Skip Nav
Parenting Tips and Advice
7 Tips That Make Going Back to Work After Maternity Leave Easier
How to Tame Your Kid’s Sweet Tooth in Time For Halloween
What Every Parent Needs to Know About Those Teal Pumpkins

The Name Game: Whose Last Name Should I Give My Baby?

The Name Game: Whose Last Name Should I Give My Baby?

"Should I give my baby my last name or the father's last name?" asks Circle of Moms member Nicole H. Pregnant and single, she wonders if it is okay to give her child her own name "because the father isn't involved now," and may never be.

Nicole's situation is not unique. One of the significant and often touchy issues that faces single moms almost the moment after their baby's birth is whose last name to pen in on the birth certificate. This is a frequent topic of conversation among Circle of Moms members who are pregnant but not yet married to the father, and there's often easy consensus on the core issue: moms believe that unmarried moms hold the naming rights. As Peggy H. explains, "It is totally your decision, don't let anyone try to make it for you. If you are not married to the father, you can always change the last name if you marry. Give the baby your name now so you both have the same name. You know that you will always be there for your baby — will the father?"

Is the Dad Going to Be An Involved Parent?

That's exactly the sentiment that drives many Circle of Moms members to say they feel strongly that the naming rights belong to the parent who is actively involved in the baby's care. "Am I wrong for wanting my child to have my last name?" says Elizabeth D. "I recently decided to give my child my last name instead of the father's. Some say I shouldn't do that, while others think I have every right." Heather T. says she too believes it depends on if whether dad is actively involved or not in the baby's life. "I think that it depends on your situation," she says. "If the father is a part of the child's life, then maybe you should leave the name alone unless he agrees to have it changed as well. But if the father is not going to have anything to do with the child, then by all means give the kid your name. Ultimately though it is up to you and what you think is best for your kid."

At the same time, Circle of Moms members agree that if the father is engaged in the child's life, an unmarried mom should at least consider giving the child his last name. "I think that if you're in a loving relationship with the father and figure you're going to stay with him and possibly marry him, then you should give the baby his last name," says Shannon." If you do marry him, then you'll all have the same name (assuming you take his name). But if you're not sure about him, and you think in a few years you won't be with him and you think things would be easier for you to have the baby have the same name as you, go for it."

There are good reasons for single moms to give babies their names, many Circle of Moms suggest. April M. advises: "It's a lot easier as well when they grow up to have the same name as you, because if not they ask why they are different."

Other Circle of Moms members recommend pairing together or hyphenating both last names, again with the caveat that the father is actively involved in the baby's upbringing. Blackwood K. says moms need to ask themselves: "Will the father be a positive aspect in your child's life for the long term? If yes, then you could use both names, if not then maybe you have the right [to use just your name]. But whatever your decision, it should be for your child's sake, not to...get back at the man."


Nothing's Permanent...or Is It?

Some Circle of Moms members assure single moms that the decision does not have to be permanent. "If you are not married you aren't entitled to give your child the father's last name," says Brandy W. "Examine yourself and your motives and make the decision that feels best to you in your heart. If you and your child's father marry later you can always change your baby's last name. It costs a little over $100 to do, but you can always do it later so that takes off some of the pressure."

Still other Circle of Moms members caution that deciding the last name of the baby can be very delicate and should not be done lightly or with the wrong intentions. A baby's last name can turn into a bargaining chip, says Brenda. "I ended up using both surnames for my two kids. My (then) partner was absolutely against having both surnames so I gave him some advice: do something about making mine the same [as yours], or our babies' surname will stay combined. If I had been on my own I would definitely given my kids my own surname. They are a part of you, well that's how I felt anyway. We are now married, so as promised I have changed our kid's surnames to my husband's." Leanne H. agrees. "My son has my last name," says Leanne H. "I made it clear that there was no other choice in the matter. If my boyfriend and I were married it might be different. However, we are not."

There are some Circle of Moms members who believe that ultimately the child should make the decision on his last name, when he's old enough. "A friend of mine gave her son her last name, then when he was old enough (I think he's six now), she gave him the option of having it changed to his father's last name," says Laura C.

If you weren't married when you had your baby, whose last name did you use?

Image Source: Cvrcak1 via Flickr/Creative Commons

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.

Chris14522144 Chris14522144 4 years
I am a expecting father, my beautiful 22 year old girlfriend is 4 months pregnant and we have been in a argument for 3 days now regarding this topic. Our relationship is not one of the "bad" type and i do not plan on EVER leaving this child even if my girlfriend and me dont work out. But in my opinion, even if the mom and dad (boyfriend and girlfriend, NOT husband and wife YET) dont work out, then the childs last name should still be the fathers! I understand where you all are coming from, yes, if i planned on leaving or if i was abusive, then YES the baby should have the moms last name, but if im a great guy who treats the woman like a princess, even if we arent married YET, it should still take the fathers last name!!! and YES, in the end, its the mothers decision! but all these websites i look at, they dont say anything about a good guy who isnt married yet to a great girl! it all is a bunch of women getting together and bashing on men ( okay, yes there is some women who agree :> ) im just shocked that my girlfriend is actually even considering using her last name! so please, i would like a reply from a non feminist and a non judgmental real female who will answer this question, What should my girlfriend do about naming the child, should it take the male or female last name? answer that, based on these facts 1) my boyfriend is a great hardworking loving man 2) we have been talking about marriage and i know it will happen 3) he isnt abusive and would never hit me 4) he will always be there for the baby and i know it! 5) even if things dont work out between us, i know 100% that he will be a great father and he will always be there for that child 6) i love him, he loves me, hes great, im great, the child will be great!
Blaire2815431 Blaire2815431 6 years
I am not married to my daughters' father, nor do I ever plan to be. But since he is involved in her life, I chose to give her her fathers' last name. I think children should have their fathers' name, or a hyphenated version of both names unless the father is completely out of the picture. However, just like with the majority of issues involved in family/ parenting, this is an individual choice and preference. Good Luck! :)
ChristinaWannamaker ChristinaWannamaker 6 years
Its pretty simple.... The baby takes the last name of the mom.. oh, what if she isn't married to the father of the child?... Again, the baby takes the last name of the mom. Whats so difficult with this.... I don't get it......
MadieKnudson MadieKnudson 6 years
I think if the Father is not going to be in the child's life then I defiantly think the Mother should give her baby her last name. I would do it that way.
TamaraTaivaloja TamaraTaivaloja 6 years
My 1st child, I was unmarried, not even really with the father, although @ 9 months we did get back together and I felt that even if we stayed together or not, that our child should have her fathers last name (big issue w my father @ the time, he felt differently). We did end up married, had a few more children, and are now divorced. My 4th child, I was not w the father, was not sure if he would be around or not, but @ this time I felt very strongly that my child should have my last name (I took back my maiden name before the baby was born). I struggle @ times w whether I should have given him his fathers last name or not (mainly for heritage?), but I stay firm with him having my last name. He is 5 now, and if someday he wants to change his name that would be up to him. His father is not an active participant in his life, still.
JessicaBanittMoore JessicaBanittMoore 6 years
I Have three children, all by the same man who is now my husband, we finally decided to marry while I was pregnant with our third. While I was pregnant with our first we were dating and broke up, he was involved with the pregnancy and after our son was born but it was a shaky relationship with us and I chose to give our son my last name. When our son was two we came back together as a couple and moved in together. Our daughter was born 3 years later and we chose to hyphenate her last name, my name and his name. When we were married I hyphenated my last name and our third childs name is also hyphenated. I do wish that I had chosen to hyphenate my first now because the family dynamics are different from when he was born. His name can be changed but it is a little costly and the red tape is a little daunting. But if you know that the father is not going to be around for your child you really should give that baby your last name.
LaurieArd LaurieArd 6 years
But if you are pregnant and the father seems to act like he will be there when the child is born and once the baby is born or further down the line when the child gets older the father is not in the picture and you named the baby after him... Can you get it changed?
Photos of Prince Harry With Kids
6 Tips to Get Baby to Drink From a Bottle
When Can Kids Ride in Front Seat of Car?
Should You Teach Kids to Share?
From Our Partners
Latest Moms
All the Latest From Ryan Reynolds