pregnant woman sitting on couch with pen and notebook in hand, thinking about what to choose for her child's last name

For many parents, deciding what to name their baby occupies a lot of brain space and conversation during the 40 weeks of pregnancy. It’s a big deal! But the decisions don’t stop once you’ve settled on the baby’s first name. What about the baby’s last name? 

For many parents, this is a straightforward decision; for others, it’s a challenging task. Cultural norms, family traditions, and logistical challenges all come into play when determining what last name to give a child.

Traditional last name

The most common choice for parents is to give their child the traditional last name of either the father or the mother. This is the simplest option and allows the child to maintain a family connection through their name. This is also the option many of us default to without much deliberation. Most parents prefer their child to share their last name, and if both parents have the same last name it’s an obvious choice. For parents with different last names, choosing one name over the other may be challenging.

Two last names

If both parents want the child to share their name, there are several ways to approach this.

One name may be selected as the child’s middle name, with the other as the surname. Or, both last names can be used. Another option is to give the child a hyphenated last name that combines both parents’ last names.

Using both last names allows the child to have a connection to both parents and can be a great way to honor each family’s cultural heritage. However, it can be difficult for the child to maintain this name as they get older. There are also often logistical and administrative challenges with having a hyphenated name — sometimes a double last name may be too long for computer systems, and some forms of identification do not allow for a hyphen. None of these are dealbreakers, especially if a representation of both parents’ names is important to you.

Combination or new last name

A combination last name is a merger of some or all of both parents’ last names. This last name is a unique combination that allows the child to create their own identity and maintain a connection to both parents. This option is highly dependent on the names that you are working with — and it can sometimes be confusing to have a third name thrown into the family mix.

There are many ways to approach your child’s name, some even involving the parent changing their own name! I chose a hyphenated last name for myself because I felt strongly that I wanted to keep my maiden name while also sharing a name with my husband and child.

Choosing a last name for your child is an important decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Many parents stress over what name to give their child but don’t always think beyond first and middle names. As with all parenting decisions, there are several aspects to consider, including cultural traditions, family dynamics, and more. Everyone approaches this decision differently, but with careful consideration, you’ll know what’s best for you!

Hannah grew up in rural central Massachusetts and now lives in a teeny tiny town in the Berkshires. Hannah has BS and MS degrees in engineering and has spent most of her career working as a manager in the manufacturing industry — where there are few women, and even fewer moms. She is currently a Senior Manager in the Aerospace Manufacturing industry, working on parts that go into Commercial and Military Airplanes. Hannah and her husband met during college, when they were both volunteering at a local food bank. After graduating, building their careers, traveling, and even living on opposite coasts for a few years, they were married in 2015 and welcomed a son in 2019. Together, they love to camp, travel, and hone their DIY skills. In 2023, they completed a 3-year project to design and build their family's forever home. Hannah loves to volunteer, especially with organizations that help women and mothers advance their careers.