Choosing Your Baby's Name Before You Deliver Is More Important Than You Think

For lots of new parents, deciding on a baby name is an impossible task before they've actually met the baby in question. Many new parents hold off on naming the baby for a few hours after birth, to make sure their choice fits, or even until they're getting ready to leave the hospital and have to finish filling out the birth certificate. But a new study has a very good reason that you might want to slap a name on that baby as soon as he makes his debut: the increased risk of medical mistakes for no-name infants.


The problem comes from the fact that hospitals have to put an identification bracelet on every single baby: ID bracelets help make sure that the right tiny patients are getting the right medication, as well as ensure that no unauthorized person can scoop the baby up and swan out the door with him. When there's no actual given name to put on an ID bracelet, hospitals typically go with something like "BabyGirl LastName" to provide some measure of identification.

When babies are rooming in with Mom, this isn't as much of an issue, but more than 1 in 10 newborns spend some part of their hospital stay in neonatal intensive care. If a nurse walks in and sees my kid and yours next to each other:

BabyBoy Ogden

BabyBoy Olson

... what are the chances she might mix up their medications, compared to the odds if she walks in and sees this instead?

Han Solo Ogden

James Tiberius Kirk Olson III

More from The Stir: How to Pick a Baby Name: 7 Dos & Don'ts

When there's an electronic health record in place, there can be some checks and balances making sure the right patients are getting the right treatments: bar codes on the ID bracelets and medications, for example, that both need to be scanned before anything can be administered. But no computer can completely eliminate human error: There's no way the computer can guess, for example, that the doctor meant to place an order of caffeine citrate for BabyBoy Ogden but accidentally put it in for BabyBoy Olson instead. Computers are not psychic, and mind-reading technology is not likely to be available to hospital for several more software upgrade cycles at least.

So what to do when technology can't help? For one thing, some hospitals have started making ID bracelets for unnamed infants based on their mother's name instead of a generic option: So my child would be labeled as "AimeesBoy" instead of just "BabyBoy." Hospitals that have taken this one little step have already seen some small improvements in medication errors. And of course, parents can avoid this situation by having a baby name ready to go by the time the baby arrives. If your due date is approaching and you can't think of a name that fits, you can go ahead and name your baby Han Solo -- I don't mind sharing.

Image via © Tetra Images / Corbis

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