the medical order.

This just goes to show how important a name can really be. And it seems like the new system is helping a lot which is a great step in the right direction. Hopefully they continue to implement this new naming system in all of America’s hospitals to further reduce these mix-ups and to help put the minds of parents with unnamed children more at ease. But what do you do if you’re expecting and want to make sure you’ve found the absolute best baby name before going into labor?

I wouldn’t say it’s an easy-breezy process. After all, a lot of thought goes into the name, including previous family members’ names and your own culture and background. However, I’ve found over the course of naming our five children, it’s better to go with you and your spouse’s preferences. We actually got feedback from the whole family and most of our friends for our first son’s name and got to the hospital so overwhelmed that we ended up just asking for the nurse’s opinion. This worked the best for us because we were able to go with our gut and even if the nurse didn’t agree, it’s not her baby anyway! My husband and I ended up choosing names that were original to the family but the first letter was a nod to one of our relatives’ names (ex. like the B in Becket for Mark’s mom, Beatrice) and the middle names came from the family, too. That way everyone was happy!

Naming your baby can seem like such a big deal when you’re waiting for your little bundle of joy, but looking back it doesn’t seem as important as it did in the moment. Now I am just happy to love my kids for who they are and I know I would love them just the same had they been called by another name.

I would love to get some feedback from all the Moms and Dads out there on baby-naming and the hospital tagging system. Was it a difficult process to name your children? Why or why not? I’d love to hear more from you and the stories behind your baby name meanings!

Thanks for reading!