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How Did You Choose Baby’s Surname?

Jon Whittle

Isabelle… Isabella… Isobel… Scratch that. Carolina… Caroline… Hmmm… Picking baby names has got to be more of the most exciting parts of expecting a baby—but most of the time attention is focused primarily on first and middle names. Recently, the New York Times drew attention to the other name sometimes up for debate: baby’s last name, looking at choices modern parents make when it comes to both their baby’s—and the whole family’s—surname. 

Plus: Top Baby Names of 2012

The vast majority of women born in the U.S. stick with tradition in taking their husband’s surname upon marriage; the Times cites a 2009 study analyzing 2004 data that found only 6 percent of native-born American married women had unconventional surnames, e.g. hyphenating their last name with their husband’s, keeping their birth name, or taking their husband’s surname while legally changing their birth name to their middle name. For women in that minority, settling on a surname for baby can be more complicated than just passing along her partner's name to baby. 

Plus: 20 Old-Fashioned Baby Names That Are Back in Style

I fall into the traditional category, having taken my husband’s last name when we married (although admittedly I preferred the sound of my birth name, Melanie Monroe, to my married name, Melanie Rosen—and at the suggestion of a friend I even lobbied for us to both become Monrosen… which my husband-to-be scoffed at). For me, having grown up in a family where everyone shared the same last name—even after my parents’ divorce—I wanted that same kind of immediate, face value association with my kids. And while I’m not about to change my name or anyone else’s in the family at this point, I am fascinated by the choices that others make (Joanna Goddard over at A Cup of Jo has some great reasons behind her choice of a hyphenated last name for her son).

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So, tell me: how did you choose your family’s last name(s)? Did you take your partner’s last name? Did you hyphenate or create a new name altogether for one or both of you? How did you choose your baby’s last name?