Beth Whitehouse Newsday columnist Beth Whitehouse

Beth Whitehouse writes about children and families.

In response to a Parental Guidance column regarding whether parents can change their minds once they choose a baby's name ("Birth certificate name change? Not so fast," July 18), a reader emailed this: "I believe your column in today's paper did not supply complete information."

The reader went on to explain that she and her husband left their hospital without giving any first name to each of their three children, born over a period of seven years. Birth certificates were issued with other information -- last name, date of birth -- leaving the first name blank. She and her husband decided on names when they were ready and later registered them at town hall.

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That's accurate. If you choose a first name at the hospital and later change your mind, that's when you have a problem and need to seek a legal name change. But if you leave without filling in any first name at all, that rarely used loophole buys parents extra time. You later fill out a state form called a "supplemental report of given name," says Jo-Ann Raia, Huntington Town clerk. There's no time limit, Raia says.

"After we brought our first daughter home, we tried the different names we were considering and finally decided on one after she was 7 weeks old," the writer says. "Getting a new birth certificate with her 'real' name was easy. I would recommend trying out the name at home and getting accustomed to it on your baby before registering it."