Picking a name for your baby is a big decision! Before they’re even born, you are deciding what they will be called for their entire life. No pressure 😉
But in reality, whatever name you wind up choosing, it’s going to be perfect. Everyone in your life will grow to love it as soon as they meet your sweet and cuddly baby for the first time.
If you’ve announced your pregnancy, I’m guessing you are starting to get flooded with questions about what you’re naming that little one. You’re probably getting swamped with suggestions, whether you want them or not, too.
Most baby naming resources I came across while choosing a name for N were lists. And while these lists are certainly helpful, I think getting a handle on what it is you want in a name is an important place to start.
Today I’ll also help you decide about if and when you want to share baby’s name and ways to get your partner more involved with the process.
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10 things to consider before choosing a baby name
1. The popularity of a name
Knowing a name’s popularity or if it is trending can be helpful when making a choice. Some parents may love a name so much that they don’t care about its popularity. If this is you, then I say, go for it! Who cares? You’re the one that gets to say and hear it every day. You should love it.
Other parents want to choose a name that is unique for their child. Even if you don’t want the name to be one of a kind, you may not want there to be five other kids in his or her first-grade class with the same name.
Either way, I think it’s worth at least being aware of the popularity of your favorite name before you commit.
How do I know if a name is trending?
It can happen that you think the name is uncommon because you don’t know anyone with that name, but many first-time parents don’t spend a lot of time around small children. Name trends tend to be generational. A great way to find out what names are trending is to ask new parents and teacher friends.
Check out the Social Security Baby Name Lists. Every year they publish a list of the number of babies born and rank the names in order from most to least common. You can view lists by country and for your state. You can also use their search feature to see how the popularity of a name has changed over time.
2. Baby Name length and possible nicknames
You’ll want to think about whether you prefer long or short names. You might want to choose a short name so that your child will always be called their full name. Shorter names tend to be easier to spell and don’t often involve nicknames
Maybe you prefer longer names because you like the way they sound or the name has special meaning. A longer name might give your child more choice on what they want to go by. Just be sure to think of all the possible nicknames associated with a longer name to make sure you like all of those too.
3. Alternative spellings or pronunciations
As you narrow down your name choices, you should think about different ways to spell and pronounce your favorite names. If you choose a name with different spelling variations or pronunciations, it is something you will always need to clarify.
My daughter and I both have names with spelling variations, and it is always a conversation when I need to give our names or do introductions. That’s not to say you shouldn’t choose a name if there are spelling variations, just make sure you’re aware of it.
4. Name associations
I know when my husband and I were choosing names, certain names would immediately be vetoed by the other due to an association. You know, like definitely not wanting a name because it reminds you of some horrible classmate or co-worker. We all have them.
While some associations will always stick, minor associations might not be the reason to cast off a name completely. If your association with a name is due to a recent and brief encounter, it will likely fade before you know it.
The same goes for some pop culture associations. Names that are minor characters in TV shows, movies or books don’t necessarily need to be vetoed right off the bat. They’re associations with the given show or book and will probably fade quicker than you’d expect.
5. Initials and how it sounds with your last name
Sometimes you might come up with a name you love but it just doesn’t flow with your last name, or the initials are sub-par. While I don’t think these should be deal breakers if you absolutely love the name, they may help you decide between two or three finalists.
You should consider the length of your last name combined with the length of possible first names too. Some parents might like the idea of a long name with many syllables. Others might prefer to pair a shorter first name with a longer last name (or vice versa).
6. Using family names
There might be a lot of pressure on you to use a family name, especially if your family has traditionally gone this route. My brother is actually the third of his name and has mentioned feeling like the pressure is on should he ever have a son.
Aside from names being passed down through generations, family names can be a great source of inspiration if you are feeling stuck. Think about names in your family that you like, or family members who inspire you.
Is there a family member who has passed that you’d like to honor? You might decide to use the name outright or look into related names or variations of the name.
Remember, you can find inspiration from both male and female family members regardless of your baby’s gender.
7. Gender neutral names
Another possibility to consider as you’re choosing a name for your little one is a gender-neutral name. Obviously, these work for both boys and girls and there are lots of great options. If you like the idea of using a gender-neutral name, you can find many specific lists for inspiration.
8. Religious names
If you are feeling stuck, you might find name inspiration by looking at biblical or other religious names, especially if faith is important in your life. Typically, names with religious affiliates are more traditional.
9. Geography-inspired names
Still not sure about what to name that little one? Maybe you can find inspiration in locations that you have lived. Good friends of ours have named both of their little ones based on special places in their lives.
Consider states and cities where you have lived. Also think about street names, vacation destinations, special mountains or trails to you and your partner, dream destinations and more.
You don’t need to literally name your child the same name as the city or street (unless you want to, of course). Instead, see if those special places relate to or remind you of a name. For example, if you love to vacation at Lake George and are having a girl, Georgia could be a great option.
10. Consistent “letter theme” (for example, all ‘m’ names)
If this is not your first baby, consider using a letter theme for their first names. If this is something you’d like to consider down the line, you may want to brainstorm a few names you like with the same first sound.
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How about the middle name?
The middle name is also something you want to choose carefully, but somehow carries a little less weight than the first name. You’ll want to make sure you like the sound of the first and middle names together. Some may opt for a middle name that will be used as a part of their everyday name. For example, Mary Ann.
My husband and I actually easily decided on a middle name before landing on a first name for N. We chose to use a family name for her middle name and because we knew that, we were able to narrow down first name choices based on how it sounded with the middle name we loved.
Another thing to consider when choosing a middle name, is that one day your child might choose to go by that name. This might be especially true if they share a first name with someone else in the family (dad, uncle, etc.). For this reason, you should make sure you love the middle name too.
Should we share the baby’s name before birth?
This is a tough question! And at the end of the day, it’s a completely personal choice. From anecdotal observations, I’ve noticed a fairly even split on the matter. Many of my friends and loved ones have told their name choice right away, and about the same number chose to keep it quiet.
We decided to wait to share the name until N was born; however, Patrick and I were in the habit of using baby’s name regularly when we were alone together. Little did I know, while we were out to dinner with my extended family, I was in the bathroom and Patrick let the name slip to the whole table. He instantly realized his slip, as did everyone else. At this point, everyone knew I wanted it to remain secret so they all continued to pretend they didn’t know until after the birth. I had to admit that they pulled it off pretty spectacularly when I found out after the fact.
Benefits to sharing baby’s name before birth
Even though I chose (unsuccessfully…) to keep our name secret, I do see some benefits to sharing if you are certain about your choice. Family members will refrain from suggesting other names, and will have time to get used to a name. Knowing the baby’s name can help other people in your life envision their role better if they know the name.
Additionally, people may enjoy knowing the name so that they can give personalized or monogrammed gifts to you at your baby shower. This also means that if you want to include baby’s name in the nursery somewhere you won’t need to cover it up or hide those decorations when sharing your nursery before baby is born.
Lastly, you won’t have to deal with everyone and their brother asking if you have a name yet 😉
Benefits to keeping baby’s name a secret until after birth
Keeping baby’s name a secret can be fun for you and your partner. This might be especially true if you have already announced the gender and celebrated other big pregnancy milestones with loved ones. Having a secret between you to reveal at the birth will be a fun surprise for everyone.
Additionally, you don’t have to worry about people’s reactions to your name or deal with them trying to change your mind. When you announce the name after the birth, everyone will be so overjoyed about the new baby they won’t bother scoffing at your beloved name choice.
What about input on name contenders?
I threw names around with some people in my life right after I announced my pregnancy and learned quickly that this was not a path I wanted to go down. I wasn’t ready to hear people’s real opinions on the names, especially names that I really liked! After making this mistake early on, Patrick and I agreed to keep all brainstorming between us from then on.
On the other hand, some people actually do a form of this for a game at their gender reveal party. Basically, you post a list of your top 10 names for each gender and guests cast a vote on their favorite of the 10. It’s a way to do an informal poll and get some insight. You’ll get to hear people’s reactions without engaging too much.
Where can I find baby name inspiration?
After using the list of 10 things to consider at the beginning of this article, you should have a better idea of what you’re looking for in a name. This will make browsing name lists a lot more productive!
I mentioned the Social Security Baby Name List above because I found it to be a really helpful tool in name choice. You can also check out our baby name inspiration board on Pinterest by following us.
How can I get my partner more involved in choosing a name for baby?
I hear a lot of expecting moms talking about their frustrations of picking a baby name with their partner. Often they are quick to veto, but won’t offer suggestions of their own.
Why not make a game of it? Basically, you post a piece of paper or a whiteboard in a central location in your home. I used the refrigerator.
- You want to have two columns, one for mom one for dad
- Mom starts by writing a name
- If dad doesn’t like the name he crosses it off, but has to put a name on his side
- You can make it more elaborate by circling or underlining names you like but to still keep the brainstorming going
I recommend starting the name process right away, but if you choose to find out the gender of your baby which usually happens in the 20-week ultrasound, then that’s the time to start getting serious about a name.
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How will we know when we’ve found the perfect baby name?
Somehow, you’ll just know! For us, it was one of the only names we both loved. As we made a point of using it to talk about our baby we loved it more and more.
As your list of names starts to become more focused, try the names on. Sit on them for a week. Think about the name and envision yourself using it. Talk to baby with the new name, talk about baby using the name with your partner. Pretty quickly you’ll know if it’s the right choice or not.
This strategy can actually be applied to so much of preparing for baby! Keep all of your thoughts, plans and ideas organized with the Nesting Planner.
What considerations on this list are helping your name selection process? Comment below with other inspiration and ideas too.
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I am a teacher of young children by trade and nature. I have years of experience with toddlers and elementary school-aged children from my days of nannying and teaching. Now as a mother to a toddler, N, I am learning every day about what it means to Mom Smart.