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How to Choose a Baby Name

We cannot, cannot decide on a name and the baby (boy) will be here in less than a month. At first we enjoyed coming up with ideas and looking at the Babble name guide, but now that it’s so close, all of the names just feel wrong or weird. What am I going to do? What if I can’t come up with something? Do I have to give the name the minute he’s born? I feel like I’m losing my mind here. How will I ever decide?

- Mother of Anon

People fantasize about what to name their babies for years before they get pregnant, but the reality can be somewhat less fantastic. You want to choose a name you feel really good about – a name that fits the kind of boy you imagine you might have. That’s no small amount of pressure. As pregnancy progresses, you’re bombarded with options and statistics: names that are so in they’re over, names about to be so in they will be over, names that were never in for good reason, and so on. Not to mention scads of people chiming in with their opinions and muddying up your instincts.

Pregnancy is chock-full of decisions, and expecting couples will often find that they’ve latched on to one of these decisions with disproportionate energy and angst. Stroller selection can eat up weeks of billable hours. Swatches for the nursery walls can lead to tears. Partly this is due to the information-overloaded culture we live in. When there are 900,000 strollers to choose from, how do you decide? (The answer, of course, is to let our experts do the work for you – Babble Best Strollers).

But mostly the overthinking comes from just wanting to do right by your yet-to-be-born kid. You’re not nuts, you just care – A LOT. If you see the root of the anxiety as something sweet and loving, it can lift the burden a little and help you calm down, which, in turn, might help you decide.

baby-name-poll.png

How important is a name’s meaning to you:

Extremely important: it’s the name’s root

Somewhat important, but who really knows these things?

Who cares what it meant in the 12th century?

Will you check to see what your potential names mean before making a decision?

Definitely

Maybe

No

If a name you liked had a meaning you weren’t crazy about, would you still use the name?

Of course

It would make us think twice

No way

There are millions of names out there, not to mention the increasingly common option of inventing your own. Some practical advice: Narrow the possibilities. Give yourself some parameters: first initials, ending sounds, unique spellings, names that connect to experiences you’ve shared, to one of your families or pasts, etc. Prioritizing will bring the list to a manageable length. You can always widen your net if you’re not finding anything that fits.

Context is important. Think about the last name – the arrangement of sounds and syllables and how to complement them. Always remember to say the full name aloud as well as look at it written down. You may also have to let go of some of the context you’ve been carrying around, namely, name baggage. Your man loves Trevor, but that’s the name of the kid who gave you a wedgie at swim team practice in 1985. Ray is simply lovely, but will you always think of Romano when you say it? And the family names? You might not remember your Grandpa Henry fondly, but it’s a pretty great name! The fact is, when you name your son Trevor or Ray or Henry those other associations will soon fade. The power of your child to take over complete ownership of a name is significant. This goes for you and the others in his life. If you have a strong, truly horrible association – was Trevor’s wedgie the worst moment of your childhood? – maybe forget it. But it might be worth letting a middling connection go and trusting your yet-to-be-born child will inhabit his name in his own time and way.

Another thing you can do is stop talking to people about the name choice. This is YOUR boy, not your neighbor’s. Who cares if you neighbor’s idiot ex-husband was named Dashiell? You like it, you can use it. Though if you do want more concrete information about names – pronunciation, origin, root meaning, peer associations and even how it looks on an iPhone – check them out on the Babble Baby Name Guide.

Time pressure is a common feeling at the end of pregnancy no matter what. Sometimes the deadline is just what an indecisive couple needs; you make your life easier if you fill out the birth certificate form in the hospital, so make a decision already! That said, you can actually file for the birth certificate later, and you can change a name on a birth certificate – we know people who’ve done it. There may have been a few titters at the time, but now they’ve got a kid with the name they love, and who cares about what you called Junior in the first month? Not to encourage any more vacillation, but the real deadline is a little more flexible than you might think.

Clearly, though, the decision has taken on some deep meaning for you, so it’s quite possible that your feelings about “getting the right name” might not lift as soon as the certificate is signed. It is completely normal for a name to feel “weird” or “wrong” for a while after the baby is born. He has yet to own his name. You have yet to say it a million times, to hear other people say it, to hear him say it himself. But once you do, there’s a pretty good chance that whatever name you pick is going to feel very right.

Have a question? Email parentaladvisory@babble.com

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