What's in a name? So much. Your kid’s first impression, the word’s you’ll shout during the toddler years. Their name is even often how children learn their first letters. Whether from a beautiful meaning or family ties, names carry a lot of weight. Baby names can feel like a huge ‘to-do’ during your pregnancy, and if you have to agree with a partner on one it can be even more difficult.
Well, I hate to break it to you, but I’m here to tell you you are going to mess this one up. Yep, there is literally no way to get this right. Sure, you might not do so badly you have to change it like Amy Schumer did, but trust me, its impossible to pick the perfect baby names.
There are a few different strategies you can choose, but there is no right way, and I’ll tell you why for each. I’ve worked in elementary and preschools for most of my adult life, and now I’m thick into the baby phase myself with two under 3 at home and friends having kids left and right. I’ve heard a lot of names. I’ve met a lot of kids. Here is my advice for choosing baby names.
Unique Baby Names
This is often people’s number one concern. You don’t want your kid to be one of four Jacks’ in their class. You want whatever baby name you choose to catch attention and show case how unique your little one is. This is what my parents did. “Oh, Caitlin is so unique! I’ve never heard that before! No one will have that name.” But alas, a staggering number of parents had the same thought in the early 90’s and I have been “Caitlin with a ‘C’” most of my life. And don’t even get me started on how many ways there are to spell it!
You want the baby names you choose to be unique but not overly trendy. So you scour all the Top Baby Name Lists, maybe for inspiration, or maybe to make sure the name you pick at least isn’t in the top 20.
Traditional Baby Names
So maybe you go the opposite direction. Throw back and make it old school. After walking the hallways and scanning the names on the lockers, a strong traditional name can be striking. In a sea of Islas, Auroras, Jaxons, and Braxtons (what is with the ‘x’ name trends lately?) a ‘Fred’ really stands out. But unfortunately, this is the current trend as well. And if your child’s name is in the top 20 for popularity, you might face years of teachers and friends tacking on a last initial to tell them apart from their classmates. And while I have had a good laugh or two at preschooler’s mispronouncing “Jack S.” I’m sure it wouldn’t be so endearing if I misheard my own little one being called “Jack**s” on the playground.
This is the strategy I prefer. There is a tendency in my family to take a couple of different people’s names (say, family members who have made an impact) and smoosh them together to make a new name. Or trim a traditional or surname to make a trendy new girl’s name. For example, my eldest’s two great grandmother’s were Irene and Arlene. To honor them both, we named her Aileen (pronounced like Come on Eileen by Dexy’s Midnight Runners). It is both traditional/old fashioned and uncommon (so far anyways). And even if she isn’t the only one in her class one day, the deep family meaning overrides any annoyance of doubles.
This is where many people go the traditional route, often choosing one or more grandparents to honor here, or perhaps just a second name that flows smoothly with the first. Whatever you choose, here is the time to consider length (think of how often forms limit the number of letters you can include in a name). And don’t forget, this is likely the second name you will be shouting as you enter the terrible 2s and beyond, so make sure it really rolls off the tongue and practice it in your mean mom voice too!
Nicknames & Spelling
Maybe it is super important to you that the name shortens easily (Jonathan to Jon for example) or maybe it is important that it doesn’t. For my parents, I know they hated when my friends shortened my name to Caity. I can still hear my mom huffing “If I wanted people to call you ‘Caity’ I would have named you ‘Caity’. I picked Caitlin for a reason” even though no one has called me that since elementary school. Whichever is most important to you, go for it.
Same goes for spelling. It could be important to you that the baby names you choose have either a very traditional, old fashioned, or modern and simple spelling, but be aware of it. Take it from me - “Caitlin with a C not a K and an I not a Y” who, without thinking, named her daughter “Aileen with an A not an E”- consider the spelling.
Is it obvious, or will it be misspelled frequently? If the spelling is unique, do you care? For me, even if I had thought of this before naming her, I wouldn’t have changed it because the A spelling of Aileen was an important part of us honoring her great grandmothers.
Whether for inspiration or because you want to avoid the most popular ones, you are definitely going to want to look at the most recent trends on baby names. But remember, proceed with caution and choose what speaks to you.
At the end of the day, a name can say a lot, but how you raise and love your babies will have much more of an impact on them than any group of letters you choose. As a teacher, I’ve looked at class lists and wondered about certain names only to be proven completely wrong. Teachers might read a name like ‘Striker’ and think they are about to meet a high energy, rough and tumble type, only to be met by a soft spoken book worm. Amelia may seem dainty and sweet on paper, and then you meet her and she is a non-stop chatterbox whose parents can’t save her clothes from stains no matter how hard they try. Name your baby, and then hug them tight and nurture their interests.
They’ll grow up to be exactly who they are supposed to be.
What is a name you currently love? How did you pick baby names? Let us know in the comments!