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Baby’s last name: How do mamas decide?

A record number of American women are keeping their maiden names when they marry, The New York Times reports.


And unlike in earlier generations, when some women chose to keep their maiden names for “political” reasons, a Times study indicates that women today are more likely to keep their names when they marry out for professional reasons, or to retain a sense of their own identity. It’s all about the SEO, baby.

The study finds:

“Roughly 20 percent of women married in recent years have kept their names. . . An additional 10 percent or so chose a third option, such as hyphenating their name or legally changing it while continuing to use their birth name professionally.”

Fascinating stuff. “Women with an advanced degree were five to 10 times more likely to keep their names. Asian and Hispanic women were more likely to as well,” the Times found. There is also research to suggest that the older a woman is when she marries, the more likely it is that she keeps her name.

The majority of married American women still do change their last name when they marry, citing tradition, a desire to feel like a single family unit, or even (occasionally!) when a woman is not particularly fond of her maiden name. But the rise in women keeping maiden names suggests that for many brides, that decision is increasingly a conscious choice, and one not necessarily made in immediate deference to convention.

Consider some of the more widely used options for modern spouses. We’ll call the lovely couple Amy Smith and Chris Winston:

Woman takes man’s name Amy Winston and Chris WinstonMan takes woman’s name Amy Smith and Chris Smith
Couple creates new hybrid last name together Amy and Chris WinstonsmithCouple hyphenates new last name together Amy Smith-Winston
and Chris Smith-Winston

Woman uses hyphenated version of name while man keeps name Amy Smith-Winston and Chris WinstonWoman uses maiden name as middle name Amy Smith Winston and Chris WinstonWoman takes man’s name privately but uses maiden name in professional life Amy Smith/ Amy Winston and Chris Winston

The dilemmas do not necessarily end when the couple is married; choosing a last name for your children can also evoke similar discussions. Should a baby girl get mom’s last name? Should a baby boy take a hyphenated one? What happens when a couple isn’t married? When did this all get so complicated?

Let’s take Amy and Chris again. They’ve had a baby! In fact, they’ve had two. So, what are the commonly used naming conventions for their children? Most women give their children their male partner’s last name. What are their other options?:

Children take father’s last name Grace and Charlie Winston

Children take mother’s maiden name (more common if Amy and Chris had never married) Grace and Charlie Smith

Children have hyphenated last names Grace and Charlie Smith-Winston

Children have blended last name Grace and Charlie Winstonsmith

Children (or just daughter) has mother’s maiden name as middle name Grace Smith Winston and Charlie Winston

Sure, it’s complicated. But modern American families seem to feel more free than ever to craft an identity that works for them.

How did you decide whose last name to take marriage and for baby?

When expecting a baby, there is a lot you can test-run in advance: Take that stroller around the block. Go for a spin with the car seat secured in place. Learn how to use the baby carrier with help from a doll. But breastfeeding? It's not exactly possible to practice before baby's arrival.

The absence of a trial makes it all the more important to prepare in other ways for breastfeeding success—and it can be as simple as adding a few of our lactation aiding favorites to your registry.

MilkBliss chocolate chip soft baked lactation cookies

MilkBliss lactation cookies

Studies have shown the top reason women stop breastfeeding within the first year is because they are concerned about their milk supply being enough to nourish baby. Consider MilkBliss Lactation Cookies to be your secret weapon. Not only are they wholesome and delicious, but they were formulated specifically for breastfeeding moms based on the science of galactagogues—also known as milk boosters. They also come in peanut butter and wild blueberry flavors.

$23

Evereden multi-purpose healing balm

Evereden multipurpose healing balm

Also up there on the list of reasons women stop breastfeeding: the toll the early days can take on nipples. Made from just five ingredients, this all natural healing balm is ideal for soothing chafed nipples, making for a much more comfortable experience for mama as her body adjusts to the needs of a breastfeeding baby.

$20

Lansinoh milk storage bags

Lansinoh milk storage bags

For a breastfeeding mama, there are few things more precious and valuable than the milk she worked so hard to pump—and it's the stuff of nightmares to imagine it spilling out in the fridge. With these double-sealed milk storage bags, you can be assured your breastmilk is safe and sound until baby needs it.

$12.50

Belly Bandit bandita nursing bra

Belly Bandit bandita nursing bra

Nursing a baby is a 24/7 job, which calls for some wardrobe modifications. Because Belly Bandit specializes in making things more comfortable for the postpartum mama, they've truly thought of every detail—from the breathable fabric to the clips that can be easily opened with one hand.

$47

boob-ease soothing therapy pillows

Boob Ease soothing therapy pillows

For nursing moms, duct can quickly become a four-letter word when you suspect it's getting clogged. By keeping these soothing breast pillows in your breastfeeding arsenal, you can immediately go on the defense against plugged milk ducts by heating the pads in the microwave or cooling them in the freezer.

$25

Belly Bandit perfect nursing tee

Belly Bandit perfect nursing tee

A unfortunate reality of nursing is that it can really seem to limit the wardrobe options when you have to think about providing easy, discrete access. But by adding functional basics to your closet, you can feel confident and prepared for breastfeeding on the go.

$59

Bebe au Lait premium cotton nursing cover

Bebe au Lait cotton nursing cover

Nursing in public isn't every mama's cup of tea. But babies can't always wait until you've found a private place to get down to business if that's your preference. That's where a nursing cover comes in handy. This one is made from premium cotton and features a patented neckline that allows for airflow and eye contact even while you're covered.

$36

Lactation Lab basic breastmilk testing kit

Lactation Lab breastmilk testing kit

Curious to learn more about the liquid gold you're making, mama? The testing kit from Lactation Labs analyzes your breast milk for basic nutritional content like calories and protein, as well as vitamins, fatty acids and environmental toxins to help boost your breastfeeding confidence.

$99

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It's my personal opinion that this belly deserves some love. So starting with my second pregnancy, I've relied on Belly Bandit's postpartum belly bands (which I own in three sizes) to help support my core, reduce swelling, and begin to activate my midsection after nine months of being stretched to the max.

Here's why I love Belly Bandit:

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