There are six options when it comes to choosing your baby's surname.

Parents have always spent time discussing what name they’ll give their baby. Now, more and more parents are spending time discussing what surname they’ll give their baby. It’s no longer a simple matter of handing down the father’s surname, or the mother’s, or hyphenating the two.

Legally, Australian parents are allowed to give their children a completely new surname, and a lot of people are taking advantage of that opportunity.

Lorelei Vashti mashed up her real surname, Waite, with her husband’s surname, Wortsman, to create the surname Waitsman for her children. She says it hasn’t caused any hassles.

“I think, in three and a half years, two people have questioned me about it,” she tells Mamamia. “Literally, no one cares. Everyone’s doing their own thing. You have to do what’s right for you.”

Vashti, the author of How To Choose Your Baby’s Last Name: A Handbook For New Parents, says same-sex parents are leading the way when it comes to alternative surname options.

“They have to try to find new ways of doing this.”

choosing a surname for your baby
Lorelei Vashti mashed up her real surname, Waite, with her husband’s surname, Wortsman, to create the surname Waitsman for her children. Image via Instagram/loreleivashti.

Swinburne University research from earlier this year shows that around three per cent of Victorian couples give their children a surname that isn’t shared by either parent.  Vashti believes this number is on the rise. She says the parents she knows are talking about this “all the time”.

“This is the latest trend. I think if people are aware that it is legal to do this, then we will be starting to see a lot more.

“You can definitely try to find something that aligns a bit more closely with your values.”

Vashti says there are six options when it comes to choosing a baby’s surname:

  • Go with the father’s surname: This is still the most popular option, by far. Around 90 per cent of children have their father’s surname, although in more than a third of families, the mother has a different surname. Vashti says it doesn’t mean the women aren’t feminists. “A lot of women do feel, ‘I carried the baby, I’ve got that connection, and he hasn’t had that, so this is a gift, almost, to him.’”
  • Go with the mother’s surname: This happens in just under five per cent of families. “Sometimes the father’s surname is just horrible and it’s a much better solution to have the mother’s surname,” Vashti explains. “The other thing I’ve heard from the male point of view is they just didn’t like their father. The name had bad memories for them and they didn’t care about abandoning it.”
  • Hyphenate the mother’s and father’s surnames: Vashti says this option isn’t as popular as it was in the 1980s and 1990s. She thinks people have unnecessary concerns about giving kids hyphenated surnames. “Everyone says, ‘But what will they do when they have kids?’ They’ll do whatever they want! You have to do what’s right for you now.”
  • Give the first child the father’s surname, the next the mother’s, and so on: “In the past two months, four people in my social circle have done this,” Vashti says. “They gave their first child the father’s surname and didn’t really have a conversation. Then they got pregnant a second time and started to think about it. In one case, it was twins, so the mother has two children in the family with her surname and the father has one. She feels like she got a better deal!”
  • Mashing up the father’s and mother’s surname to make a new one: As well as Vashti doing this herself, one of her best friends did it earlier this month. “Her surname is Stefanovic, his surname is Hart and their little newborn son is called Hartovic. She’s Serbian, and she really felt strongly about her culture heritage coming through the surname.”
  • Coming up with a completely new surname for the child: Vashti says the editor of her book did this recently. “She was actually pregnant when she was editing the book and she was talking to her husband about it. Then the baby came and they gave her an entirely new surname. It’s a word that’s a season of the year and it’s lovely and it makes you feel happy.”

Choosing a surname for a baby is very much a personal decision. But Vashti believes it says a lot.

“Some people look backwards to tradition, and that’s fine. Some people look forward and they’re making decisions more to do with the future and what they want the world to be rather than the convention of what has always been done.”

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