To narrow down the number of things you have to do as an expectant parent is as seemingly impossible as the daunting (and sometimes polarizing) task of selecting the perfect moniker for your munchkin. Aside from the traditional trappings of the process — like making sure not to offend or exclude any family members — there are binding legal aspects to consider, too. So do you have to pick your baby’s name at the hospital or can it wait until a later date? Unlike the adorable newborn cap provided by your hospital, this isn't necessarily a "one size fits all" kind of situation.
Though it's not a crime to leave the hospital without naming your child, it will certainly save you a fair amount of time and money in the long run. Basically, it's a good idea to fill out the paperwork the hospital provides you, "and turn in this form to your nurse before you leave the hospital," if you want to avoid dealing with additional applications or costs, as a report from the University of Washington Medical Center's (UWMC) official site recently noted. "If you do not complete the whole form — for example, if you leave off the baby’s name — you will have to pay for updates and corrections," as is further noted on the UWMC website.
You still may want to check out the specifics of your state's baby naming regulations. The last thing you want to add to the hospital happenings is to be put on the spot for an answer on your little one's legal name. For instance, according to a legal analysis from the official website for The George Washington Law Review, "the requirement of at least two names," for a baby is a common expectation placed on parents by multiple states. "The state’s interest in ensuring that every child has a name is compelling enough to outweigh any parental refusal," as is noted in the previously mentioned analysis. To be honest, having a kid named, "Baby Girl Smith," might make school graduations or family reunions a bit awkward.
In a way, naming a baby before leaving the hospital can be seen as an issue of the state protecting a child's best interests. For example, "every person has the right to a given name and to the surnames of [their] parents or that of one of them," as stated in Article 18 of the American Convention On Human Rights, which was published on the Organization of American States' official website. Cliff notes? Don't be too surprised if the hospital's medical team or local health department checks in with you until they've received a confirmation that your child has officially been given a first and last name, and they have the paperwork to confirm it.
But because the bureaucratic system seems to have a great sense of humor, you can find some pretty obscure prerequisites lurking in the fine print of your state's baby-naming rules. The state legislature of Minnesota requires, "a birth record be filed with the state registrar within five days after the birth." If this doesn't happen, the "Star of the North" state will, "assign the responsibility to file the birth record to the hospital administrator." Maybe it's just me, but I wouldn't want to roll the dice on letting someone else decide what to file my child's legal name as. In contrast, Vermont has a pretty liberal approach to baby-naming rules. In Vermont, you can pick, "trademarked names (IBM), diseases (Anthrax), and obscenities for last names, but we highly recommend against it," according to The Bump. I wouldn't stress too much, though, because the only time I use my son's full, legal name is when he's in trouble.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.