June 19, 2014 at 1:50 PM ET
Sure, the name you choose for your baby will be a defining piece of his or her identity for a lifetime. So no pressure, right? We talked to the experts — professionals and parents alike — for their tips on how to pick the perfect name… with no regrets.
Here are the top things people say parents wish they knew before naming their little bundle of joy:
1. The name is super popular.
“I had only heard of a couple people with my daughter's name, prior to naming her,” mom Mari Carmen Vega wrote on our Facebook page. “Now, it feels like I hear her name everywhere!” It’s a common complaint — you’ve never heard the name Isabella, or Aiden, until you give it to your baby… and suddenly it’s shooting up the charts. If you’d hoped to give your child a unique name, a sudden surge of popularity can cause some name regret. Do your homework: You can check whether a name’s popularity is trending up or down on sites like BabyNameWizard.com and Nameberry.com. Most first-time expectant parents don’t hang out with little kids a lot; if you really want to find out what’s popular in your town, talk to new parents or preschool teachers to find out whether your favorite “secret” name really is.
Noah: No. 1 name in the country, and the name of Michael Bublé's son.
2. Family will learn to love it.
You may get major push-back if you float ideas out loud. But the reality is that after that precious baby comes, you’ll find that people suddenly adore a name they hated when it was merely a hypothetical suggestion — now that it belongs to a real-world, cherubic little human. “We hear parents say they wish they’d known that grandma and grandpa often learn to love names they’d objected to during the pregnancy,” said Nameberry co-founder Pamela Redmond Satran. “Sometimes grandparents’ baby name ideas are just old-fashioned and once they learn from real-life experience that names like Elsie or Juniper are no longer considered weird, they’re fine with them.”
Say what you will about Kris Jenner, at least she supported daughter Kim Kardashian's choice of baby name: "I'm pro-North," grandma Jenner said.
3. Some people just won’t get it.
Some parents-to-be choose to keep picks totally private until delivery. But a focus group of trusted friends — or even strangers — can help anticipate and avoid issues like pronunciation or spelling confusion. “The downside of keeping name choice quiet is that you don’t learn that nobody is sure how to pronounce Kelilah or knows whether Rowan is a boy or a girl — and people say they wish they’d known they’d have to deal with that kind of name-based confusion every day,” said Nameberry’s Satran. “If you don’t want to field these kinds of opinions with your friends and colleagues, join an anonymous online forum and test out name ideas there. Ask for honest opinions and don’t be defensive; you can still make your name choice in private and you won’t be blindsided by questions and confusion after your baby’s here.”
Maxwell? On a girl? While it may have raised eyebrows at first, we bet Jessica Simpson has no regrets about her daughter's name.
4. Most name associations don’t last.
When choosing our babies’ names, it’s hard not to conjure every personal reference from our lives: that childhood friend who once insulted us in homeroom, that mean first boss, that college girlfriend of our partner. But that kind of process of elimination ends up eliminating, well, everything. Baby Name Wizard author Wattenberg advised, “[Remember] that most name associations are fleeting. That weird client you worked with last month or that supporting character on Glee will fade from memory soon, and you'd regret giving up your favorite names for them.”
5. Pop culture can change everything.
Let’s say you’ve selected the perfect name… but a few years later a celeb pops up on the scene with the same one — and it connotes a certain image or notoriety you’d rather not have associated with your kid. Or even more benignly, the celeb association may cause the popularity of the name to skyrocket — a phenomenon Terresa Smith described on our Facebook page. She named her son Mason, which soared on the charts after Kourtney Kardashian picked the same one. Since we can’t predict the future of pop culture, at least we can remain confident in our choices — never mind the associations. (See above: Associations are fleeting.) “I still like the name!” Smith wrote.
The name Mason soared in popularity after Kourtney Kardashian gave it to her son, born in 2009.
6. The name might not suit the kid’s personality.
Practically speaking, it makes a lot of sense to name your baby before you leave the hospital — trying to manage all that paperwork retroactively can be a major hassle. But by then, you might not have a true sense of your kid’s personality, and you might assign a name that doesn’t quite feel like a match down the road. One approach? Stick to your best instinct off the bat, which mom Sarah Granger-Twomey wishes she’d done. She said, “For our daughter’s middle name, I wish we would have stuck to our creative guns and chosen Rain instead of gone with the traditional family name Anne. It's much too formal for my little whirling dervish.”
Holly Madison with daughter Rainbow; time will tell whether it suits her personality!
7. The name doesn’t lend itself to nicknames.
This is an issue you can ponder in advance by researching and tossing around potential nicknames for a pick you love. If you can’t find one that fits, it might be a dealbreaker. As Missy Mercurio Haney wrote on our Facebook page, “I love my Morgan, but there is no good nickname for that name! My brother in law calls her Morgie, which I think sounds morbid. We do call her Moo… but probably won't call her that around her friends or in public, though.” Beyond that, consider all options before settling on one. “I wish I would have thought of all potential nicknames for the boys. To me, Nate is the obvious nickname for Nathaniel, but you wouldn't believe how many people think I named my boys Matt and Nat!” said mom of twins Jennifer Marino Walters.
8. Unusual names may be problematic.
For some people, the more unusual the name the better, in order to distinguish the child from all the other kids in class. But, Wattenberg cautioned, you should know “that the more interesting and impactful a name is, the surer it is that some people will hate it. A strong style inevitably cuts both ways.” Beyond that, she said you should be aware that choosing an unusual spelling for a common name may not adequately distinguish your child as much as you hope it does. “A common name with a creative spelling still sounds common. In fact, even a name that rhymes with other common names tends to blend into the crowd.”
Jamie Oliver with son Buddy Bear; celebrities have a way with unusual names.
9. The name you pick will be perfect.
Sure, it’s hard not to obsess on a decision that feels so weighty and important. But what if we could just allow ourselves to relax a little? “Choosing the right name can become a major obsession,” said Nameberry’s Satran. “ But once the baby’s here, a lot of parents say they wish they’d known that their choice would soon feel right and natural and they wouldn’t be able to imagine their baby with any other name.”
Simon Cowell with son Eric. All the name stress will melt away when you hold your little one in your arms.