Baby Names in the Hospital

4 Ways to Protect Your Baby from Medical Errors

Newborn and mother with bracelets
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Naming your baby is something that is very personal. There are a wide number of beliefs about when a baby should be named. Some people have chosen baby names for their offspring before they were even a couple. Many other families know fairly early on in their pregnancy what their baby’s name will be, boy or girl. This is true even for couples who do not chose to find out the sex of their baby in pregnancy.

They either choose a gender-neutral name or they have a name for a girl and a name for a boy. There are also families who, through religious affiliation or family tradition, choose not to give their baby a name right away, sometimes waiting weeks to give an official name.

So what does a baby’s name have to do with the hospital? Many folks would tell you that you can’t leave the hospital without a baby name. That does not appear to be true in most instances, though it is highly encouraged that you have a baby name chosen to help facilitate the customary paperwork filings while in the hospital. (This includes the birth certificate and the social security card for United States citizens.)

A study recently looked at the problems with naming conventions and medical errors. This study assumes that you are giving birth in a hospital, and that the hospital has preprinted bracelets for your baby with a generic term, usually BABY, for the bracelet with the mother’s last name following.

If the sex of the baby is known, bracelets may read BABYGIRL or BABYBOY. The problem comes when you have all the infants in a nursery having one of two first names, and potentially having similar or identical last names.

This study, conducted mostly in the neonatal intensive care (NICU), found that there was a 36% drop in the number of retract and reorder (RAR) events in the nursery when using the more distinct naming convention.

Some reports said that this was a call to name your baby early, I would say that this study shows that using the mother’s name can help alleviate the problems without forcing everyone to have a name picked out at the first admission to the hospital.

There was also a way to identify multiples that was addressed in the naming conventions suggested, simply add the birth order number in front of the name. For example, if Ashley Marks had twin boys, they would be 1Ashleysboy Marks and 1Ashleysboy Marks.

All of the naming study aside, if you want to know what you can do to help prevent medical errors, try this:

  1. Be sure to check the bracelet you and your partner are given against the baby’s bracelet. This identifies you as the parents and helps prevent baby mix ups.
  2. Be sure that everyone who comes to see the baby to perform a test or check verifies the number on their orders with the bracelet on the baby. If you have questions about the order, don’t hesitate to ask for reassurance.
  3. Stay with your baby whenever possible. Have someone go with your baby if he or she needs to go to the nursery. Follow the above suggestions even in the nursery. This is important even if you are rooming in.
  4. Contact the nurses immediately if your baby’s bracelets fall off. If new bracelets are used, be sure to identify the number and ensure they match your bracelets.


    Adelman JS, Schechter C, Aschner J, et al. The “babyboy/babygirl” problem: evaluating the risk of non-distinct, temporary first names for newborns and measuring the effect of changing the paradigm to reduce wrong patient orders. Presented at: Vermont Oxford Network Conference; November 2014; Chicago, IL. Available at: Accessed August 1, 2015

    Adelman, J., Aschner, J., Schechter, C., Angert, R., Weiss, J., Rai, A., . . . Southern, W. (2015). Use of Temporary Names for Newborns and Associated Risks. Pediatrics. doi: 10.1542/peds.2015-0007

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