The Untold Risks of Waiting to Name Your Baby

Image Source: Thinkstock
Image Source: Thinkstock

About a year before I was pregnant with my first daughter, I decided I’d have a girl because I fell in love with a name so deeply that I could only have a girl, and one with that name. I ran the name (and the girl thing) by my husband, he lit up, and we were done. When I was pregnant with our second daughter, we had a short list of baby names, although by the middle of the second trimester, we knew what she’d be called, too.

I tend to plan even the smallest of events as if the fate of humankind depends on the exact nature of the tiniest details, so those who “wait and meet the baby” before choosing a name are usually people I view like great white sharks or the Kardashian family, which is to say: with tons of fascination and even more fear. As it turns out, the anxiety I harbor on waiting to name a baby may be based on something other than my Type-A tendencies.

The journal Pediatrics just published the results of researchers that found that babies who go unnamed at birth are at a higher risk of receiving the wrong treatment. While hospitals slap an ID bracelet on babies immediately following birth, without a given first name, the babies tend to be called “Boy” or “Girl” along with either the mom or dad’s last name. The problem is that whether the actual name then gets chosen minutes later or when discharged from the hospital, it usually still remains generic in the hospital’s system until the baby is sent home.

One of the study’s authors, Jason Adelman, an internist and patient safety officer at Montefiore Health System in New York, explained to NPR that since 12 percent of babies end up in the neonatal intensive care, “given the complexity and high stakes of that environment, ‘all neonatologists know [babies with generic names] is a problem, but weren’t able to quantify it.'”

Adelman and his colleagues proposed a solution, which is to take, say, a baby girl’s mom’s first name and put it before “Girl,” which would then be followed by the last name (Meredithgirl Carroll, for instance). After implementing the proposed new naming system of babies for a trial period, the researchers reported 36 percent fewer mistakes (or near-misses).

“The way we name babies in the hospital has to really be thought of very carefully,” Gauthan Suresh, a neonatologist at Houston’s Texas Children’s Newborn Center told NPR. Particularly because other errors can be avoided, too, including giving babies the wrong pumped breast milk.

Babble writer and former OB nurse Chaunie Brusie agrees that the system needs to be well thought out, because in her experience, even “repeat last names were pretty common.” She worked at a small hospital and said precautions against mix ups with names “were taken very seriously with multiple alerts in the chart, on the crib, etc.,” but she still recommends adding a unique first name to further avoid the possibility of confusion.


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