What to do if the perfect name isn't so perfect once you meet your little one.

By Marisa Cohen
Updated August 31, 2017

When he was kicking in your belly, you were sure he was a tough little Frankie, but now that you’ve met the gentle soul, he definitely seems more like a sweet Cole. Or maybe your creative pick of Harvest Moon has caused so much head-scratching from relatives that you’re revisiting your second choice, Jane.

If you’re having a case of baby-name regret, there are plenty of ways you can try out a more fitting name for your sweetie while still keeping the official name on paper in case he or she grows into it later. But if you’re absolutely sure you made a mistake and you want every trace of the original name gone, you can hit rewind and legally change your little one’s name. If you’re going to make the change, be sure to do it early, before your baby starts to recognize his or her name, which happens between 4 and 7 months. Here, three moms tell how they handled it, from the easiest option to the hardest:

Easy: Use a nickname or initials

As you’re holding your 7-pound cutie, you may realize the name you chose is just too big for her right now. This is where you go with something cute and diminutive, like Lulu, Buddy, J.J. or Kiki. “We named my youngest daughter the very royal-sounding Gwendolyn,” says Sunny, a mom in Oregon. “She is naughty and sassy, and the least princessy child in the world. So she’s Gwennie or Gwen—when we’re not calling her ‘Stitch.’" When your child grows up and wants to be taken more seriously at work, she can always go back to her more formal name. Or she can stick with her adorable nickname forever, as Tina Fey did (on her birth certificate: Elizabeth Stamatina Fey).

Moderate: Swap the middle name for the first

Think of your baby’s middle name as the runner up in a pageant—on standby to take over if the original winner can’t fulfill its duties. (Mindy Kaling, Brad Pitt, and Rihanna are just a few of the famous people we know by their middle name.) “We named my younger daughter Álienor, which is the medieval French version of Eleanor,” says Katelyn, a mom of two from Minnesota. “We thought it was so beautiful, but we realized right away no one could pronounce it. It just kept confusing everyone, so within weeks we decided to use her middle name, Rose. As it turns out, Rose fits our sweet daughter perfectly. When she was little and she met new kids and told them her name, they would immediately smile at the thought of a flower, rather than saying, Huh?”

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Difficult: Make it official

If you’re serious about picking an entirely different name for your child—and you want that name to appear on official documents such as passports, driver’s licenses, and bank accounts for the rest of his or her life, you’ll have to ask a court to legally change it. Each state is different, so it’s best to contact a lawyer or call your county courthouse for information. “My husband had originally suggested the name Lev, which means 'lion' in Ukraine, where his family is from. I liked it but countered with the Russian version, Liev, which I thought sounded softer,” says Libby, a New York mom of two. “But shortly after we started calling him Liev, I realized it just didn’t feel right, and I wanted to change it to Lev, which sounded like the right name after all. I know it was just one letter, but I didn’t want to make everything confusing by having one name on his official papers while we called him something else. It took a surprisingly long time and a lot of effort and the help of a lawyer friend. But I’m glad we did it. He just turned four and he’s every inch a Lev.”