Choosing a baby name that fits can feel all-consuming. So much goes into finding the name that suits your child perfectly – not only at birth, but throughout all the phases of their life. A great baby name has to grow with your baby. It should feel natural, comfortable, and right for your infant, your toddler, your school kid, your adolescent, and – dare we even think about it – your future adult.
Baby naming advice, be it welcome or not, is everywhere. Once your pregnancy has been revealed, friends, family, and even total strangers will weigh in with their opinions about baby names. The trick is how to take in the advice you want and need, and how to tune out and disregard the rest.
Finding a baby name that fits looks different for everyone. Some of us start early while others wait until baby is on the way. Others wait even longer, until the day they meet their babies and look them in the eye before choosing a name. We make mental lists: We keep our ears perked in supermarkets, and parks, listening for names we hadn’t thought of, or haven’t heard before. We look to heritage, or people we admire, or historical figures we respect, even characters from books we love. All of these methods of list making are valid ways of choosing a name that embodies our hopes of who we imagine our babies will grow up to be.
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If all this leaves you even more confused than you already were, here’s a handy guide to finding a baby name that fits, and grows with, your baby.
- Resist the temptation to overthink or overshare. Striving too hard for a perfect baby name can backfire. It’s possible to talk yourself out of almost any name if you analyze it too deeply, so just don’t. And, if you do choose a name early in the game, consider carefully who you share it with. Only you have to love your baby’s name. Not the rest of the world.
- Take your time. There’s no rule that says you have choose the perfect name and have that name embroidered on a baby blanket before that baby is even born. It’s not a crime to wait a few days to settle on a name after your baby is born. Look your baby in the eyes, and choose a name from what you see looking back at you. And don’t panic if your chosen name takes a day or two to feel right once it’s attached to your real-live baby.
- Take inspiration from time and place. Lists of place-names and baby names inspired by seasons are a fun option when choosing your baby’s name. Be it the place you met your partner, or loved visiting, or one you’ve never been to, but dream of traveling to as a family one day – many a new baby has borne a place-inspired name. And season, holiday-themed, astrological-inspired names that are based on your baby’s estimated due date or actual birthdate, or ahem, when your baby was conceived, are a super source of name inspiration. Cruise, Florence, Austin, Bali, Autumn, August, Solstice, or Frost – places and seasons lend themselves well to personalized and meaningful names.
- Consult the family tree. Heritage baby names are reverent and meaningful. Not only will you discover some gorgeous and creative names inspired by your ancestors, celebrating family history helps us all feel a sense of belonging. Whether you’re determined to see your child carry on your mother’s maiden name, or the name of a grandparent, or you reach way back to distant relatives you never met, who had fantastic names – family trees can be a great source of baby name ideas.
- More than just a name. Most names have a meaning. It’s helpful to think about what traits or values you want your baby’s name to reflect? Maybe you hope to instill your children with inner strength by giving them names that mean “strong,” or you want to emphasize all that’s positive with a baby name that means “light,” or even “happy.” If you want to cultivate a love of the outdoors, nature-themed baby names abound. Special meanings can be spun into some fabulous and fitting names.
- Consider gender neutral. Increasingly, attaching gender to a name feels arbitrary and limiting for some parents. If you love the name Charlie but give birth to a girl, there’s zero reason you can’t give that sweet name to your daughter. And the same goes for so many names today that were once considered to be strictly masculine or feminine, but are now one-size fits all – fair game for everyone. If you aren’t into gender stereotyping, there are all the more gorgeous and meaningful unisex names to choose from.
- Strive for balance. Names are subject to personal preference. Not everyone is going to like, or love your favorite baby name, possibly not even your significant other. Disagreements will happen. You can’t please everyone and shouldn’t try. But if you can’t tolerate unsolicited feedback about your baby’s name, it might be worth finding the middle ground between completely obscure and overused. Hint: There are loads of classic baby names that are still uncommon.
- Does it blend well? Given names are only part of the equation when you’re naming your baby. When you are saying your baby’s name out loud, make sure it fits together with the last, and possibly middle, names. It’s also helpful, but not essential, to consider how it goes together with sibling names. There are no rules, but if you are striving for symmetry, it’s a good idea to use sibling names as a guide.
- Make sure you like the name. The easiest way to make sure you like how a name feels and sounds is to say it, out loud, as much as possible. No we aren’t suggesting you name the family dog your favorite baby name, but we do suggest you say or even call your favorite names out loud, and see how it feels on your tongue and how it chimes to your ear.
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